Friday, May 27, 2011

“A new response to a changing Neighbourhood”

STATEMENT by Mr Kristan VIGENIN, Co-President of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly and Chairman of the EP Delegation to the Euronest PA on the occasion of the publication of the Joint Communication by the European Commission and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on “A new response to a changing Neighbourhood”

Mr VIGENIN congratulated the Commission and the High Representative on the new communication, which presents a re-adapted strategic approach to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

The commitment to work together towards "deep democracy", as one of the main priorities in the document, will bring more clarity on the goals and the road ahead in the relations with our neighbours. There is a clear signal that not only the responsibility but also the accountability for the results achieved is shared.

With regard to the Eastern neighbourhood, it is essential that the Communication makes a reference to articles 8 and 49 of the Treaty on European Union. The Communication also focuses on the need for better tailoring of the partnership offer towards individual countries through the "more for more" approach. The membership perspective is a strong incentive for some of our partners in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. It gives more added value to the strengthened cooperation with the EU and demands a deep commitment from our partners.

The drafting of annual reports on the progress of the neighbouring countries provides greater opportunities, both for the EP to play its key role in the assessment process and for the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly to have a fresh input to the monitoring and implementation of the main lines of the new ENP.

Mobility and people to people contacts; media freedom; support to political parties, NGOs and social partners will be main subjects of discussion in the Euronest bodies and I commend the Commission for setting out the partnership with civil society as a priority. This shows that we have learned our lesson from recent events in North Africa.

Finally, it is crucial for the Member States to understand that the new ENP will not be successful unless it is supported by the joint efforts of all EU institutions and countries. Individual actions would undermine the solid basis for a common EU strategy that has been presented in this document.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Interview: Moldovan Foreign Minister Reaffirms Policy Of European Integration

Moldovan Foreign Minister Iurie Leanca says that further integration with Europe is the only way forward for his country and the best way of resolving the long-standing frozen conflict in breakaway Transdniester.

Leanca visited RFE/RL's headquarters in Prague and participated in a wide-ranging conversation about his country's ambitions and the challenges it faces.

RFE/RL: The current ruling coalition came to power as a bloc largely against the Communist Party. How is it functioning now and does it actually stand for something?

Iurie Leanca: Having a coalition in power is a reflection, an expression of a certain maturity of the society. But from what I understand, a coalition, or the exercise to work or act in a coalition, is never a very easy exercise. We are in the Czech Republic and from what I understand, they also have a coalition government of three parties. And from what I understand it is not a very easy way of co-habitating. They have their own problems -- I don't know whether they are bigger or smaller than is the case with the Moldovan coalition, but these problems exist everywhere, from what I understand.

Now, the Moldovan coalition -- maybe in the first place it was against the Communists, but I think it is also a coalition in favor of something. And the most important objective is in favor of modernizing Moldova. It is not by accident that the coalition is called the Alliance for European Integration.

And I think that it unites us. Yes, there are differences, differences in terms of foreign policy. There are differences in terms of how to pursue economic policies or the social policies. Yes, there are animosities. Yes, there are rivalries and the [upcoming] local elections show that we are not exempt from any human feelings.

But look at the decision made by my party to withdraw its candidate for mayor of Chisinau and to support the current mayor, the incumbent one. It was not an easy decision. You might tell us it was a decision based on certain realities. Maybe. But we made this decision. We have proved we can, maybe, take a decision which is not very popular in our own party, but shows that we can really work for the interests of the country. Again, it is not an easy exercise but I think there are more elements which unite us than things which are problematic within the coalition.

Seeing The Positives In Eastern Partnership

RFE/RL: A lot of people have been skeptical about the European Union's Eastern Partnership and are saying that it has been largely pushed off the agenda. What is your view?

Leanca: By the way, it is quite interesting -- to some extent, maybe symbolic -- that my visit takes place almost two years after the launch of the Eastern Partnership initiative here in Prague in May 2009. Let me mention in the beginning that the then-Moldovan authorities were very unhappy with the fact that Moldova was included in the Eastern Partnership because they felt that Moldova deserves very special treatment and should be put somewhere together with the western Balkans in the same package.

