Brussels, 5 November 2012
Remarks of Commissioner Štefan Füle at the third meeting of the informal Information and Coordination Group of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in Brussels
On the EaP state of play and a way forward towards the next EaP Summit in Vilnius
I welcome the third meeting of the informal Information and Coordination Group.
The EU is determined to support sustainable reforms in Eastern European countries and advance on the political association and economic integration agenda with our partners.
We believe that it is important that we inform the countries and institutions around this table of our activities with our partners in the framework of the Eastern Partnership as well as compare notes on the support we are providing them in their transition processes.
I welcome therefore today's opportunity to discuss with you where we stand particularly as regards our support for civil society and planned activities in the upcoming years.
On progress made
Much has been achieved since the launch of the EaP. In terms of political association and economic integration, mobility and sectoral cooperation:
negotiations on the Association Agreement, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with Ukraine have been finalised,
good progress registered in negotiations on similar Agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, negotiations on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with three countries launched;
negotiations with Azerbaijan on the Association Agreement are under way;
implementation by Moldova and Ukraine of Visa Liberalisation Action Plans is ongoing, we launched a visa dialogue leading to a similar plan with Georgia;
negotiations on Visa Readmission and Facilitation Agreement are under way with Armenia and Azerbaijan; a similar offer extended to Belarus.
we are furthering sector cooperation to facilitate trade exchange and enhance socio-economic growth in partner countries; recently an agreement on common aviation area has been signed with Moldova.
to strengthen capacities of partner countries key institutions we launched the implementation of Comprehensive Institution Building Programmes (€173 million all together).
The multilateral track of the EaP provides a forum to exchange good practices on approximation to EU standards. We have also reached out beyond governments and involved national parliaments, regional and local authorities and civil society. The Euronest, the Conference of Regional and Local Authorities of the EaP and the Civil Society Forum provide us with different channels to foster democratic values and to advocate reforms in partner countries.
To deepen mutual understanding and political dialogue on international policy developments, we have launched a new format of consultations with partners: informal EaP dialogues.
We have also launched preparations for the next programming period (2014-2020). To achieve ambitious goals, we need equally ambitious budget. The Commission has proposed a new European Neighbourhood Instrument with increased budget.
Last but not least, the EaP Roadmap listing objectives to be achieved, reforms which partners have committed to implement, our support and expected results, gives us a means to guide implementation and better monitor progress until the next EaP Summit in 2013.
On the way forward
The key issue for the successful Summit in Vilnius is vigorous implementation of the EaP Roadmap.
The accomplishment of political association, deep economic integration and visa liberalisation necessitates deep transformation of Eastern European countries. And therefore the implementation of reforms is a linchpin of the EaP.
We will be guided by the EaP Roadmap that sets up an agenda for 2012-13:
advancement, if not finalisation, of negotiations on Association Agreements with 5 partners, including DCFTAs when appropriate;
progress on mobility through visa facilitation and liberalisation with a visa free regime as a final goal;
further development of the EaP multilateral track.
It is important that everyone is aware of consequences and benefits stemming from achievement of this ambitious agenda. One of them will be new business opportunities arising out of DCFTAs in 2014. There is a need to mobilize business communities also in countries- participants to the Information and Coordination Group to seize these new possibilities.
It is equally crucial that the EU supports the sustainable reform process in partner countries, including through financial assistance. We will continue providing more support for those who reform more. Before the summer break the Commission adopted Eastern Partnership Integration and Cooperation programme which brings additional 130 million euro to be allocated by 2013 to those EaP countries which are spearheading reforms. We have announced allocations for Armenia, Georgia and Moldova for 2012.
We should be as ambitious as possible with those who spearhead on reforms and have clear European aspirations.
Furthermore, the recently established European Endowment for Democracy will bring additional impetus to support for non state actors across European neighbourhood.
We will now start building towards the Vilnius Summit. An important moment will be in March 2013 when the ENP progress reports assessing the implementation of reforms in partner countries will be published.
In the summer 2013 we will hold the annual EaP Ministerial which will be the occasion to discuss the preparation to the Summit with Member States and partners together.
I welcome exchange on views with you on all topics which are on the agenda of today's meeting.
It is important that this informal Group remains a forum where we can compare notes and coordinate more our approaches to this key region.