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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Priorities for EU relations with the Eastern Partnership countries
European Parliament plenary discussion, 10 March 2014
President, Honourable Members,
Dear Pawel, I came here to strengthen the messages in your report. And I agree with you that another and different chapter is being written on Ukraine. At the same time I am on your side saying that the messages reflected in your report are important and relevant. I will strengthen some of them and will add those I consider also important.
I will do it in three parts.
First - addressing the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in general. It is important that we remind ourselves that the goal of this special partnership is to help our partners to deliver on their own ambitions. Because the ownership of reforms matters.
Second - it is important to remind our partners and also ourselves from time to time, that the most important thing is to make the best use of all the instruments, and there are many – from bilateral, to multilateral dimension, sectoral cooperation, way of interaction formal, informal.
Third - I also agree with your report, we need to combine the inclusivity with differentiation. This means that we need to make effort that all of our partners are engaged and that we find framework within the EaP for all of them.
The last point would be stating the obvious, that the EaP is not a strait-jacket and the only one non-negotiable issue is the issue of values and principles underpinning our partnership.
But we have in the EaP also countries which have committed themselves to much deeper reforms, who have asked for a closer relationship with the EU and agreed with our reaction to these calls for political association and economic integration. I am talking about Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia and about the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (AA/DCFTA).
Let me make 7 short remarks particularly now, when we are so often - all of us - ready to look into the past and make judgments what was right and what went wrong:
1) The AA/DCFTA strengthens capacity of our partners to make sovereign decisions; I think this should be actually our primary goal.
2) It respects traditional relations our partners have with their neighbours and I would argue that it helps to promote such relations rather than the other way round.
3) We offer not only a blueprint for reforms but a comprehensive and genuine partnership. It is a combination of political association and economic integration and it is accompanied with the rule of law, fundamental rights and freedoms and other value-based elements which are so important for any reforms to be fully implemented.
4) We are proposing what already worked before. The EaP and AA/DCFTA it is not a laboratory, we are not testing, we are not experimenting. I recall just one vivid example: the GDP of Poland and Ukraine at the beginning of the 90s was more or less the same. Then Poland concluded similar kind of agreement we are offering to our partners now, and in a couple of years the difference in GDP has changed four times on the side of Poland. This is what we offer and it is important to recall that.
5) We work not only with authorities but also with others, in particular with the civil society and that makes reforms more viable.
6) When our partners become victims of undue external pressures we firmly stand at their side and mobilise all instruments of solidarity if needed.
7) Let me make a strong point that our policies contribute in long run to the creation of free trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok. To say the opposite, to say that what we are offering is a choice between Moscow and Brussels or East and West, is propaganda. It comes from those who while ignoring our previous invitations for dialogue on those issues, at the same time imposed unilateral measures on their neighbours. And it is only irony that it is this week that we will have the first bilateral group with the Russian Federation to address what one might call as their difficulties with our overall concept, trying to clarify that they have nothing to fear.
Let me end with a point on Ukraine: Let me recall briefly what has been underlined by the Member States last week. We strongly condemn Russia's unprovoked violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Any further steps to destabilise the situation in Ukraine would lead to additional and far reaching consequences for our relations on a broad range issues. We hope that we will not reach that stage. We firmly believe that problems should be solved through dialogue.
And that brings me to the last point – some of our partners have clearly defined their European aspirations. We have been looking for too long for a way how to reflect on it and how to respond to it. Last ordinary Foreign Affairs Council when debating on Ukraine has decided that the AA/DCFTA is not a final goal in the EU-Ukraine cooperation. This is an important development because only within the spirit of the article 49 of the Lisbon treaty we will be able to make the full advantage of the AA.