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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Remarks at the meeting with Eastern Neighbourhood Policy senior officials
Meeting with Eastern Neighbourhood Policy senior officials – Eastern Partners/ Brussels
4 December 2012
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to our meeting. I have always attached great importance to political dialogue with partners and to two-way communication between us.
As you know, the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in the framework of the renewed Eastern Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is based on the principle of differentiation and "more for more", which means a stronger partnership with the EU for those countries that make more progress toward democratic and socio-economic reform.
At the same time, the renewed ENP is based on the principle of mutual accountability. Mutual accountability implies that our policy dialogue should be more open and more interactive. In other words, our partnership is not a one-way street. And this mutual accountability, this element of dialogue and of joint ownership, is also the reason why we are having this meeting.
Yes, the EU is asking for more from you, it is encouraging you to undertake and implement more ambitious reforms towards ever more perfect democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights. But let me be clear with you: the EU cannot impose anything on you. It is your choice whether to do it or not. It is a matter of your own political will.
On the EU side of the equation, I cannot promise you miracles. However, I can tell you honestly one thing: if a partner does take the path of reform, then I will do all that is in my power to help move toward a stronger relationship between that partner and the EU.
We had a very constructive ministerial meeting in July in Brussels. I want to thank you once more for your constructive approach in making the Roadmap a basis for further guiding and monitoring of the further implementation of the objectives of the Eastern Partnership. I hope we can agree that the Roadmap gives us renewed impetus to achieve the objectives our Heads of State and Government have set out at Summits in Prague and Warsaw.
The pace you undertake in implementing reforms will directly determine the outcome of the Vilnius Summit. One of the examples being the case of moving to the second phase with the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan for Moldova or the expected start of the first phase of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan with Georgia.
I believe that we all need to do more. "More for more". More progress toward democracy, rule of law and human rights. More developed partnerships between the EU and its partners. More effective implementation of reform, but also a more attentive EU listening to partners' needs.
The deep transformation of partner countries concerns all parts of society. In other words, brave reforms require strong domestic support. Hence our deliberate effort to enhance the role of other stakeholders within the EaP. I therefore encourage you to step up your dialogue with your national parliaments, regional authorities and civil society via Civil Society Forum national platforms.
What is your assessment? How well have we implemented the ENP together? How can we do even better together in the future? I will listen very carefully to your remarks and I look forward to an interactive discussion.
Many thanks for a rich, frank and open discussion. I think that this is what real partnerships between friends should be based on. My colleagues and I have taken good note.
I'm aware that some partners wish to go further in their relations with the EU. Let me recall that the EU has already acknowledged European aspiration of some partners and the Eastern Partnership does not prejudge the future development of bilateral relations between the EU and partners. The position of the Commission and High Representative Catherine Ashton has been on the record since the 2011 ENP Communication. In addition, I have also voiced publicly my personal views on the matter.
However, it is the task of partners to help us make a convincing case toward our member states. Hence our emphasis on implementation of the existing EaP agenda.
Today's discussions have highlighted the twin challenge for our Partnership: all agree that a spirit of joint ownership where each feels engaged is an important characteristic of our Partnership which we need to foster; but at same time, interventions of partners have demonstrated clearly that a differentiated approach within the Partnership is the only way forward. Believe all of us see a strong interest in making our Partnership work along these two lines.
If the next Ministerial meeting in 2013 is to pave the way for the ambitious Summit in Vilnius, we need to see sustainable reform results on the ground.
I encourage you to take advantage of the informal Eastern Partnership dialogues where, amongst others, we can also address implementation of reforms.
This discussion has provided many useful elements that we will take into account in view of the preparation of the 2013 ENP package. The adoption of this package is scheduled for March 2013. I expect that the communication accompanying this package will focus on the assessment of the concrete implementation of our policy, and will also make a strong call for policy coherence on the EU side to use more effectively all tools that the EU can deploy to support democratic and socio-economic reform in our neighbourhood.
It will be very important for partners to keep up the momentum of reform, and for the EU to support this momentum effectively, so that we can move closer and closer to the vision of the Eastern Partnership: of a strong partnership between the EU and its neighbours for democracy, security and shared prosperity.