Buzek's speech at the Plenary session of the Eastern Partnership Summit
Dear Prime Ministers,
The European Union is facing a crisis. We have to take difficult decisions which affect all of our citizens. This is why the democratic scrutiny of legislation is so important. As Parliamentarians we are in direct contact with our citizens - we can express their concerns. But we can also explain some of the decisions taken.
The Eastern Partnership is a big pan-European project. But it can not go ahead without a parliamentary dimension. As recognised by Member States in the 2009 Prague Declaration. I am glad to announce that two weeks ago the European Parliament held its first ordinary session of the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly. It brought together parliamentarians who represent almost 600 million European citizens.
Its committees are up and running. 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. I believe that in the future this will become an important forum for discussion and building better understanding - not just between the EU and individual countries - but horizontally. This exchange of best practices and day to day cooperation is at the heart of our community method.
Unfortunately at its last meeting the Assembly could not adopt its final report because of a disagreement between two partner delegations. However, this proves that we indeed need a multilateral forum to address outstanding issues and regional problems. But I believe that we have made significant progress. First of all, there was a debate on sensitive topics and it was constructive. Second, we have adopted an ambitious work programme for 2012.
It is obvious that for us to move forward, there must be more reforms - so that more support is possible. The European Parliament supports the "More for more" principle. But we should not be afraid to express our disappointment at the insufficient democratic development in some Eastern European partners. We also must praise and reward those who made progress.
For us the improvement of people to people contacts is very important as well. In this, visa liberalisation must be an essential element of our partnership.
Today the EU's attention is focused on the South and the unfolding Arab spring. But the engagement in the East must be maintained. The Southern and Eastern dimensions of our Neighbourhood policy are equally important. We need to ensure that there is a right balance 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. It has to be an extension not just of our foreign policy but of our internal single market.
This is why the European Parliament strongly supports concluding comprehensive and deep Free Trade Agreements with our Eastern partners. They should cover 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, also 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.
As President of the European Parliament I am pleased that I managed to visit all the Eastern Partnership countries during my term. I do have one regret though - that I was not able to visit a democratic Belarus. And that we can not yet welcome our colleagues from the Palata at the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly.
The ten empty chairs reserved for our Belarusian colleagues in our Assembly remind us that democracy and the rule of law must be at the heart of our partnership. We need to work together to help Belarus return to the European family of democratic nations. Thank you.
Robert A. Golański
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