And maybe there is some rationale in this attitude, but the problem is that during eight years they did everything possible and impossible in order to make the distance between us and Brussels bigger and not closer. When we started to work as a government, we proceeded from the understanding that this is a reality and we cannot change it.

And since it is a reality then we need to benefit from all those opportunities which were enshrined in this initiative once it was launched -- the association agreement and the visa-free-regime perspective and the so-called free-trade area and the common aviation space and the cooperation in energy. These elements are all envisaged in the Eastern Partnership.

And there is another very important principle which is very dear to us -- the principle of differentiation. Because if Belarus is not eager to join the EU or Azerbaijan, from what I understand, wants more like Switzerland's EU relationship and doesn't necessarily envision its membership -- that's their sovereign decision. In the case of Moldova -- again, I don't see another alternative, I don't see another viable option -- therefore, this principle of differentiation should be applied. And that's what we discuss with our European Union friends.

I don't see, by the way, it's not my impression that the Eastern Partnership has become a less important initiative. No, on the contrary, France, for instance, just recently has appointed an ambassador-at-large for the Eastern Partnership and France didn't have in the previous two years such a special coordinator of French policies in this respect. And due to the fact that there is a group of countries -- like Sweden, the Baltic countries, the Visegrad group, Romania -- the interest for this initiative -- at least that's my feeling -- is not diminishing.

Of course, there are new challenges -- the developments in northern Africa, for example, lead to discussions on redistributing some financial resources. But, again, I don't have the feeling that it is less important and I do believe that we could use the existing framework in order to get out of the Eastern Partnership and to get just a bilateral-relationship treatment.

You know that the European Union, the commission, is now finalizing the review process of the European Neighborhood Policy. And when the exercise was launched at the end of last year, those who shaped or drafted the future principles of the future Neighborhood Policy wrote something that the countries of the Eastern Partnership could get as close to the EU as they wanted except the membership perspective. Since December, less than half a year, I am very happy to see that no one speaks anymore about this principle being stipulated in the review process that is about to be published. On the contrary, we hear that a certain reference to Article 49 from the Lisbon Treaty, which envisages the right of any European country which meets certain criteria to apply for membership. And I think that is an excellent transformation.

So, again, Moldova is more or less happy with the existing framework, of course, provided that it will not keep us forever from the chance to move beyond it and to discuss about the prospects to have the right to apply for membership. And we will do this -- we haven't decided when because we need to make sure that our internal developments will be as positive as last year and that what happened last year was not just a kind of accident of history and now we come back to the chaos. No, we need to prove the sustainable developments of the economy, the political institutions. And then, after you have more arguments, to apply for membership. And we will do that.

Again, the Eastern Partnership is not an impediment in this respect. And we are very keen to make sure that the Warsaw summit in September will produce some positive decisions -- and the most important for us is to make sure that the reference to this article is somewhere there. At least, the Czechs, the Poles, the Swedes -- from what I know -- are working to this extent.

RFE/RL: It is good to hear a positive assessment of the Eastern Partnership.

Leanca: It depends what the country wants. For instance, our Belarusian friend, the minister of foreign affairs, whenever he would come to meetings dedicated to the Eastern Partnership, we would speak just about money and would complain [that] they don't give us enough money.

I don't think the Eastern Partnership is just about money without any kind of preconditions. It is in the first place about sharing the same values, I think. So if you have the right approach, if you come with the right arguments and you have some data, I think the response is also positive and at least that is what we experienced in our relations with the commission and the member states.

RFE/RL: Could you tell us about your country's relations with Georgia?

Leanca: I don't want to hide from you that there are some impediments -- and the impediment is the sensitivity of one country. We proceed from the fact that we have common problems -- we are, so to say, hosting frozen conflicts. We have common aspirations and we need to exchange experience. And there is already a quiet, good exchange of experience.

For instance, Georgians are learning from us how to negotiate the association agreement, because we have managed in a very short period of time to become real champions in this respect. We are learning from them how to reform the police, for example, especially the road police. The minister of the interior was in Georgia just a few weeks ago. We hope that a few experts from Georgia will come to us and will show us, advise us, how to implement this concept, how to fight more effectively against corruption.

