European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood
Georgia's European Way – the EU and its European Neighbours
Batumi Conference, Georgia
11 July 2012
Messrs Presidents, Mr Prime Minister, Mr Vice Prime Minister, Honourable Ministers and Parliamentarians, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Dear Delegates,
I would like to thank you for your warm welcome and for giving me the chance to contribute my own thoughts as we set the context for today’s challenging set of discussions.
The many distinguished speakers and guests today come from different backgrounds and face different challenges: we cannot pretend that the world is the same for everyone. Yet we would not be here if we did not share a core set of ambitions and values, and Batumi is as good a place as any to look in all directions, and to map the way ahead for our shared neighbourhood.
When we committed ourselves to the Eastern Partnership three years ago, we did so with a shared vision and I strongly believe in a shared set of core values, but I think we need to review our progress and to broaden the set of goals we have, and to do so on a regular basis. So I will focus today on how to preserve and expand our vision of modernization and democratization for the Eastern Partnership, and how to keep on the right course, and I want to illustrate some of my remarks with examples from this region and especially Georgia.
Mr Chairman, the transformation of Georgia in recent years has set an important example which has attracted the right kind of international attention. But we need to keep our eyes on the road, and to keep going in the right direction. What does that mean?
Firstly, holding on to a core set of values to ensure sustainability and predictability, based on simple principles which all citizens can relate to;
Secondly, sharing the benefits of growth and development as widely as possible, especially to those who suffer poverty and social exclusion;
Thirdly, testing progress at the polls – where better to judge the job you have done?
Fourthly, “keeping it real” – by which I mean continuously translating our vision into measurable short and medium-term goals;
Fifthly, working tirelessly to achieve and maintain stability and security.
Finally – and this is the most important thing we need to keep our eyes on if integration is to be realized - building institutions and a legal framework which inspire trust across the political spectrum;
The good news is that I believe we have the policies and the tools we need to keep up momentum. I would like to focus today on three things: the policy framework, the tools and the actors.
Dear Colleagues, the Prague and Warsaw Eastern Partnership Summits have set an agenda for our partnership based on values, accountability and reforms.
Common values are crucial - in fact they are part of national identity – we certainly see them as part of European identity. There is a European way of life which we are proud of at this time of globalization – sustaining this way of life requires that democracy and the rule of law go together with economic opportunities and competitiveness.
Accountability through genuine democratic processes, governed by the rule of law, is the only guarantee of long-term stability and prosperity. Human rights and the protection of minorities give all citizens the confidence to play an active part in national development.
And of course reforms are the main ingredients of our partnership. For these reforms to be successful they need to be built upon consensus, with civil society and parliament involved in the right way and at the right time.
But reforms also depend on consensus in regions, in communities, and in workplaces. Yes, this is not just about activity at central government level – I specifically mention workplaces in the Georgian context: we will continue to encourage Georgia to work with the International Labour Organization to implement a number of core conventions on association and organization of labour. Good industrial relations will stimulate productivity, allow for more ambitious planning, and above all give a real boost to the confidence of investors. That is why we have identified sustainable development as a core element also of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas which we are negotiating with Georgia, Armenia and Moldova.
Of course, the most important framework encompassing reforms in the Eastern Partnership, including the Southern Caucasus, will be the Association Agreements with their DCFTAs, which are built around regulatory approximation as well as the convergence of values.
We have two important tools to help us stay on track. The first tool will be roadmap of the Eastern Partnership - this is a document for sharing and comparing. It will set out objectives which we seek to achieve, reforms that partners have committed to implement, and support that the Union will provide. I hope that the upcoming Eastern Partnership Ministerial on 23rd July will confirm that the Roadmap is basis for taking forward our work. I also want to stress the value of the Roadmap as a vehicle for joint monitoring of the meeting of commitments.
The second tool will be new Association Agendas which we hope to negotiate later this year – these will focus on a set of reforms leading directly into the regulatory approximation process described in our Association Agreements and DCFTAs. With these, we can already begin the process of political association and economic integration.
And I also want to mention an important innovation: informal Eastern Partnership dialogues. These dialogues offer new possibilities for enhancing political dialogue on issues of mutual interest. These informal dialogues will also boost our cooperation on foreign and security policies and on specific sector issues, and they will allow for regular high-level monitoring of the implementation of the Roadmap. This will be an appropriate instrument in order to give steering power to the Eastern Partnership. I am grateful to President Saakashvili who inspired us to turn this idea into reality, and to Prime Minister Filat of Moldova for agreeing to host its first meeting. This innovation will help strengthen local ownership of the Partnership.
Mr Chairman, to all those here today, wherever you have come from, I would say this: The path ahead is clear. It is up to you to decide how far you wish to travel and how quickly. But we must also determine who should be with us on the journey.
We have made some progress in including parliamentarians, civil society and citizens in our partnership. Yet there is more work to do. We need all these groups on board to ensure buy-in and therefore sustainability of what we are doing.
