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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Opening remarks by President Barroso at initialling ceremony of the Association Agreements with Georgia and Moldova
Eastern Partnership Summit/Vilnius
29 November 2013
I am delighted to stand here today and to witness this historic event – the initialling of the Association Agreements and the related DCFTAs with Georgia and Moldova. This is an important milestone – it marks the start of a new phase in our relationship.
We embarked upon these negotiations a few years ago. We knew then that important work lay ahead. Now, however, we can say that the efforts paid off. We may allow ourselves a moment to draw breath, to celebrate and to gather strength before proceeding further on our journey together.
Perhaps, it is that word "together" that is now the most important. From now on, our economies and a growing number of sectors in our societies will be linked. We will increasingly work together.
The Agreements initialled today are the most advanced of their type ever negotiated by the EU. In terms of trade and economic integration they go far beyond simple market opening. They grant greater access to the world's largest, single market and will bring benefits in terms of increased trade, investment and job creation. When provisionally applied, the vast majority of customs duties on goods will be removed. Together, we will be able to eliminate close to 100% of all duties in trade value – immediately as far as the EU is concerned, and more gradually in the case of your countries.
Of course, it is not just trade. There will be more sectoral co-operation. We look forward to your increased participation in European Union programmes and agencies and to working with you more in sectors such as civil protection, energy, environment, etc.
At this point, by way of example, let me highlight two particular sectors. Earlier today Georgia signed a Framework Participation Agreement on CSDP co-operation. This makes possible your participation in EU security-related operations.
In the case of Moldova, and in recognition of the efforts made, the Commission this Wednesday tabled a proposal to make possible the liberalisation of our visa regime. When approved, our citizens will increasingly move and work together.
As President of the European Commission I may also say that the institution I lead will work with you to lock in these advances. Today, we initial the Association Agreements. I am determined, however, that both agreements will be signed within the mandate of this Commission (i.e. during 2014).
Today celebrations are in order. But, let us not forget that in the coming months and years, the demanding task of provisional application and then full implementation of these comprehensive agreements awaits us.
Here too, working together will be necessary. Georgia has just had elections; Moldova will have them next year. Our countries need popularly elected, determined governments and competent, but loyal, oppositions. Both government and opposition will need to work together to maintain national consensus on the chosen European paths.
Your parliamentarians will need to scrutinise and adopt legislation giving national form and content to the agreements we have initialled today.
Finally, be assured that the EU will stand with you. This is a joint endeavour. We have an interest in your success. We too will profit too from your advancement, your stability and your security. I am convinced that our joint efforts will be rewarded with greater security, accelerating economic development, improved living conditions and increased prosperity for us all. I look forward to travelling this road with you!