And I'm sure that in the fall we will have also the visit of the prime minister to Georgia on the invitation which was addressed before by President [Mikheil] Saakashvili. I think the cooperation, the dialogue is proceeding pretty well and is mutually beneficial.

Transdniester Conflict

RFE/RL: Since you are here in the Czech Republic, I was wondering if it is possible that you could see the "civilized divorce" between the Czech Republic and Slovakia as a model for a settlement of your Transdniester conflict?

Leanca: Interestingly enough, these questions about the Czechoslovak model of civilized divorce (painful, but civilized) were asked yesterday and I was a bit surprised to hear that one could draw some parallels. I think that there are no similarities.

In Czechoslovakia, there were two nations -- two identities, distinct identities, two languages -- whereas Transdniester is a very artificial entity. Still the ethnic Moldovans represent almost 40 percent. So, it has nothing to do with identity. It has nothing to do with religious confessions. It has to do just with the political problems.

Let's not forget that Transdniester was created as a problem before the break-up of the Soviet Union, as a labyrinth to keep Moldova inside the Soviet Union and it is developing based on this model. I don't know whether Transdniester is really self-sustainable as an economic model.

Let me bring you just one figure -- on the right bank of Moldova, even the most impoverished categories pay today $400 per 1,000 cubic meters [of natural gas]. More than $400, which -- even if there are no average prices for gas because it is not yet a full commodity -- but still, we pay almost the same that consumers in Romania or in Bulgaria pay. In Transdniester, consumers pay something like $85 per 1,000 cubic meters. And this money is not even sent to the entity Moldovagas, which pays for the consumption of the gas to Gazprom. No, it is consumed locally in Transdniester.

As a result of this, every year, the debt of Transdniester is increasing and it is now almost like $2.5 billion. Without this money, would they be able to exist? I think no. Without the so-called humanitarian assistance from Moscow which is allowing them to add to the pensions a certain amount of money, would they be able to exist. I doubt it. So, again, I don't think it is viable, neither as a political entity nor as an economic entity.

So, because of this, the only chance is, of course, to make sure that we can create the conditions for their smooth, harmonious reintegration. But any solution of the Transdniester conflict -- and that is what I'm telling almost every day to our European partners -- should be achieved not at the expense of our European future, but just to consolidate our chances to become [a member of] the EU. Any other solution is not viable and will not, in fact, be accepted in Chisinau.

Ukraine's 'Leverage'

RFE/RL: Could you describe Moldova's current relations with Ukraine, particularly in the context of the Transdniester situation?

Leanca: Relations with Mr. [Kostyantyn] Hryshchenko are developing in a positive way from a cold start into a more personal, positive, and constructive relationship, number one.

Nunmber two, Ukraine has a huge potential to help us to address the Transdniester conflict. Maybe Ukraine on its own and together with us would not be able to resolve the conflict, but Ukraine has the leverage -- and especially the former administration when Mr. [Petro] Poroshenko was the minister showed that it has the leverage -- to make the Transdniestrian leadership hear the opinion of Ukraine and of Moldova.

You'll remember when we started the demarcation process on the Transdniestrian segment [of the border], the initial reaction was negative. [Transdniester leader Igor] Smirnov was summoned to Kyiv after the flow of goods in Odesa stopped to Transdniester for two days and suddenly he became very flexible and very cooperative.

So what I would like to see from the current Ukrainian administration -- and of course we are trying to pursue this line -- we want them to be a lot more active. Their position is that first we need to address the demarcation, the property issues, and then we'll be able to focus. I don't think these two exclude one another.

But again, I hope that in July maybe we'll have a package deal that will represent a win-win situation for both sides on the property and on demarcation. And then based on that happy end to these difficult, very sensitive, very delicate relations, we will be able to focus more on Transdniester. We'll be able to focus more on energy. And we'll be able to work maybe better together on our common aspirations, European aspirations.

RFE/RL: Thank you very much for visiting RFE/RL in Prague.

