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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Eastern Partnership: relevance and necessity clearer than ever - remarks delivered on behalf of the President of the European Commission José Manuel Durão Barroso
High Level Meeting on the 5th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership
Prague, 24 April 2014
"President Zeman, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I regret that I cannot be with you in person today but am happy that Commissioner Füle can read out this address on my behalf at this occasion to celebrate the 5th jubilee of the Eastern Partnership. A partnership that started with a clear vision back in 2009, to one that has already made real progress. A partnership that provides us with the right direction, but that must adapt to meet our joint challenges. First and foremost I would like to sincerely thank President Zeman for this initiative and bringing you all together today.
The European Commission throughout this mandate has remained steadfast in its dedication to the Eastern Partnershipas well as to our enlargement policy, which of course next week marks the 10th anniversary of the successful entry in our Union of ten new members. And it was of course the Czech Republic which during its first presidency of the European Union, pushed forward this strategy. It ensured that the European Union had the right approach to remain open to its eastern neighbours, partners and friends.
Events today in Ukraine show that the relevance and necessity of the Eastern Partnership are clearer today than it has ever been. Because we are all going through an unprecedented period of change, and in times of change we need to work together and support each other. Our common values like peace, solidarity, diversity, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, bind us together to guide our work. And they make us equal partners, flexible enough to work together where there is a need and open enough to respect each other's traditions and other relationships. This approach has allowed us to enrich our partnership in the last five years. Politically, financially andtechnically we have been supporting your domestic reforms in governance, justice, rule of law and economy. We have been doing this with you and your governments, and just as importantly with your parliaments, businesses and groups across civil society. In total we have increased our financial support to 2.5 billion Euros for bilateral and regional programmes in support of the partnership objectives in 2010 to 2013. We have been opening up the European Union to citizens from your countries, with discussions on our VisaFacilitation and the Re-admission Agreements. Short term travel without visas, access to our Erasmus+ programme for education and training, and also joint cultural programmes and our horizon 2020 programme on research and innovation.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. The recent crisis in Ukraine has shown that we are ready and able to accelerate progress in our bilateral relations as a sign of our solidarity. Signing the political provisions of an Association Agreement in March and recently removing about half a billion Euros of European Union customs tariffs a year as part of our support. But there is more that we can achieve together. Our European Union budget for the next seven years ensures that we can continue to provide you with that support.
We are hoping to have signed the full Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova and to make real progress on our joint ambition with Armenia and Azerbaijan and continue to work with Belarus. I am looking forward to the investment conferences in June with Moldova and Georgia.
Today's celebrations reaffirm the European Union's deep commitment to the Eastern Partnership and to our common challenges and opportunities. I hope it will allow us to take forward, in this changing world, our ambitious agenda agreed in Vilnius last year as we look ahead to the summit next year in Riga. I wish you the best for this conference and I very sincerely thank you."