MEPs and MPs from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine hope to achieve a breakthrough in their relations at this November's Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, but not at the expense of democracy, rule of law and peace. At the Third Euronest Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels on 28-29 May, they pledged to press their governments for reforms to this end.
"EURONEST wants to send a strong message to Heads of State and Government, on their respective commitments and the aspirations of citizens. Members see the Vilnius Summit as a crucial step towards political association and achievement of free-trade areas between the EU and its partners. However, for this to happen, partners have to strengthen rule of law and respect for human rights", said MEP and EURONEST co-chair Evgeni Kirilov (S&D, BG), as the Assembly closed.
"The Vilnius summit holds promise of signing major pacts with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, but it will be up to respective governments to use the crucial six months we have left to show progress in areas which have been clearly indicated by the EU", said Ukraine MP Borys Tarasyuk, co-chair for the eastern partners.
Peace and security
The Assembly identified security and rule of law as key concerns, especially in the Southern Caucasus region. It adopted a report stressing the common duty of the EU and the eastern partners "to promote peace and security throughout the European continent". It deplored attacks on political opponents, restrictions on the rights of assembly of human rights defenders, cases of selective justice and military build-ups.
The Assembly also called on the EU to increase the budget for assistance to Eastern Partnership countries in the EU's next Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) after 2014. The current political agreement on the MFF foresees €13.7 billion for the EU Neighbourhood Instrument — an increase compared to the present €11.4 billion but less than the original proposal of €16.1 billion.
Russia and energy
A report on energy security calls on eastern partners to move towards low-carbon energy systems, and for a deeper consolidation of energy markets with the EU, given the high oil and gas dependency on Russia.
EURONEST members regretted that Belarus is not formally represented, due to their lack of an internationally recognized parliament. A working group was however held with Belarus opposition representatives, civil society and independent media. MPs expressed their hopes to "revive relations" with Belarus in Vilnius summit.
Change of EP co-chair
MEP Kristian Vigenin stepped down as EURONEST co.chair as he has been appointed Foreign Affairs Minister in Bulgaria. Evgeni Kirilov succeeds him.
EU leaders meet in a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania in November 2013. The next EURONEST Assembly will be in Yerevan, Armenia in November 2014.