Speech by the President to the Eastern Partnership Summit
The fact that you are with us here today confirms the central importance, in the broader context of the Eastern Partnership, of the European Neighbourhood Policy, both for the EU and for our partners. The outcome of the last summit, held two years ago in Riga, should prompt us, in a spirit of renewed faith and optimism, to consider further steps to strengthen this important partnership.
To put it in a nutshell, we are heading in the right direction:
- three new association agreements have entered into force, with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine;
- two new visa-free regimes have been introduced, with Georgia and Ukraine in addition to Moldova;
- the new Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with Armenia will be signed today;
- we have opened negotiations on a new agreement with Azerbaijan;
- lastly, we have initiated a policy of critical engagement with Belarus, primarily with the aim of safeguarding the interests of its citizens and civil society.
Whether we take the example of the association agreements or of the visa liberalisation process, the European Parliament has fought hard to achieve these milestones and to combat the myths surrounding them.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with you, and we will continue to do so. All these advances we have made provide an excellent basis for the discussions at today’s Summit and should also encourage us to take a more ambitious approach to our future cooperation.
In the resolution it adopted by a large majority on 15 November, the European Parliament urges you do just that. This was also the message conveyed by the multilateral Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, represented here by its two Co-Presidents, Rebecca Harms and Marian Lupu, in the statement adopted by its Bureau on 31 October in Kyiv.
The time is now ripe for us to set out a clear political vision for the future of the Eastern Partnership, based on the core values of democratic pluralism, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and good governance, the fight against corruption and measures to enhance transparency and increase the involvement of civil society.
Our recent achievements are fuelling new and legitimate expectations regarding the future of the Eastern Partnership. We must ensure that this policy translates into practical benefits for every citizen in the Eastern partner countries and in the EU.
I therefore very much welcome the ‘deliverables for 2020’ you are about to agree upon.
If these deliverables are to have a tangible and visible impact, ‘ownership’ and ‘implementation’ will be key. These two concepts are central to the process of turning our stated objectives into practical achievements.
In addition, today’s meeting also offers an opportunity to look further ahead and think more strategically about the direction we want to take together, in order to imbue our policies with a new dynamism.
In that connection, the European Parliament acknowledges the European aspirations harboured by some of our partners.
Parliament also urges you to consider a longer-term ‘Eastern Partnership Plus’ model for associated countries which have made significant progress in implementing the reforms set out in the association agreements. This new model may take a variety of forms and we outline some of them in our resolution.
I personally believe that European economic diplomacy should be used more actively and effectively to promote the development of trade links with our partner countries. I would ask you to look at the new European External Investment Plan and the benefits it can generate by mobilising increased investment and improving the business climate.
In the light of our undertaking based on the ‘more for more’ principle (more commitment to reform, more assistance), I call on the Member States to participate more fully in this Investment Plan.
I consider it equally important to address the social challenges faced by our partners by creating an appropriate instrument, such as a trust fund, through which the various donors can contribute to the achievement of common objectives.
We must nevertheless make clear that any further support will be conditional on the implementation of reforms, and that any new (and more advanced) forms of cooperation should always be open to other partners, provided that they are committed to upholding our common values.
More specifically, the European Parliament decided last week that it will not ratify any agreements with countries which do not implement the decisions taken by the European Court of Human Rights or which persecute human rights defenders, NGOs and journalists.
We must use this partnership to build confidence in the area of our common security. The Eastern Partnership region is one of old and new security threats, and of conflicts that not only affect your independence, your sovereignty, your territorial integrity and the protection of human rights, but which also threaten to undermine the stability and security of the EU.
We must work together closely and effectively to harness all the instruments available under the Partnership policy so as to build confidence and devise innovative approaches to overcome these threats and create a peaceful and secure environment for our citizens.
It is also crucial that the EU Member States should continue to be united in exerting collective pressure on Russia and in reasserting the values and principles that help to keep the peace in Europe. Division is a recipe for vulnerability.
I welcome the fact that the heads of the delegations to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly have unanimously adopted an ambitious message for the Summit, including as regards the conflicts. I hope that we can keep working to bring about the changes needed, for the benefit of the people hardest hit in the regions concerned.
Let me conclude by highlighting the importance of parliamentarism and representative democracy. If the Eastern Partnership is to succeed and be legitimate, it is of the utmost importance that you involve and listen to parliaments, both in your home countries and through the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.
I would therefore end by asking you to follow closely the recommendations made by the Members of the European Parliament, by the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly and by the parliaments in your home countries, and take them into account from the start in any future initiative.
Making your parliaments stronger will make your democracies stronger.