Procedure : 2015/3032(RSP)
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Document selected : B8-0079/2016

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See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0068/2016

to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure

on the Implementation of the Association Agreements / Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine (2015/3032(RSP))

Knut Fleckenstein, Victor Boştinaru, Richard Howitt, David Martin, Nicola Caputo, Andi Cristea, Nicola Danti, Tanja Fajon, Doru-Claudian Frunzulică, Neena Gill, Iliana Iotova, Liisa Jaakonsaari, Afzal Khan, Arne Lietz, Andrejs Mamikins, Costas Mavrides, Marlene Mizzi, Sorin Moisă, Clare Moody, Victor Negrescu, Norbert Neuser, Pier Antonio Panzeri, Demetris Papadakis, Ioan Mircea Paşcu, Emilian Pavel, Tonino Picula, Kati Piri, Joachim Schuster, Tibor Szanyi, Boris Zala on behalf of the S&D Group

European Parliament resolution on the Implementation of the Association Agreements / Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine (2015/3032(RSP))  

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Association Agreements / Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (AA/DCFTAs) between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and Georgia, the Republic of Moldova (hereinafter Moldova) and Ukraine, of the other part,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and Eastern Partnership,

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration of the Eastern Partnership Summit held in Riga on 21-22 May 2015,

–  having regard to the joint communication of the Commission and the HR/VP of 18 November 2015 on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy,

–  having regard to the outcome of the EU-Moldova Association Council meeting of 16 March 2015, of the EU-Georgia Association Council meeting of 16 November 2015 and of the EU-Ukraine Association Council meeting of 7 December 2015,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine are countries of the Eastern Partnership that have chosen the path of close political association and economic integration with the EU through the most advanced generation of Association Agreement, which provide for the creation of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (AA/DCFTAs);

B.  whereas the AA/DCFTAs with Georgia and Moldova have been provisionally applied since 1 September 2014;

C.  whereas, on 1 January 2016, the EU and Ukraine started to provisionally apply the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which forms an integral part of the Association Agreement (AA) signed in June 2014; whereas the political part of this AA entered into force on 1 November 2014;

D.  whereas, in line with these AAs, the three partners have committed to promote and implement reforms based on common values in terms of democracy, good governance, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of persons belonging to national minorities;

E.  whereas the stronger political and economic ties developed in this framework will bring greater stability and prosperity to the whole European continent;

1.  Welcomes the overall successful start of implementation of the AAs and the progressive establishment of free trade areas; insists that the implementation of AA/DCFTAs and related association agendas has to be a top priority for the EU and the three partners; instructs the Commission to monitor closely the process of implementation and to keep Parliament duly informed;

2.  Stresses the importance of developing the social dimension of the partnership, in line with the provisions of the Association Agendas and relevant ILO Conventions; urges all parties to respect their commitments on core labour standards; calls for exchange of best practices and further efforts to promote decent work and the transformation of the informal sector into formal work, the development of labour security standards, as well as social dialogue and the full enjoyment of trade union rights; considers that this must go hand in hand with socially balanced tax systems and the fight against tax evasion;

3.  Considers that, in particular for those partner countries experiencing an economic crisis, the objective of the DCFTAs, above all, must be to bring tangible and sustainable improvements to the living conditions of ordinary people; highlights that the DCFTA implementation, coupled with the dire economic situation, will significantly challenge the Ukrainian economy and labour market with social consequences that must not be neglected; underlines that the setting up of bilateral DCFTAs with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova is a crucial tool for modern, transparent and predictable trade, regulatory approximation and gradual economic integration of the partners in the EU internal market, as well as for foreign direct investments leading to job creation and long-term growth and with the ultimate goal of the creation of a wider economic area based on WTO rules and the respect for sovereign choices;

4.  Reiterates its firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all three partners within their internationally recognised borders;

