EU's Barroso hails Mongolia's transformation on historic visit

EU's Barroso hails Mongolia's transformation on historic visit
Mongolia's President Tsakhia Elbegdorj (R) shakes hands with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (C) after a news conference at the national parliament building in Ulan Bator, November 17, 2013.

ULAN BATOR - European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday hailed Mongolia's transformation from Soviet satellite to economic and democratic dynamo on a historic trip to the resource-rich country.

Barroso, making the first visit to Mongolia by an EC president, expressed admiration for what he called its "remarkable achievements" in economic growth, democratic progress and the rule of law.

The visit marked a "historic day in relations between the EU and Mongolia", he said at a press conference with Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj.

Barroso said a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Mongolia signed in April would broaden the scope of relations as well as increase trade and cooperation.

He also said that the European Union (EU) would double its cooperation budget with Mongolia for the period covering 2014-2020.

Barroso did not provide a figure, but Mongolia's foreign ministry said the amount would total $100 million.

The two sides also discussed opening an EU diplomatic mission in Mongolia, officials said.

"Developing relations with the EU and its member states is one of the strategic objectives of Mongolia's foreign policy," Elbegdorj said.

Landlocked Mongolia, once a satellite of the Soviet Union, peacefully threw off 70 years of communist rule in 1990, with Elbegdorj, a former journalist, having played a leading role in the change.

Exploitation of Mongolia's vast coal, copper and gold reserves has helped transform an economy once characterised by nomadic lifestyles not far removed from its empire-building hero Genghis Khan 800 years ago.

Barroso also met Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag and planned to deliver a lecture at the Mongolian National University on prospects for Mongolia-EU relations as well as open a European film festival.

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