Send to friend | Print

Benita Ferrero-Waldner: The Eastern Partnership: lasting political solidarity with real benefits for citizens

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy

"The Eastern Partnership: lasting political solidarity with real benefits for citizens"

Brussels, 12 December 2008

It will soon be 20 years since the Iron Curtain was raised.

Since then we've witnessed incredible changes in Eastern Europe. Countries for so long separated from their western neighbours have become full partners of a Union designed to create peace - peace on a continent which bred two World Wars in the 20th century.

This was made possible first and foremost by the will and determination of the Eastern countries themselves, but also by the help and democratic experience provided by the EU.

One of the consequences of successive enlargements is that the eastern borders of the EU have moved. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, the Ukraine and Belarus have become the EU's new Eastern neighbours - bringing mutual opportunities, but also responsibilities - as this summer's conflict in Georgia bears witness.

All the "Eastern Partner" countries have expressed an interest in intensifying relations with the European Union. We want to support those aspirations, this "choice for Europe". That is why we now wish to extend to you some of the help and democratic know-how which enabled Eastern European countries to join the Union.

By forging real, strong, social, economic and political bonds with your country - by sharing the knowledge we have acquired about making our societies more democratic, more prosperous, and more peaceful, we believe that we are making for the better understanding of our people.

It is with this in mind that on 3 December, the European Commission put forward the "Eastern Partnership" - an ambitious new set of proposals which goes to European Heads of State and Government this week.

Flexible and tailored to each partner's needs and capacity, the Eastern Partnership will enable the European Union to offer the maximum assistance possible given current political realities.

We are proposing much deeper political engagement. We want to give far more active support for democratic and economic reform. To ensure your country has the necessary administrative capacity to take full advantage of what the EU is offering, we want to develop a tailor-made Comprehensive Institution Building programme to strengthen resources where needed.

To those who comply with international standards for elections, we will offer Association Agreements. This is a very significant political signal of our commitment. For those who are ready to negotiate we will work to establish Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas, which in the longer term could join up into a Neighbourhood Economic Community. 

We know that people-to-people contacts bring immeasurable gains. That is why we will create more opportunities for young people to study in the EU. And why we intend to make it easier for you to travel to the EU. We want to offer Mobility and Security Pacts leading to progressive visa liberalisation, accompanied by assistance to ensure that our borders are well-managed. We want citizens to be able to travel freely and safely.

Reducing economic and social disparities is the bedrock of stability in any society. The Eastern Partnership will do more to help your country address these challenges. Energy is of vital mutual concern. We will significantly enhance cooperation, with a view to increasing your energy security as well as our own.

Finally, we want to create a new multilateral framework for the Partnership - including a yearly Foreign Ministers meeting - to ensure that partners can share experience and best practice both between themselves and with EU Member States. This will lead to the development of a number of flagship initiatives in areas like help for small and medium sized businesses, energy security and preparedness for natural disasters.

To make all of this possible, I am lobbying Member States hard to ensure a major increase in funding compared to current levels.

We want the Eastern Partnership to bring a lasting message of political solidarity to you - our neighbours - with real benefits for citizens. It is through building a deep, comprehensive and genuinely collaborative partnership that, together, we will be best able to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

I hope that the authorities of your country will take up this invitation and that we can rapidly start on the realization of this Partnership in 2009.


tags: Eastern Partnership | Ferrero-Waldner

Comments (0)


Related news