How do we inform people? We speak often of monitoring, as if it were just a technical process: certainly monitoring is about expert assessments, but it is also about presenting citizens with information in a digestible format. In fact, we should work hard on building a monitoring and evaluation culture in the Eastern Partnership. What was the impact of our policies? Were our programmes delivered efficiently and effectively, were resources used soundly? What could we do better? And the issue of defining stakeholders is not just for the multilateral track – the bilateral track, and in particular Association Agreements and DCFTAs, also gives a stronger role to civil society and parliaments, and stresses the importance of social dialogue for economic development.
We should not forget that platforms like the Civil Society Forum foster the democratic values on which the Eastern Partnership is based and they also raise the visibility of our Partnership in your countries. Their contributions are also, ultimately, positive for the quality of leadership.
Any leader knows that, with a well-informed public, you need to work harder to communicate your own aims, your own constraints and your own conditions. This effort is a good thing for everyone.
Involving citizens themselves is the most important challenge of all. Mobility policy has to progress, and I am glad at the launch of the visa liberalization process in Georgia. It is a demanding, results-driven process but we have made a start, and can only go forward from here. We should not forget, however, that opportunities such as education exchanges and participation in agencies and programmes also have a role to play.
In the recommendations of our ENP Progress reports, and in the Roadmap, Association Agendas, and Association Agreements/DCFTAs which will follow, we have mapped the course of European integration for the short, medium and long term. The EU is ready to use its resources and know-how to support this process. The focus will be on reforms, in line with the philosophy of the Eastern Partnership and the “more for more” principle which was agreed at the Warsaw Summit. The announcements we will be making on the allocations of additional funds under our Eastern Partnership Integration and Cooperation Programme (known as EAPIC) are proof of our commitment here.
Of course, for each country in the region we have specific priorities – in the case of Georgia, October’s elections will obviously be critical.
Let me say a word on this. Elections should not just be free and fair for the sake of it. We also need to avoid polarizing politics before elections even start – a challenge for both a constructive government and a constructive opposition. And we need to recognize that wider values are actually embedded in the concept of deep democracy of which elections are just one part - free and fair elections need to be accompanied by respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.
I am glad to note in this regard that the parliament of Georgia adopted “must carry/must offer” rules for TV channels with political content, and also President’s strong commitment to make this work. I am also encouraged by the recent dialogs, in parliament and with civil society, on laws regulating the elections – dialogs that were followed by amendments. I also believe that the election process should play out in the political arena, not in the courtroom. Elections should focus on policies, not on processes.
Finally on the subject of democracy, we believe that leaders protect the reforms already achieved by submitting them to the people – I see no reason why EU integration should be treated any differently.
Mr Chairman, the opportunities ahead are great - we should be in no doubt about that. Today there is no agreement within the European Union on the accession perspectives of our Eastern European partners. Yet no one has put any limit on the depth and scope of integration they can achieve – and this open-ended perspective is reflected in our Association Agreements. At the same time, it is certainly not a secret that Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union states that every European country that respects the principles upon which the European Union is founded may apply to join the Union – and of course our Eastern partners are European countries.
I believe the EU should continue looking outward even as we remain busy with our many difficult issues within the EU. I believe that while being visionary in deepening our internal integration we should also be visionary beyond our borders. I believe in the synergy between these two processes. If we fail to realise that synergy, we will be missing a huge historic opportunity.
To make the most of the opportunities and the possibilities ahead, we will have to accept some basic conditions or prerequisites. On the political side, there is no alternative to peaceful dispute resolution, and to reconciliation. This applies to all three countries of the Region, and in the specific case of Georgia it means, of course, constructive engagement in the Geneva international discussions and a sustained effort to improve the conditions of internally displaced persons. Strengthened relations with the EU will open new avenues for conflict settlement, and both the role of the EU Special Representative and our Association negotiations support this goal. But the medium and long-term contract we want to open with you can only work if there is a predictable political environment over the same period.
And finally I want to mention confidence: we can create the conditions for growth, and the conditions for modernization, but entrepreneurship and investment depend on confidence in the rule of law, the permanent eradication of corruption and reliable access to the judiciary. We gave strong emphasis in our last Progress Report on Georgia to the reform of the justice system, and especially the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, to reflect the importance of this sector to governance as a whole. Dear Colleagues, the Eastern Partnership is ambitious in its scope, and allows for partners to converge with the EU even as the EU itself reforms and builds; but it is also flexible and built to adapt to your specific needs. Reform can and will be rewarded with support. - In this context, I am glad to announce additional assistance to Georgia under EAPIC, amounting to 22 million euros. This assistance will go to the criminal justice sector, with a special focus on human rights. It will also go to border and migration management, so as to help Georgia fulfil its obligations within the visa dialog.
Mr Chairman, all three South Caucasus countries have the chance to decide how they wish to engage with us in the short, medium and long term. We are looking forward to the challenge. At the Warsaw Summit we committed ourselves to establish a community of values – let us look honestly at the progress we have made and translate this goal into measurable and reasonable commitments. Our next rendezvous will be at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. I want to achieve a lot by then!
I look forward very much to your discussion today and to listening to your views and experiences – thank you for having listened to me.