Leanca: I hope you will continue to broadcast. I hope we will be able to continue to benefit from your help, from the way you present developments in a very fair and unbiased situation. Moldovan society still needs this, so I hope you will have always the financial resources to continue.

By RFE/RL. Published on 18 May 2011
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of S & D.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers – Ukraine presents its priorities

Ukraine has just taken over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for the next six months.

Ukraine considers the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers as an opportunity to contribute to the developments of modern European processes in which the Council of Europe plays a significant role. It will ensure that the goals and priorities of the Council of Europe will continue to be pursued, in particular the strengthening of democracy, respect for the rule of law and protection of human rights. Ukraine intends to initiate practical steps in order to advance in the implementation of the main priorities of the Council of Europe and strengthen the Organisation’s political role.

Within the framework of its Chairmanship, Ukraine will focus on the following priorities:

1. Protection of Children’s rights. The Ukrainian Chairmanship intends to strengthen the coordinating role of the Council of Europe in implementing regional and national initiatives of member states with regard to the protection of children’s rights, with an emphasis on the implementation of existing programmes and decisions of the Organisation as well as the development of new priorities.

2. Human rights and the rule of law in the context of democracy and stability in Europe. The Council of Europe created an efficient system of human rights protection. As a second priority of its Chairmanship, Ukraine will give special attention to the prevention of violations. The international conference on “The role of prevention in promoting and protecting human rights” to be organised in Kyiv on 20-21 September, will be a practical contribution of the Ukrainian Chairmanship to this end.

3. Strengthening and developing local democracy. Strengthening democratic processes at local and regional level in Europe, by ensuring effective implementation of the principles of local self-government in European countries, using the potential of the Council of Europe as a standard setting Organisation in this area constitutes a further priority for the Ukrainian Chairmanship. The 17th session of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government will be held on 3-4 November in Kyiv under the Ukrainian Chairmanship.

To promote continuity within the Council of Europe, prior to assuming the chairmanship, Ukraine had held consultations with the United Kingdom and Albania as forthcoming chairs. As a result, for the first time ever three consecutive chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers will work along the same lines in pursuing the goals of reform of the Council of Europe, thus setting a new practice in the modus operandi of the organisation.

Chairmanship’s website

Source: Council of Europe. Published on 11 May 2011.

Monday, May 16, 2011

OSCE media freedom representative offers assistance to improve media freedom in Azerbaijan

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović,concluded a four-day visit to Baku during which she called on authorities to improve media freedom in Azerbaijan and offered them her Office’s assistance in reforming media laws.

The visit, which took place following an invitation from President Ilham Aliyev, was Mijatović's first to Baku.

“I had open and frank discussions with Azerbaijani authorities about the legal media framework and the latest developments in the media-freedom field. The concerns I raised were taken seriously” Mijatović said.

“We agreed that the media-freedom situation needs further improvement so that Azerbaijan can fully meet its OSCE media commitments. President Aliyev assured me that reform of the media environment will continue as part of Azerbaijan’s modernization plans. He also assured me that the Internet will remain free.”

Mijatović urged the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators and masterminds of all attacks on journalists, including the 2005 assassination of the Monitor editor Elmar Huseynov, are brought to justice. She also called on the authorities to prevent violence against the media and to ensure that journalists and social media activists can perform their work in a free and safe environment. In addition, she raised with the authorities the recent harassment of two journalists from Azadliq newspaper, and voiced her concerns about restrictions on the work of journalists during recent demonstrations.

“The authorities should allow for more pluralism, especially in the broadcast media. Access to information for the media should be granted to all media. Restrictive changes brought to the media legislation in recent years should be reversed, the transparency of the activities and accountability of the country’s media regulator must be guaranteed and the political independence of the Public Broadcaster should be ensured,” she said.

Mijatović offered her Office’s assistance in reforming media legislation. During her visit, she participated in a Conference on 11 May organised by the OSCE Office in Baku and the Press Council. At the conference Mijatovic expressed hope that a law decriminalizing defamation in line with international standards would be adopted soon.

