eu_commisioner.jpgIn the course of the 14-15 September visit, Commissioner Kuneva met with Olexander Shnypko, Head of the State Committee of Ukraine for Technical Regulations and Consumer Policy, and took part in the Yalta European Strategy (YES) Summer University.

On 15th September Commissioner Kuneva participated in the roundtable meeting with representatives of non-governmental consumer organizations, international donor organizations and educational institutions to discuss consumer protection policy issues in Ukraine.

eu_commisioner.jpgIn the course of the 14-15 September visit, Commissioner Kuneva met with Olexander Shnypko, Head of the State Committee of Ukraine for Technical Regulations and Consumer Policy, and took part in the Yalta European Strategy (YES) Summer University.

On 15th September Commissioner Kuneva participated in the roundtable meeting with representatives of non-governmental consumer organizations, international donor organizations and educational institutions to discuss consumer protection policy issues in Ukraine.


eu_commisioner.jpgIn the course of the 14-15 September visit, Commissioner Kuneva met with Olexander Shnypko, Head of the State Committee of Ukraine for Technical Regulations and Consumer Policy, and took part in the Yalta European Strategy (YES) Summer University.

On 15th September Commissioner Kuneva participated in the roundtable meeting with representatives of non-governmental consumer organizations, international donor organizations and educational institutions to discuss consumer protection policy issues in Ukraine.

The joint EU-UNDP project "Consumer Society and Citizen Networks" ("the CSCN project"), Olexander Pichugin, Deputy Head of the State Committee of Ukraine for Technical Regulation and Consumer Policy and Francis O'Donnell, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, also took part in the meeting. The Delegation of the European Commission to Ukraine and Belarus was represented by Ambassador Mr Ian Boag.

During the meeting, the management of the Consumer Society and Citizen Networks project - a joint initiative of the European Commission and UN Development Programme in Ukraine - presented the results of the consumer education process held in Ukraine. Invited experts and teachers gave a complete overview of the consumer issues in the regions, introducing the optional course of Consumer knowledge and the detail process of its launch in Ukrainian schools.

Pichugin provided an overview of the most pressing issues in Ukraine's consumer policy and reported on the efforts undertaken by the State Committee to overcome these challenges. He stressed that the objectives and the activities of the CSCN project were fully in line with the State Committee's Strategic Plan for the years 2007-2010.

Commissioner Kuneva underlined that consumer policy, by mobilising consumers for the sake of their own interests, is one of the most powerful responses to the challenges of globalisation. She noted the evolution of the place and role of consumers in the European Union, which wording and definitions have started to reflect - while the EU Treaty refers to "consumer protection", the phrase "consumer policy" is being more and more used at present.

This emphasises the deeper penetration of consumer issues in European policies, whereby consumer policy has become part and parcel of the Commission's "citizens' agenda" (more information on http://ec.europa.eu/citizens_agenda/index_en.htm); its ultimate goal is a vigilant citizen, ready to inform and be informed, to differentiate between products and services - a major decision-maker at the market. In this context, Commissioner Kuneva commented on the necessary reform of the Ukrainian quality assurance system - in particular technical regulations - and its alignment with the EU system. The challenge faced by Ukraine is to move from pre-market checks of products (barriers to market entry) to market surveillance, and to put the responsibility on producers and suppliers for assuring the quality of their products and services.

She expressed satisfaction that the Ukrainian side was well informed of EU initiatives in consumer policy and that the strategic priorities stated by Mr Pichugin were in line with these initiatives. Having clarified its priorities, Ukraine should now go to actions and, following the successful experience of neighbouring countries, develop a credible action plan for the reform of the Ukrainian quality assurance system. To this point, Commissioner Kuneva noted that Ukraine is in a good position to choose the best practices to follow from EU countries. Among the indispensable ingredients for successful reform, the responsible authorities must possess a clear vision of the goal to reach and be ready to step up information exchanges with the outside world; Ukraine must follow its path towards a fully-fledged functioning market economy; and all stakeholders must prepare themselves for change. She underlined the importance of consumer organisations as "watchdogs" of the market; consumer organisations should enhance their representativeness and structures nation-wide, and play a more pro-active role in public control on consumer policy.

In his welcome address, Francis O'Donnell underlined the synergies between the consumer protection and environment protection agenda. The organised civil society should not only make sure that civil rights are respected, but also that the society respects its duty of accountability, such as in environmental matters. Commissioner Kuneva supported this view and recalled that if environmental protection issues sounded unusual when they became a subject of public policy, they have now become an unavoidable theme of economic and social policies, and a major concern for the society. No doubt, consumer protection issues will undergo the same evolution in Ukraine.

Klavdia Maksimenko, Project Manager of the Consumer Society and Citizen Networks project, presented the projects' main components, activities, achievements and tasks ahead. Representatives of non-government consumer organisations from different regions of Ukraine took over to present their local agendas and initiatives. They expressed their appreciation of the CSCN project for spurring the activities of consumer NGOs in Ukraine. Representatives of the Ministry of Education and of the teaching community described the present status of consumer education in Ukraine and presented the new optional course on Consumer knowledge being developed in co-operation with the CSCN project. They expressed gratitude to the latter, which had approached the Ministry of Education in due course with the initiative to design and launch this new lecture in secondary schools. The new course is of applied character and envisages use of modern interactive teaching methods.

In conclusion, Commissioner Kuneva reminded the need for actions: "Speaking on consumer protection issues, I can say that we should take responsibility for our actions. It is a subject of highest priority to change perception as to what should be expected from the government and what we can do ourselves as citizens. I believe that if Ukraine chooses to adopt and adhere to the European standards, this would be a wise choice. This is not just in terms of economic efficiency, as the EU is Ukraine's main trading partner, but also in terms of common values. We have big plans ahead and plenty of work to do in the coming year".

The annual EU-Ukraine Summit took place on 13-17 September in Kyiv. Hosted by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, the Summit is an opportunity for the EU to underline its support for the continuing political and economic reforms in Ukraine.

The Consumer Society and Citizen Networks project (CSCN) is a joint initiative of the European Union and UNDP. Its budget is EUR 3.15 million out of which EUR 3 million is committed by the EU. The project is being implemented by UNDP. It started in April 2006 and will be implemented until December 2008. Its goal is to increase civil society role in sound economic governance in Ukraine according to the European standards.

The project is strongly focused on empowering and educating consumers, to enable them to lobby for good economic governance. Specifically CSCN project aims at promoting access of citizens to information on product safety, consumer rights protection, and to results of independent testing, as well as promoting wide public discussion of challenges facing the consumer society in Ukraine.

For more information, please, visit: /cscn