5.  Welcomes the provisional entry into force on 1 January 2016 of the EU-Ukraine DCFTA and regrets the introduction of new economic sanctions against Ukraine by the Russian Federation, despite serious and continued efforts on the parts of Ukraine and the EU to address its concerns; points out that this move contradicts the Ministerial Agreement of September 2014 on the implementation of the Minsk provisions; strongly believes that practical solutions are still achievable within the flexibility provided for in the DCFTA and in line with the WTO rules; calls, therefore, for the continuation of the trilateral dialogue at the highest possible level; commends Ukraine for its determination to start implementing the DCFTA provisions; calls for efforts to be made to achieve a viable modus vivendi with the Eurasian Economic Union;

6.  Supports the committed and multi-faceted financial and technical assistance provided by the EU and other financial institutions to Ukraine and Georgia; regrets that the political situation in Moldova forced the EU to suspend its financial assistance to the country; stresses that the EU financial support to all its partners is conditioned by concrete reform steps and that political stability is also an important element in this respect; urges the political forces in Moldova to accelerate the ongoing negotiations and to form a new governing coalition that can advance without further delay the reform process for the benefit of all Moldovans; stresses, furthermore, the need to duly investigate the banking scandal, to bring those responsible to justice, and to ensure the return of stolen funds; considers that the ongoing banking crisis illustrates the serious need for systemic improvements within the legal framework to reinforce the control and transparency of banking sector activities;

7.  Recalls that by themselves the funds made available are not enough to stabilise the economy nor can any sustainable success be achieved without the continued commitment by the partners to bring forward and implement structural reforms, ensure the rise of domestic demand, and achieve social cohesion;

8.  Commends the efforts undertaken by the Georgian and Moldovan authorities for the results achieved so far in harmonisation of legislation and standards as provided for by the DCFTA; welcomes the fact that despite negative economic trends in the region exports from Georgia and Moldova to the EU grew in the first 12 months of the DCFTA implementation, with the EU imports from Georgia rising by 15 % and its overall share in Moldovan exports increasing by 62 %; considers that accelerated progress on sanitary and phytosanitary standards is needed; welcomes that by now more than 95 % of existing Georgian standards with regard to technical barriers to trade are international and European ones, which is critical for economic operators to participate in European value chains; calls on Moldova to adjust the national action plan in areas where delays have been noted;

9.  Deplores the fact that corruption remains widespread, despite progress in the adoption of new legislation and the creation of anti-corruption institutions; strongly encourages the partner countries to fully benefit from the opportunities provided by the agreement and to redouble their efforts to fight corruption that hampers their socio-economic development; urges, in this context, the implementation of the anti-corruption legislation and the related action plans or strategies; stresses the need for additional efforts in fulfilling the relevant Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) and OECD recommendations;

10.  Congratulates Georgia on its innovative e-procurement system which has substantially increased transparency, efficiency and accountability, which are key factors in the fight against corruption; recommends broadening the award criteria beyond merely focusing on costs; calls on the Commission to provide advice in this regard based on the best price-quality ratio, taking into account social and sustainability criteria; calls on the Georgian authorities to expedite the preparations for a working programme on trade and sustainable development under full consultation with the social partners and other stakeholders;

11.  Points out the importance of judiciary reform that ensures the well-functioning, efficiency, and independence of the sector, in line with the recommendation of the Venice Commission;

12.  Highlights the need to continue the work for the modernisation of public administration, at central and local level, as a prerequisite for transparent and effective democratic governance in the service of all citizens; calls on the Commission to promote the European Principles for Public Administration that have been identified by OECD/SIGMA and to make use of the same methodology that has been developed for candidates for EU membership;

13.  Reiterates the importance of integrating civil society into policy-making and reform processes; welcomes the fact that the ENP review recognises the need for additional support for sub-national, national and intra-regional civil society organisations; notes with concern, however, that, so far, there has been little interest on the part of the EU, among civil society organisations in participating in advisory groups provided for under the Association Agreements; calls on the Commission to draw appropriate conclusions with a view to invigorating these mechanisms and ensuring their representative character in line with the recommendations of the European Economic and Social Committee;