In addition to President Aliyev, Mijatović held talks with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov; Interior Minister Ramil Usubov; Ali Hasanov, the head of the Presidential Administration’s Social and Political Department; Human Rights Commissioner Elmira Suleymanova, Aflatun Amashov, Head of the Press Council and Nushiravan Maharramli, the chair of the National Television and Radio Council. She also met with journalists and representatives of media nongovernmental organizations.

On 10 May Mijatović visited newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev in prison.

Source: OSCE. Published in Baku, 13 May 2011.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Euronest Parliamentary Assembly establishes four committees and two working groups

During the Constituent meeting of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly which took place in Brussels on 3 May 2011, 4 standing committees were established with the aim of preparing the works of the plenary and to contribute to the Assembly’s inter-action with the Eastern Partnership multi-lateral platforms.

The following four standing committees are set up:

- Committee on Political Affairs, Human Rights and Democracy;
- Committee on Economic Integration, Legal Approximation and Convergence with EU Policies;
- Committee on Energy Security;
- Committee on Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Civil Society.

Each of the standing committees will be composed of 30 Members, 15 from the Eastern Partners’ component and 15 from the European Parliament.

The S&D Group nominated Mr Göran FÄRM as co-Chair of the Committee on Economic Integration, Legal Approximation and Convergence with EU Policies, Mr Knut Fleckenstein as co Vice-Chair of the Committee on Political Affairs, Human Rights and Democracy and Ms Iotova Iliana Malinova as co Vice-Chair of the Committee on Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Civil Society.

In addition, two Working Groups were set up,namely:

- working group on ´Belarus´;
- working group on the ´Rules of Procedure´

S&D member Ms Edit Herczog will be the co-Chair of the working group on the ´Rules of Procedure´.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

For Journalists In Belarus, One Of World's Least-Free Countries, Things Only Getting Worse

Sandwiched between Cuba and Myanmar on Freedom House's annual Freedom of the Press listing, Belarus has little to celebrate on World Press Freedom Day on May 3. And the already dismal situation in the authoritarian country is definitely taking a turn for the worse.

The New York-based NGO Freedom House this year lists Belarus among the 10 worst-rated countries on its index, states where "independent media are either nonexistent or barely able to operate, the press acts as a mouthpiece for the regime, citizens' access to unbiased information is severely limited, and dissent is crushed through imprisonment, torture, and other forms of repression." Those 10 states are Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

And the Freedom House report was written before authorities in Minsk began court proceedings to shut down the country's two main remaining independent media outlets -- the newspapers "Nasha niva" and "Narodnaya volya." The Information Ministry has issued each of the newspapers three official warnings in recent months over "wrong coverage of events."

'Who Will Hear Us?'

The stepped-up pressure on the independent media in Belarus is part of a general crackdown on political dissent following the disputed reelection in December of longtime President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The repression only got worse following the April 11 terrorist bombing in the Minsk subway system, which left 14 dead and scores injured.

Renowned actress Zinaida Bandarenka published an open appeal to Lukashenka urging him to end the persecution of the two papers.

"I think he is acting as if he hasn't noticed our appeal," she says. "There is still a small hope, but then, when they really do shut down these papers…This is our last chance to address him. There is no other opportunity. If they close these papers, who will hear us? Will the official media publish our pain and our cries? Of course not."

The government's steps against the two papers provoked criticism from the media freedom representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Dunja Mijatovic says the move will "further diminish media pluralism in the country."

Minsk ordered the OSCE to close down its Belarus office at the beginning of the year, following OSCE criticism of the December 2010 presidential election.

'They Will Close, Of Course'

Opinions about what will happen next are divided on the streets of Minsk.

"A lot of people read these newspapers. Everyone buys them. They are quite popular," one man says. "And they really write about what people want to hear, what they want to know. Apparently someone doesn't like that, and so they will close the papers, of course."

"I don't think they will be shut down," another man says. "It would just give another reason to argue that the principles of democracy are violated in Belarus, that we have here the last dictatorship in Europe."

