Friday, July 27, 2012

Ashton: Negotiations on Association Agreements are progressing well


Remarks by High Representative Catherine Ashton following the Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting

We had a good meeting that gave us an opportunity to have thorough discussion between 27 member states and 6 partners on our ambitious agenda of political association and economic integration.

Negotiations on Association Agreements - including in most cases Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas - are progressing well. We are also advancing on our visa liberalization agenda where we have now started a dialogue with Georgia to develop a Visa Liberalisation Action Plan, similar to those with Moldova and Ukraine.

There was frank and open discussion on the progress made so far and the remaining challenges. It has helped us better understand problems our partners are facing.

Obviously, partners are at very different level in terms of establishing sustainable democracy. Today’s discussions will enable us to better tailor our policy toward partner countries so that we can keep the Partnership as inclusive as possible. This will also help us to accommodate specific needs and ambitions of those who are the most advanced on the implementation of the agreed goals.

Reforms and genuine commitment to common values of freedom, democracy and human rights remain the underpinning elements of the Partnership. I welcome the good progress achieved by some partners in this area. More work however is still needed.

The presence of FM Martynov has allowed us to convey the EU’s deep concern as regards the lack of respect for human rights, the rule of law and independent media in Belarus. We stressed the importance of the immediate release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners, of reversing the current repressive policies and of free and fair parliamentary elections in September.

Our message to Belarus was clear: there is no place for political prisoners at the heart of Europe. At the same time we remain attached to a policy of critical engagement with Belarus. The Eastern Partnership provides an important platform to expose Belarus to democratic values and the virtues of European cooperation. For the people of Belarus we are ready to deepen cooperation once the political situation has changed.

The Eastern Partnership remains a priority for the EU and for me personally, working very closely with my colleague and friend Stefan Füle. We are determined to support on going transformation of partners toward sustainable democracies. We will pursue vigorously our agenda of political association and economic integration, based on common values of democracy and human rights.

The next time we will meet in 2013 we will be able to assess the progress on reforms and achievement of joint objectives and we look forward to the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius next autumn.

Source: Council of the European Union, Brussels, 23 July 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ashton Chairs meeting of Foreign Minister of the Eastern Partnership

Chair's conclusions: Eastern Partnership

Foreign Ministers Meeting

1. On 23 July 2012 the third meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Eastern Partnership was held in Brussels.

2. The meeting was chaired by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and attended by representatives from the EU Member States, the European Commission, the six Eastern European Partner countries (hereinafter the Partner countries), the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The European Commission was represented by the Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle. The Partner countries were represented by Deputy Prime Minister Iurie Leanca of the Republic of Moldova, Vice Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze of Georgia, Foreign Ministers Edward Nalbandian of Armenia, Sergei Martynov of Belarus and Konstantin Gryshchenko of Ukraine and Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammad-Guliyev of Azerbaijan. The EU acceding state Croatia also attended as an observer.

3. Representatives of the Civil Society Forum presented to Ministers the views of the Forum on the implementation of the Eastern Partnership.

4. Participants discussed the Eastern Partnership Roadmap to the autumn 2013 Summit released on May 15 by the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and adopted a joint statement on the subject.

5. Participants discussed a range of concerns about the situation in certain partner countries related to the values and principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law on which the Eastern Partnership is based.

6. Participants discussed the progress achieved so far in the bilateral track of the Eastern Partnership. As regards political association and economic integration, the EU Ukraine Association Agreement has been finalised, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. Negotiations on similar agreements with the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia are well advanced, while negotiations on an Association Agreement with Azerbaijan are also under way. As regards mobility of citizens, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine are already implementing Visa Liberalisation Action Plans. A dialogue with Georgia to draw up a similar Action Plan has recently been launched. Negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements are under way with Armenia and Azerbaijan, and a similar offer has been extended by the EU to Belarus. Amendments to the Visa Facilitation Agreements with the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine have been negotiated and signed in view of further facilitating the issuance of visas to their citizens.

7. Participants also discussed the development of the multilateral track of the Eastern Partnership. They noted the work done under the guidance of four thematic Platforms, in particular the launching of cooperation in new areas such as: public administration reform, transport and migration and asylum. They also reviewed the ongoing Flagship Initiatives.

8. Participants highlighted the recent adoption of the Eastern Partnership Integration and Cooperation Programme (EaPIC) which offers additional financial support amounting to €130 million for the years 2012-13 to countries that make significant progress in reforms for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

9. Participants welcomed the first meeting of the new informal Eastern Partnership dialogues, which took place in Chisinau on 5th June 2012 and laid the foundations for a new format of consultations for the further development of political and sector cooperation between the EU and partners, in the spirit of the Warsaw Summit.

Source:Council of the European Union, Brussels, 23 July 2012