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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
A decisive year for the Eastern Partnership
Third ordinary session of the EU Neighbourhood East Parliamentary Assembly (EURONEST) in the European Parliament / Brussels
28 May 2013
Vice President of the European Parliament, co-Presidents of Euronest, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank you for the invitation to attend this third ordinary Session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, an increasingly important stakeholder for the Eastern Partnership. At the same time I would like to convey the regrets of the HR/VP for not being able to attend herself. My remarks are also on her behalf.
I am glad to see that 5 partners are present. Your participation is a sign of your commitment to building closer relations amongst yourselves and with the European Union. Unfortunately, our Belarusian colleagues remain excluded from this forum. Belarus knows what it needs to do to have normal partnership relations with the European Union – to release and rehabilitate its political prisoners. For the time being we are seeking ways to enhance dialogue with the authorities in Minsk as part of our policy of critical engagement and we continue to place a great emphasis on the Dialogue for Modernisation we have established with civil society in Belarus.
Ladies and gentlemen,
2013 is a decisive year for the Eastern Partnership, one that has the potential of marking a milestone in the advancement of our relations. The outcome of the November Summit in Vilnius will determine the next steps. Its success depends on deliverables. I cannot stress enough the importance and necessity of advancing in the implementation of agreed reforms if we are to deepen our relations and proceed together to the next level. For this to happen we all need to apply ourselves with more vigour. The European Union is conscious of its own responsibilities. However, the main burden lies with our partners.
Let me recall the European Union's commitments:
-to the signature of Ukraine's Association Agreement including the DCFTA;
-to the finalisation of negotiations on the Association Agreements /DCFTAs with Moldova, Georgia, Armenia which could lead to the initialling of the Association Agreements by Vilnius; and
-to good progress on the mobility agendas with each of our partners including the conclusion of Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan.
-to developing stronger cooperation with our partners across key sectors: we hope to agree an Eastern Partnership transport network and list of priority projects which can tangibly demonstrate the Eastern Partnership's goal of bringing the European Union and partners closer together.
The aim is to have a common future that will ensure prosperity, security and guarantee long term stability. We want our partners to come as close as possible to the European Union. We want the process of political association and economic integration that began in Prague in 2009 to become irreversible.
Developing the Eastern Partnership is the way forward post Vilnius. The Prague and Warsaw Summits have already set out an ambitious agenda. The new generation of Agreements now being finalised translate these objectives into specific goals for individual partners. The Association Agendas will constitute the key implementation tool of the Agreements.
Ensuring our partners feel fully engaged in the Partnership is something we take very seriously. This is why we intend to ensure that we prepare for the Vilnius Summit and the declaration that we will adopt on that occasion in an inclusive way. The Eastern Partnership Foreign Ministers meeting in July will bring Member States and partners together to exchange views on our respective expectations for the Summit.
The next two years will require determined efforts, primarily by our partners, but also by the European Union with a view to implementing the Association Agreements, including DCFTAs. Similarly, efforts must be applied to furthering the path towards Visa Liberalisation. The importance of implementing agreements is crucial for the realisation of our partners' reform agendas, as a basis for the strengthening of the European Union's relations with its Eastern partners. At the same time, the European Union will continue pursuing its increasingly differentiated approach, including by enhancing European Union support for those who advance furthest and fastest on their reform paths.
Let me also stress that we continue to press for the peaceful resolution of conflicts either by direct involvement or through:
-conflict transformation activities; and
-funding programmes that promote peaceful conflict settlement.
Your help is important here. All opportunities should be used to establish and strengthen contacts across boundaries and within the region as a whole.
Your contribution and role in the implementation of the Eastern Partnership is invaluable.
You are the representatives of your people; protecting and promoting democracy with the power to hold your governments accountable for their actions and ensuring that the will and expectations of the citizens are taken into account. The resolutions adopted in Baku last year are significant in this respect. However, you are in a position to press your governments to speed up reforms in the field of democracy and fundamental freedoms. The need for this is underlined in the European Neighbourhood Policy Package which was published last March where recommendations were issued to partners.
Irrespective of the difficulties and differences in partner countries, the European Union will maintain its engagement in the Neighbourhood. We are aware of the European aspirations and European choice of some partners. The role of the Eastern Partnership is to support those who seek a closer relationship with the European Union. It requires a strong commitment by partners to pursue and implement genuine reforms and to uphold shared values.
We also want to ensure that the reform objectives agreed with partner countries are a true reflection of their societies’ concerns and aspirations and this is where the engagement of Parliaments and parliamentarians is crucial. Such important long term measures require the support and cooperation of all parts of society. This is why we stress the necessity of involving civil society. Engaging with civil society in general is becoming more and more accepted as part of the way of doing business in the Eastern Partnership. We encourage you to continue strengthening your ties with the Civil Society Forum and the National Platforms.
Your contribution to advancing our joint endeavour is indispensable.
We count on you to be the voice of the people;
We count on you to implement agreed commitments;
We count on you to hold your governments to account;
We count on you to assess progress and to ensure that the process is advancing.
You can count on our support
I wish you every success in your session and in your work.