The Belarusian Association of Journalists is calling on ordinary citizens to appeal to the Information Ministry and ask officials to withdraw their case against the newspapers. Association lawyer Andrey Bastunets tells RFE/RL's Belarus Service that the goal is to keep the case from making it to court.

"If the case goes to court then, most likely, the verdict will not be in favor of the independent media," Bastunets says. "Therefore, it is important to morally sway the representatives of the organ that filed the case -- the Information Ministry -- so that they feel that we aren't talking about two independent publications, but about their readers, people who are being deprived of their chosen publications."

The case is scheduled to begin on May 11.

For now, journalists at the two newspapers are impressed with the support they have received from readers and the general public. "Narodnaya volya" Deputy Editor Marina Koktysh says the paper has been targeted by officials before, when they barred the state newspaper-kiosk system from selling it and when their printer suddenly refused to print it.

As a result, the paper's staff remains defiant and is preparing contingency plans to move underground or to publish from abroad. For now, Koktysh says, the paper is actively working the system.

"You know, as they say, hope dies last," she says. "We don't plan to get on our knees before anyone, not before Lukashenka, not before any of his bureaucrats. But we think that now we need to knock on every door. Even if they are closed. And if there is even the smallest chance to save the newspaper, we have to grab it."

By RFE/RL. Published on 3 May 2011
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of S & D.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Buzek: "Today's meeting in the European Parliament is a historic event"

On Tuesday 3 May, the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek launched the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.

After the meeting EP President Buzek said:

"Today's meeting in the European Parliament is a historic event. Cooperation between the European Parliament and legislatures of the eastern partner countries has begun in earnest. Our aim is to help build vibrant democracies, free market economies and foster the rule of law. This is a forum of the people, by the people and for the people.

Today's meeting is a major step towards closer cooperation that we hope will ensure prosperity for all citizens in the region. The people of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are close to our hearts. There is a long way ahead of us. But it is important that we have embarked on it.

While the European Union is focused on the changes in North Africa, it is equally committed to it's Eastern Neighbourhood. The launch of Euronest is a tangible example of that.

Today's inauguration took place without the participation of Belarus. I am confident that in the future Belarusian legislators will join us once the country holds free and fair elections.

Closer ties among our parliaments will give additional legitimacy to actions taken by governments in the framework of the Eastern Partnership.

I would like to thank my colleagues from the parliaments of the partner countries for expressing their determination for this new project to bear fruits. Euronest must bring tangible results for the citizens. It's success is in our hands."

Source: European Parliament website;jsessionid=211E53C1D861AF03844141A898DB8F3F

Friday, May 6, 2011

Ashton welcomes the convening of the first Euronest meeting

Address of HR/VP Catherine Ashton to the First meeting of EURONEST
European Parliament, Brussels
Tuesday 3 May 2011

Mr President of the European Parliament, Honourable Speakers,
Honourable Members,

I warmly welcome the convening of the first meeting of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly today. I would like to congratulate those who have come to Brussels to take part in this important occasion, as well as the Members of the European Parliament present today.

I would like to highlight three points: first, the significance of Euronest; second, the priorities of the European Neighbourhood Policy and of the Eastern Partnership, and third, the contribution that I hope Euronest will make to the realisation of these priorities.

First, Euronest is particularly important for the EU High Representative because it completes the institutional framework of the Eastern Partnership. The EaP is not only a partnership of governments: it is also a partnership of peoples and of the Parliaments that represent them. We already have numerous fora for meetings among civil servants; we have meetings of Ministers and Heads of Government; and we even have a forum for civil society, the EaP Civil Society Forum. But only now does the Eastern Partnership have its own parliamentary assembly.

It is regrettable that the Belarus parliament is not represented at this first meeting of Euronest. That is because Belarus did not live up to the democratic standards expected of the Eastern Partnership participating states. I do hope that respect of democratic values in Belarus will improve, and that Belarus parliamentarians will be able to join this assembly in the future. It is Euronest that will have to monitor the situation in Belarus and take that decision when the time is ripe.

