Speeches
Foreign Affairs

Speech for the opening of the first ordinary session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

Strasbourg -
Thursday 15/09/2011

Excellencies, Dear Colleagues,

Dear Friends,

What just one year ago seemed like a distant dream, today is a reality: Euronest has assembled in Strasbourg for its first ordinary meeting. Its committees are up and running and its reports are already in the making. We are tackling crucial issues for all of us - from economic integration, to energy security to democracy and human rights. We are finally living up to the expectations of our citizens. I would like to commend all of you with this important achievement.

It is more than two years that the Eastern Partnership has been launched. Our meeting thus is very timely. It creates an excellent opportunity for us to assess the successes and shortcomings of this ambitious programme. It also gives us the possibility to show that while the EU's attention is focused on the Southern dimension and the unfolding Arab spring, the engagement in the East should be maintained and even strengthened, both politically and financially. Both Southern and Eastern dimensions of our Neighbourhood policy are equally important, and thus we need to ensure that there is equal treatment between the two in the next Multiannual Financial Framework and in our strategic political decisions.

I am convinced that we need to integrate our neighbourhood policy fully in line with our internal policies. Neighbourhood policy has to be an extension not just of our foreign policy but of our single market.

This is why the European Parliament strongly supports the objective of concluding comprehensive new generation Free Trade Agreements with our Eastern partners covering all important areas - including services, intellectual property rights, customs, public procurement and energy-related issues.

But we see this as a first step. In the mid-term our neighbourhood should be fully integrated into a wider European economic space. As with the Arab spring in the countries of our Southern neighbourhood - as in the East - there has to be a democratic dividend to those going through difficult reforms. People have to see that transition to democracy and economic transformation brings prosperity and stability for them. This is why we have called on the European Commission to find ways to open the internal market to goods and services from our closest neighbours.

However, in order for us to move forward, there must be more reforms so that more support is possible. "More for more" should become our mantra. And these reforms must extend to all areas which are central for a successful transition process - including democratic governance, an independent judiciary, respect for human rights, and the strengthening of the rule of law.

This is about building trust between us, and trust comes from transparency. Our businesses need to have legal certainty when they invest and trade. As do your companies. Our rules, regulations and standards must be common and shared equally by all of us.

The European Parliament also attaches great importance to the improvement of people to people contacts. In this, visa liberalisation must be an essential element of our neighbourhood policy

Dear Friends,

My second point today is that your relations with the EU should not be just bilateral. It is important that there is greater integration among yourselves - I strongly encourage that you move towards greater mobility of goods, services, capital and people among you.

Greater cooperation will allow us to meet local challenges better - such as regional conflicts where we can serve as objective facilitators and provide peer encouragement to find peaceful resolution. Issues that concern us all - energy security, social and economic problems, the environment, infrastructure - become more manageable when we work together and under common rules.

The experience of the three Baltic States, which had a strong cooperation during the accession process to the EU, the experience of the Visegrad four, the example of our Nordic colleagues, the experience of the BENELUX show that regular meetings and working together towards common goals creates a culture of cooperation, discussion and in the end, provides us with solutions.

The European Union calls this the "community method", I call it "common sense". There is far more that unites us on this continent than divides us. I believe that today's plenary will demonstrate this - that together, Parliamentarians who represent not 500 million citizens but almost 600 million citizens can come to an agreement on many of the problems we all face.

When I am in Warsaw at the end of the month for the Eastern Partnership Summit, I see my role as delivering to the Heads of State and Government the position of the EURONEST Assembly. It is our duty today to come up with a parliamentary vision of where we would like the Eastern Partnership policy to take us in the next decade. I will be therefore following your deliberations very carefully and will make sure to convey your political messages to the leaders gathered in Warsaw.

We should demonstrate the potential of our parliaments and aid each other in promoting reliance on us. I believe this must be one of the core objectives of Euronest - and that in our recommendations to the Eastern Partnership summit, we should point to our potentials and signal the readiness of our parliaments to take on more responsibility.

If we use it correctly and wisely, this parliamentary dimension of Eastern Partnership policy can become an important tool. It can provide for greater oversight, greater transparency and greater control of our governments. This is our duty as parliamentarians and this is our mission in front of our citizens. It is up to us to make this a reality. I know we can. Thank you!

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