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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Remarks by President Barroso ahead of the European Council
Brussels, 25 June 2014
Ahead of the European Council that will take place tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, I want to briefly touch on a couple of issues of crucial importance.
The European Council will discuss the strategic priorities of the EU for the years to come. I strongly welcome this discussion as all three institutions – Member States, the European Council, the European Parliament and the Commission should have a common understanding of the priorities ahead – namely on the imperative of growth and jobs. I believe that the text that is currently being discussed goes in the right direction – it confirms the approach the Commission has taken in the last years. What we need is to keep that agenda, the agenda for growth and jobs, but with stronger implementation and stronger ownership at all levels of the European Union, from the European institutions to our countries.
The main issue I wish to mention today is a subject of huge strategic importance and something the Commission has worked on tirelessly in recent years.
This Friday we will sign Association Agreements with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova and complete the signature process with Ukraine, each providing for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.
I do not hesitate to call these agreements historic. Historic for those countries, that's their historic objective, but also historic for Europe, what this can mean for the whole of Europe.
Last November at the end of the Vilnius Summit many were quick in passing judgements on the failure of our Eastern Partnership. I think that as usual they underestimated our commitment to this policy, the determination of our partner countries to move ahead and the willingness of the citizens of these countries to be closely associated with the EU.
That is why this will be a very important moment both for the EU and for those countries.
For Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, this will be a recognition:
• of the significant progress made over recent years and of their strong political determination to come closer to the European Union;
• of their shared outlook on a prosperous economic model;
• and of their desire to live by the European spirit and the European values.
For the EU, these signatures will be a solemn commitment to accompany Georgia the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine each step of the way along the road of transforming their countries into stable, prosperous democracies.
The Agreements, the most ambitious negotiated so far by the European Union, aim to deepen political and economic relations with the EU and to gradually integrate these three countries in the EU's Internal Market, the largest single market in the world.
These agreements offer opportunities and not ready-made solutions, they are certainly not a panacea. And their success will very much depend on these countries continued will to undertake the reforms that will bring them closer to the European way of life, politically, economically and culturally.
It is also important to recall once more that these Agreements are for something, not against anyone. We are not seeking an exclusive relationship with these three partners. We believe in open societies and open economies.
As you know, I spoke on the 13th of this month with President Putin, precisely reiterating to him my offer to engage in consultations on the implementation of these agreements. In fact, we have agreed on these trilateral consultations. Just before calling President Putin, I was speaking also with President Poroshenko, these consultations will take place in principle on the 11th of July, here in Brussels at ministerial level. The European Commission will be represented by Commissioner for Trade Mr De Gucht.
The signature of the Agreements is the logical outcome of a path started more than 20 years ago when these countries became independent states. We have worked on this matter in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect:
• cooperation because this is the way the European Union works with its neighbours and partners;
• and respect because these three countries are all sovereign and independent nations that have the right to make their own choice concerning their future.
I therefore look forward to this Friday's signature of the Agreements as a key milestone in the EU cooperation with Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
But at the agenda of the European Council will also have Russia's reaction to these events, in particular in Ukraine. A lot of effort in the last days and hours was put in supporting President Poroshenko's 15 point peace plan. I spoke with him again on the phone this Monday to praise and encourage his efforts and he conveyed to me a mixed picture of direct talks with Russia but at the same time continuing unrest in the East of Ukraine.
Yesterday President Putin announced he would ask the upper house of the Parliament to repeal a mandate for sending troops to Ukraine. We certainly welcome this step which we had been asking for a long time. In my phone call conversation with him on the 13th that was in fact one of the points we spoke about. But more concrete measures to de-escalate are needed. Failure to act will entail additional measures as the European Council has mentioned before.
In any event we need to pursue our policy of supporting Ukraine. In this respect I am glad that we have rolled out our policy of non-recognition of Crimea's annexation with a trade ban on Crimean products having been recently adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council following the European Commission proposal. We have also disbursed already 750 million euros in grants and loans to Ukraine and we are preparing for 8th July a meeting of the donors group to coordinate international assistance. This meeting will take place here in Brussels.
We will need to remain active and vigilant regarding our Eastern neighbourhood, in particular after the signature of the Association Agreements where our responsibility increases and not diminishes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Another very brief point on a matter that is completely different, but that I would like to inform you about.
Just today, I announced that, following the resignation of Vice-President Rehn, Commissioner responsible for economic and monetary affairs and the Euro, and the nomination of Jyrki Katainen as his replacement by the Finish government, I decided to attribute to Jyrki Katainen the responsibilities so far performed by Olli Rehn. On this occasion, I want also to pay my tribute and a very sincere word of thanks to Vice-President Rehn and all the Commissioners that will now leave the Commission because they will join the European Parliament. I want to thank them for their dedication for their competences and for the extraordinary way in which they have performed their duties as members of the Commission.