14.  Welcomes strongly the latest and last progress reports, published by the Commission on 18 December 2015, on Georgia’s and Ukraine’s implementation of their respective action plans on visa liberalisation and looks forward to the presentation of the related legislative proposals and approval; commends Moldova for the good implementation of the visa-free regime in place since April 2014, which represents a good example for the whole region;

15.  Notes that, while all three countries have made progress in the areas of human rights and fundamental freedoms, further structural reforms are needed for consolidating democracy and the rule of law; expresses satisfaction at the adoption of new legislation, most recently in Ukraine, and policies that have strengthened protection against discrimination; notes, however, that LGBTI people still face persecution and threats from extremist groups, that the Roma community remains marginalised and that women face discrimination and inequality in social, economic and political life;

16.  Welcomes the progress made by Georgia in the areas of human rights and fundamental freedoms; calls on all political forces in Georgia to improve the political climate by avoiding confrontation and polarisation and ensuring cross-party dialogue in the interest of strengthening democracy and the rule of law, focusing on priorities such as economic development, social concerns and further implementation of the AA/DCFTA; emphasises the particular importance in the further consolidation of Georgian democracy of ensuring space for opposition, ensuring that pre-trial detention is used only as an exceptional measure, in accordance with the law, to safeguard, inter alia, the principle of the presumption of innocence, and strengthening media pluralism and independence and freedom of expression and opinion;

17.  Is satisfied with the participation of the three countries in or their association with EU programs, such as the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME), ‘Horizon 2020’, Erasmus+, Marie Sklodowska Curie, and Creative Europe; notes that this cooperation, while being mutually beneficial, provides the partner countries with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with EU working methods and policies;

18.  Highlights the importance of the AA/DCFTA provisions on energy cooperation for security of supply and the development of competitive, transparent and non-discriminatory energy markets in line with EU rules and standards, as well as for renewable energy and energy efficiency; supports the EU’s intention to enhance full energy market integration with Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia through the Energy Community and to reduce energy dependency without overburdening private households; calls on the EU and the governments concerned to work out measures in order to cushion against social hardships;

19.  Stresses the need to continuously ensure the compliance of internal legislation with DCFTA commitments and also with regard to geographical indications and intellectual property rights; considers that customs services have a key role to play in the enforcement thereof;

20.  Recalls the important role of national parliaments in promoting reforms and the gradual approximation to the EU acquis; calls for the exchange of best practices and the conclusion of a memoranda of understanding based on the model of the one signed with the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine; welcomes the establishment and the first meetings of the Parliamentary Association Committees in line with the AAs and stresses the usefulness of contacts among parliamentarians in both bilateral and multilateral contexts;

21.  Welcomes the new focus of the reviewed ENP and the EU intention to step up the cooperation with our partners in the fields of conflict prevention, counter-terrorism, anti-radicalisation, and security sector reform; considers that this cooperation needs to be substantial and aimed at addressing common security threats and the development of joint efforts for the viable settlement of conflicts, including through enhanced participation in CSDP missions and training activities as well as actions to ensure non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the fight against the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW); reiterates its support for the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM), the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine), and the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), as well as for the efforts being made for the peaceful resolution of the conflicts affecting the three countries;

22.  Highlights the importance of raising public awareness and visibility of the merits of the Association Agreement, including by means of regular contacts with civil society organisations, and facilitating and promoting objective, independent and impartial information in this regard; calls for joint efforts to counter misinformation and propaganda campaigns both in the partner countries and the Member States;

23.  Expresses satisfaction for the near completion of the ratification processes, in line with the national procedures of the Member States; takes note of the consultative referendum in the Netherlands on the AA/DCFTA with Ukraine and awaits with interest its outcome; calls for vigilance with regard to any misinterpretation of the scope of the agreement and recalls, in particular, the fact that the AA/DCFTA is about the strengthening of political and economic cooperation with Ukraine without in itself offering a membership perspective; encourages the people of the Netherlands to approve this important partnership for the benefit of Europe as a whole;

24.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service, as well as to the Presidents, Parliaments and Governments of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

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