Eastern Partnership: successes and challenges
Opening Session: Eastern Partnership: successes and challenges
The plenary session of the 1st EU-Georgia Forum had been opened by Georgian Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Thornike Gordadze. In his inaugural speech he focused on the future and successes of the Eastern Partnership. According to him Georgia is a good example of successful democratic transition in South Caucasus. Russian foreign policy is one of the main problem for Georgia. Russian Federation cannot accept independent and democratic country in its direct neighborhood. - he said. – On the contrary to other countries of the region, democracy gave Georgia the stability – Gordadze added
Georgian Vice-Minister mentioned current political situation: forthcoming election will be very important test for Georgian democracy, so it is crucial to invite international observers as soon as possible. One of the biggest challenge laying ahead of the Eastern Partnership is to guarantee the peaceful conflict resolution in the region. The ability to solve bilateral conflict without using force makes the Eastern Partnership work properly. Mr. Gordadze stressed that Georgia already plays vey important role in this policy area.
Gordadze is of the opinion that creating the European integration perspective for Eastern Partnership countries is the best solution for inciting difficult reforms in the region The same way of thinking had been presented by former Enlargement Commissioner, Guenther Verheugen in January 2011 during 2011 Europe-Ukraine Forum. - European Union need to give the sign, that the membership in the EU is possible for the Eastern Partnership countries. With such a promise, the process of internal political reforms gets quicker - estimated EU’s politician.
Georgian Vice Minister claimed that the EU’s financial crisis will not affect Georgian attitude towards a future membership in the European Union. – For the new EU’s Member States last enlargement of the EU had been an immense success. Each EU’s enlargement contributed to the strengthening , not weakening of the European institutions. It is be a right moment for Georgia to enter the Union – concluded Georgian diplomat.
Juan Lopez Aquilar President of the Commission of Freedom of Citizens, Justice and Internal Affairs in the European Parliaments underlined, told that the Eastern Partnership Project is based – among others – on the internal works in the European Parliaments group Euronest.
The Member of the European Parliament admitted that there is the crisis in the EU, perhaps the biggest one since its conception. – We need to overcome the crisis by being more close to the ideas and values, which created the EU - he said. - It is also important to pay enough attention to the peaceful conflict resolution - he added. – The objective of the cooperation between parliaments of the Eastern Partnership Countries is to emphasize the importance of cooperation between Eastern Partnership Countries in the following areas: rule of law, power sharing, freedom of speech, fight with corruption. All of this constitutes the basis for the fully democratic country - Juan Lopez Aguilar concluded.
Member of the European Parliament emphasized the importance of the freedom of speech and expression as one of the fundamental human right. According to him, the Partership countries need to work hard on building democratic civil society, which will be the base for further democratization and dialogue in the areas, where the negotiations are carried out. It will also give the impulse for future European perspective for the Eastern Partnership Countries. For the time being it may be achieved through realization of specific projects, focused on the widening of the internet access or trainings for journalists.
Deputy Minister of Economy Andrzej Dycha put emphasis on good economic relations between Poland and Georgia, and Eastern European countries. According to him the Eastern Partnership is a continuation of these relations, which has already succeeded on may fields: Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine, the beginning of works on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with Georgia and Moldova as well as preliminary attempts to launch talks with Armenia. As pointed out by Andrzej Dycha, such actions build better prospects for increasing trade in this part of Europe.
However, according to Deputy Minister of Economy direct contacts of entrepreneurs and businessmen are the most important issue here. - Governments can help, but only private business is able to achieve real success in practical terms – said Andrzej Dycha.
Mher Margaryan, Head of European Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia stressed the importance of the Eastern Partnership as an important channel for the bilateral and multilateral works. The diplomat noted the great progress in negotiations on association agreement, and also in implementing European standards in the legal system of Armenia. - We are approaching the beginning of negotiations on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), which will lead to greater harmonization of the economies of Armenia and the EU.
The diplomat also emphasized the role of the Partnership in promoting cooperation on visa facilitation and thanked for the commitment and support of Poland for Eastern Partnership countries. According to Mher Margaryan, an intensive dialogue of governments of the European Union and EP’s countries is a necessity in the field of Human Rights and the rule of law. He reminded that the national platform for civil society had already been implemented in Armenia. Referring to the issue of frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet area, Mher Margaryan assured that Armenia is committed to peaceful dialogue, which would lead to resolving the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Head of the DCTFA negotiation team of the Moldovan Government Veaceslav Pituscan began his speech with the history of EU policy instruments in Eastern Europe - the initial agreement on cooperation signed with the members of the region did not contain an element of integration, which appeared in the Partnership. The Partnership has opened areas for cooperation in various areas of the economy and civil society. Although ше cannot be joined by new member-countries, but it gives the perspective for modernization for the member-states and brings them closer to EU standards. It also allows all parties to prepare for a possible further EU enlargement through a series of agreements signed today with the countries of the Partnership.
Former Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Borys Tarasyuk, appreciated the success of Georgia in its fight against corruption and building economy open for investments and business activity. He also commented on the achievements and problems of the Eastern Partnership, which in its opinion have become a step forward towards the Eastern Neighbourhood Policy. Tarasyuk noted that the achievements are already visible in the field of civil society and economy. - Euronest has already begun to act, and despite the fact that we failed to issue a joint document, but the rules of its functioning have been changed in such way to be able to fix it - reminded Tarasiuk. He added that democracy goes hand in hand with economic success.
- Challenges that member-countries of the Eastern Partnership are facing at the moment are pretty much similar to one another, despite the fact that have different aspirations in relations with the EU. The EU also responds differently to the membership-ambitions of individual countries - concluded Tarasiuk.