Commissioner and MEPs Take Stock of Eastern Partnership and Reiterate EU Support to Ukraine’s European Choice

The Vilnius Summit is continuing in the streets and squares of Kyiv, where Ukrainian citizens show massive support for European integration, for reform and modernisation, Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Commissioner Štefan Füle has said, addressing the European Parliament’s plenary in Strasbourg yesterday.

The EU stands ready “to help and support Ukraine on its modernisation journey, including through topping up IMF loans with macro-financial assistance; by stepping up the European Union’s financial assistance programmes to help Ukraine implement the Agreement, when signed, and helping to bring on board other international partners,” the Commissioner said in a speech titled ‘EU-Ukraine: standing ready to help and support.’

The EU is also willing to use its dialogue with Russia to clarify that the Agreement with Ukraine will not harm Russia’s economic interests, Füle said. However, the Agreement itself is a bilateral issue between the EU and Ukraine, he added, citing an earlier statement in Vilnius by President Barroso of the European Commission that “times of limited sovereignty are over in Europe.”

The Commissioner voiced his admiration for “the Ukrainian nation’s love for freedom and the maturity of its European spirit,” arguing that it is not the EU’s compensation that they seek but a chance to live by European values.

In a separate speech to the European Parliament yesterday, titled ‘Time to get stronger in our commitment to EaP and reforms in Ukraine’, Commissioner Füle underscored that the Association Agreement was not an offer to the current president or to the current government, but “an offer to Ukraine, to Ukrainian people and as such it is on the table.”

Turning to the results of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in Vilnius, Füle said it was “the first summit delivering tangible results” since the launch of the Partnership, in particular, the EU:

·         initialled the Association Agreement/DCFTA with Georgia and Moldova;

·         signed the Visa Facilitation Agreement with Azerbaijan (after a similar agreement had been signed earlier this year with Armenia);

·         signed a Framework Participation Agreement for EU-led crisis management operations with Georgia;

·         initialled the Common Aviation Area Agreement with Ukraine and endorsed the Eastern Partnership transport network and list of priority projects agreed by Transport Ministers in October 2013.

In addition, Belarus finally expressed its readiness to take up the EU’s offer to begin negotiations on a Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreement.

Looking ahead to the next EaP summit in Riga in 2015, the Commissioner stressed the need for a swift progress on the Eastern Partnership agenda. He said the EU was determined to sign the AA/DCFTAs with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova by autumn 2014 and to continue negotiations with Azerbaijan, while reflecting on how to proceed with Armenia given the current situation.

Štefan Füle also stressed the need for progress in visa facilitation and liberalization with the Eastern partners as “probably one of the best and most promising investments in the region.” He cited the case of Moldova, which may soon get a visa-free regime following the Commission’s legislative proposal to this end tabled on the eve of the Vilnius summit.

“We need to be more strategic and resolute – history will judge us not by the promises we made in Vilnius, but by the promises we keep,” the Commissioner insisted.

During the subsequent debate at the European Parliament on the situation in Ukraine, the majority of MEPs insisted that the EU should support the European choice of the Ukrainian people. However, some MEPs called Ukraine’s decision to not sign an Association Agreement a failure of the EU’s foreign policy and a win for Russia.

“It is the undeniable will of the people for a European future,” said Graham Watson, a British member of the ALDE group, about the protests in Ukraine.  “I wish we saw a similar passion among the peoples of the European Union who frequently take the security that membership brings for granted.”

“The Vilnius summit was a defeat of the EU,” said Zbigniew Ziobro, a Polish member of the EFD group. “The proposed cooperation was in fact rejected by our biggest partner in the region.”

Paweł Kowal, a Polish member of the ECR group and chair of the delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, said: “I was with the young students at EuroMaidan last night. We can turn to them and say ‘We are opening the door to you, don’t worry’.”  In his opinion, a few legislative acts such as one offering visa-free movement, could completely change the situation in a year.

MEPs will vote on a resolution on the future of the Eastern Partnership on Thursday.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,