Second, this meeting takes place at a time of historic upheavals in the Southern neighbourhood of the EU. These people-led movements demand more democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights. Or, as they would put it, they demand dignity. They show us that we can achieve real stability, prosperity and security in the neighbourhood of the EU only if we build them on these foundations.

I believe this applies to the South of our neighbourhood as it applies to the East and to the EU itself. And what better guarantee of democracy, rule of law and human rights can we imagine than democratically elected parliaments, which pass fair laws and ensure they are enforced in full respect of human rights? This shows the importance of your role and of parliamentary cooperation.

The attention of the EU is currently focused on the South, but I can assure you that the East is not forgotten. Far from forgetting it, we have actually set ourselves some very ambitious goals:

I. Negotiations on New Association Agreements

We are currently negotiating new Agreements with five partner countries. These cover all aspects of our relations. Ultimately they could include, as an integral part, the establishment of deep and comprehensive free trade areas with the EU – leading to full access to the EU’s internal market.

II. Mobility

Mobility is a critical issue for our partners – and one which has an enormous potential to transform the lives of our citizens and bring us closer. We have made good progress with the launch of Action Plans for Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova last year and we are advancing toward our goal of negotiating Visa Facilitation agreements – albeit at different speeds - with all our partners.

III. Deepened Sectoral Cooperation in key areas such as energy and transport.

In the area of energy, Ukraine and Moldova’s accession to the Energy Community Treaty are important in ensuring closer links between our energy markets through the adoption of the EU acquis.

IV. The strengthening of the administrative capacity of partners including through the implementation of Comprehensive Institution Building Programmes (to a total value of €173 million over 2011- 2013).

V. Efforts to support cohesion within our partner countries through the development of Pilot Regional Development Programmes (worth approximately €70 million over 2012-2013).

We will take stock of progress in all these areas at the second Summit of the EaP in Warsaw this September. The Summit will be the occasion to renew our joint commitment to the ambitious goals of the Eastern Partnership and to the values and principles that found it: and in particular democratic principles and practices, the respect for human rights, good governance and the rule of law.

There is no competition between the South and the East of our neighbourhood: any additional resources allocated to the South to address the current upheavals there and the needs of our Southern partners will not come at the expense of the East and will not result in reduced resources for the East in any way.

Increasingly, the EU will allocate resources to its partners based not on geographical location in the East or in the South, but on the principle of conditionality and differentiation, sometimes called “more for more”. “More for more” means that the EU will allocate more resources to those partners that are willing to make more progress towards universal values and EU standards and are ready to engage in serious reform efforts.

The EU has much to share with its neighbours: successful peacebuilding, after a devastating second world war; effective political integration based on human rights, democracy and the rule of law; the experience of a relatively recent transition to democracy of many Member States; prosperity built on deep economic integration; a sense of solidarity among its people and its member states; and an independent, thriving civil society which actively participates in governance and acts as a counter-weight to state institutions.

Events in the Southern neighbourhood of the EU have brought to the fore the need for the EU to engage more strongly in democracy promotion, to enhance democratic processes and improve the workings of democratic institutions in our partners. One possibility that we will examine is the establishment of a European Endowment or Foundation for Democracy that would channel support for democracy promotion through civil society actors.

This is one of the main results of the ENP review, which will be laid out in a Communication of the European Commission and High Representative later this month. The other main points that will be highlighted by the Communication include the need for partnerships with peoples and societies; the need for enhanced political dialogue, and the need for greater political steering of our relationships.

Which brings me to my third and last point: what is the contribution of Euronest to the ENP and to its eastern dimension, the EaP?

After the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU is a more cohesive political actor beyond its borders. Euronest can make a very important contribution to political dialogue and political steering of the EaP at the level of parliaments. Furthermore, I believe it is very important that the EU be open to its partners. The EU must learn to listen more to its partners in its neighbourhood, so it can better shape its policies. Euronest provides a very good opportunity to do that. Euronest can also help provide more visibility for the EaP. Together with the EaP Civil Society Forum, it can help provide feedback and guidance for the EaP and bring it closer to the concerns and the needs of the people.

