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Štefan Füle European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy South East European Cooperation Process Summit (SEECP) Istanbul, 23 June 2010

Commission Européenne - SPEECH/10/337   23/06/2010

Autres langues disponibles: CS

SPEECH/10/337

Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

Address to the Heads of State and Government

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

South East European Cooperation Process Summit (SEECP)

Istanbul, 23 June 2010

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is always a pleasure to be in Istanbul, a city that brings together east and west, a meeting of cultures and civilisations. It is also a pleasure to participate in the meeting of the South East European Cooperation Process as a special guest, representing President Barroso. Allow me to thank our Turkish hosts for their warm hospitality and excellent organisation of this event.

Regional cooperation is a key part of EU policy towards the region. It is also the quintessence of European integration: the European project is itself based on cooperation, as a tool for fostering reconciliation, economic development and progress.

The South East European Cooperation Process has been making great strides since its formation in the late 1990s, and has become a strong voice for the region. Its operational arm, the Regional Cooperation Council, is also gaining in strength.

You welcome today Slovenia as a full participant in the SEECP – surely this is a sign of the appeal of the SEECP as the main political regional cooperation structure in South East Europe.

We look to you to make sure that inclusiveness in regional cooperation is achieved. Regional cooperation will suffer if all relevant partners do not take part actively in achieving its goals.

These goals are shared not only by the regional partners, but by the EU as well. After a long – some would say too long period of introspection, the EU can now focus again on enlargement. The dilemma "enlarging or deepening integration" has always been, in my opinion, a false one. The two have always gone hand-in-hand, since they serve to promote the same values. I am confident they will continue to do so in the future.

Today's meeting on regional cooperation points exactly towards the ideals and values that sustain European integration.

European integration is not only about open borders, visa-free travel, free trade, converging economies. It is also about solving disputes in a spirit of compromise. The agreement on the Border Arbitration, endorsed by the Slovenian referendum, has demonstrated how bilateral issues in the region can be solved in the European spirit of compromise. I trust that this example will be followed by others.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The recent weeks and months have allowed us to be optimistic.

Turkey has been making remarkable advances in reforms. It is now important that this momentum be reinforced, as the accession negotiations are entering a more demanding phase. The EU-Turkey relationship has also developed in other fields, trade and investment, energy, foreign policy, culture and education, to our mutual benefit.

We also trust that Turkey will give its full and active support to the ongoing negotiations aimed at a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem, within the UN framework.

In most of the Western Balkans, important steps have been made in the road to EU accession: I am thinking of developments such as progress in the accession negotiations with Croatia, the unblocking of the SAA with Serbia, steps towards visa-free travel in the whole region, applications for membership and preparation of opinions.

EU-relations with Moldova have also moved impressively forward, in the framework of the ENP and the European Partnership.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The challenges facing us are not to be overlooked: questions of the rule of law, the effects of the global economic crisis, the need for reconciliation, the resolution of bilateral and regional issues.

We must not forget that the process is a political one. In this, you and us will work together to achieve our joint goal for a European future. Challenges can be addressed only with the necessary political will, just as our commitment to the European perspective of the region is indeed deeply political. In this, we will work together to achieve our joint goal.

Addressing these challenges will also be a job for regional cooperation initiatives. I look to the SEECP and its operational arm, the RCC, to help address issues of rule of law, of economic development, of reconciliation and bilateral disputes, thus giving additional impetus to the European perspective of the region. Many issues raised in the successful Sarajevo Conference could be owned, as far as implementation is concerned, by these regional initiatives.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to thank our hosts once again, and to wish good luck to Montenegro in its taking over the SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office.

Thank you.


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