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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Time to get stronger in our commitment to EaP and reforms in Ukraine
Outcome of the Vilnius Summit and the future of the Eastern Partnership, in particular as regards Ukraine, European Parliament Plenary, Strasbourg
10 December 2013
Chairman, Honourable Members,
May I start with a humble plea? Get united. This is the time for this house to show its full strength in being united. This is the time to be stronger and not weaker in our commitment to the Eastern Partnership. This is the time to be stronger and not weaker vis-a-vis the commitment to the reform path of Ukraine. This is the only way to be credible, urging all stakeholders in the political process in Ukraine to show readiness for and inclusive and sustainable dialogue.
As I mentioned in my statement, the European Union remains ready to sign the Association Agreement, including DCFTA, as soon as Ukraine is ready and proves its commitment by deeds. Let me make it clear: the Association Agreement is not an offer to the current president or to the current government. Let me recall that we have started the negotiations years ago. Let me stress what the Association Agreement is all about: it is an offer to Ukraine, to Ukrainian people and as such it is on the table. There is a shared ownership of this agreement, so the message that the door is open, should reach not only President's office and Prime Minister's cabinet.
Our common values are based on the respect for and promotion of human rights and freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law. Yet, the rights and freedom of all the States participating in the Eastern Partnership – their sovereignty, their right to choose their own destiny, and their freedom of association, - are equally indispensable values in our partnership, which we respect, and are ready to promote and defend. The Vilnius summit declaration unequivocally reaffirms the sovereign right of each partner state freely to choose the level of ambition and the goals to which it aspires in its relations with the European Union.
We welcome the European aspirations of the Ukrainian nation. And I firmly believe that the Association Agreement, including DCFTA, will be the first substantial step towards fulfilling these aspirations. Respect for our common values and implementation of the Association Agreement will define the future progressive developments in our relationship.
Could we have done more than repeating that we welcome the European aspiration? I think, the time has come for us to be more strategic, and if we are saying "A" and we want to transform that part of Europe, then we should be ultimately ready to say "B", that we are ready to use the most appropriate instrument we have for transformation. The light at the end of the tunnel is missing.
Europe remains fully engaged and is committed to facilitate finding solutions to Ukraine’s acute political crisis, based on the firm conviction that moving rapidly towards signature of the Association Agreement would constitute a key step for restoring confidence. We are talking about confidence not only towards Ukrainian citizens, but also towards international investors from around the globe and international financial institutions, since association provides a blueprint for future oriented, European Union-related reforms in Ukraine.
In my speech to you, Honourable Members, of the 11th of September, I stated clearly, that our Eastern Partnership agenda is not directed against anyone, quite to the contrary – all stand to gain. Any threats – of any form – from Russia linked to the signing of agreements with the European Union are unacceptable. The Vilnius summit proved to be an important “reality check” in this regard, one that was not of the European Union's choosing. And we have drawn the necessary conclusions.
Keeping in mind the lessons learned in Vilnius, and preparing for the summit in Riga, we need to swiftly proceed with the implementation of the Eastern Partnership agenda.
We are strongly determined to sign the AA/DCFTAs with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova by autumn 2014 before the end of the term of this College. We will continue negotiations with Azerbaijan. At the same time we will need to reflect on how to proceed with Armenia given the current situation.
Further advancement in the area of mobility is no less important. On the eve of the Vilnius summit, having assessed all the reforms implemented by the Republic of Moldova, the European Commission has tabled its legislative proposal to introduce visa-free regime for this country. I call on the Council and the European Parliament to proceed on this as quickly as possible – those, who deliver, need to be rewarded without any delays. Moldova has become the first success story and example for the others; and we should enhance our efforts in helping others to achieve the same. Visa facilitation and liberalization with the Eastern partners is probably one of the best and most promising investments in the region. I call on Ukraine to deliver on outstanding reforms so that it can follow in Moldova's path.
We need to be more strategic and resolute –history will judge us not by the promises we made in Vilnius, but by the promises we keep.
I am not a "plan B" politician. I will always resist the temptation to play someone else's games. We have the right policy and the right instrument and I am committed to work with Cathy Ashton and our colleagues even more to make the best use of it to the benefit of the transformation of that part of Europe, to the benefit of people in Eastern Europe.