Most importantly, Euronest is a multilateral forum where partners can exchange experience on reform and approximation to EU standards and on legislation to enhance democratic governance in their countries. I mentioned earlier our goal of concluding Association Agreements. These Agreements include a commitment to democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights. Parliaments have an essential role to play in adopting legislation that furthers these values and in monitoring its effective enforcement. Progress towards these values will help speed up the conclusion of Association Agreements and will be a crucial part of their implementation.

I wish you a productive and successful inaugural meeting of the Euronest parliamentary assembly, which will put in place the necessary institutional arrangements. And I look forward to the important contribution of Euronest to the realisation of the goals of the Eastern Partnership.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly inaugurated

The EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly, bringing together MEPs with elected representatives from the EU's eastern neighbour countries, held its inaugural meeting on Tuesday. The aim of the body is to provide a parliamentary dimension to the EU's eastern neighbourhood policy. "We have created a powerful tool today," said EURONEST Co-President-elect Kristian Vigenin (S&D, BG) at the end of the constituent meeting.

The EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly's constituent meeting was opened by EP President Jerzy Buzek, who observed that the democratic reform processes of the eastern partner countries must be strengthened. "Stable countries can only be democratic countries; democracy is the only way to stability," he said. He added that the Parliamentary Assembly was crucial in bringing citizens of this region closer together. "If we want more cooperation and more integration, we have to start with parliamentary cooperation, because it represents contacts between people," he said.

Adjourning the meeting, Co-President Kristian Vigenin emphasised that "this assembly is one of two equal partner components: equal in rights and responsibilities", and expressed his confidence that EURONEST members will live up to both. At a press point afterwards, he underlined that "the establishment of this body is the strongest signal we could send" about the potential for cooperation between the EP and the eastern partners. Co-President Borys Tarasyuk (Ukraine) echoed this view, and also appealed to all European Union institutions not to give in to the temptation to divert attention and funds from the eastern to the southern neighbourhood.

Decisions taken

The Parliamentary Assembly adopted and signed its constitutive act, approved its rules of procedure, set up two working groups (on Belarus and the Rules of Procedure) and formed four committees (one on Political Affairs, Human Rights and Democracy; one on Economic Affairs, legal approximation and convergence with EU policies, one on Energy Security and one on Culture, Education and Civil Society).

It also elected its two Co-Presidents, Messrs Vigenin and Tarasyuk, as well as 8 Vice-Presidents, to form a Bureau: Vahan Hovhannesyan (Armenia), Elkhan Suleymanov (Azerbaijan), David Darchiashvili (Georgia), Igor Corman (Moldova), Traian Ungurenau (EPP, RO), Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, PL), Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE, NL) and Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (EPP, PL).


The EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly was devised to provide a parliamentary dimension to the EU's eastern partnership, as part of the EU's neighbourhood policy. It consists of 60 MEPs and 10 MPs from each of the five eastern partner countries. Belarus is a special case: although a part of the eastern neighbourhood, there was much discussion about how to allow its participation in EURONEST without giving legitimacy to Alexander Lukashenko's regime. In the end, the constituent meeting was held without any representatives from Belarus in attendance.

Source: Website of the European Parliament

In Pictures: Euronest Constituent Meeting

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Euronest Parliamentary Assembly Launched Today



1.Welcome by Prof. Jerzy BUZEK, President of the European Parliament, and presentation of the Speakers of the Parliaments of the Eastern Partners.


2.Address by Mrs Catherine ASHTON, High Representative/Vice President or her representative


3.Addresses by the Speakers or the Heads of Delegation of the Eastern Partners


4.Adoption of the Constituent Act and the Rules of Procedure of the Euronest PA

5.Signature of the Constituent Act of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly by the Speakers of the Parliaments of the Eastern Partners and the President of the European Parliament

6.Election of the Bureau of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly:
-2 Co-Presidents
-8 Vice-Presidents


8.Adoption of the decision on setting up four parliamentary committees and approval of the Rules of Procedure for the committees

9.Adoption of the decision on setting up two working groups


10.Final remarks by the Co-Presidents


11.Closure of the meeting and

12.Opening of the constituent meetings of the standing committees