Discursul ministrului afacerilor externe, Teodor Meleșcanu, la Conferința Interparlamentară privind Politica Externă și de Securitate Comună și Politica de Securitate și Apărare Comună (PESC/PSAC)

Teodor Meleșcanu, ministrul afacerilor externe
București, Palatul Parlamentului

Your Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

As a former parliamentarian myself, former Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and, respectively, of the Defense Committee of the Romanian Senate, I am deeply honored to attend this session of the Inter-Parliamentary Conference for CFSP and CSDP organized under the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council and to address you on a topic of high interest for the current Agenda of EU’s common foreign policy.

Apart from my presentation on the RO PRES priorities in the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on January 22, and constant exchanges with Romanian parliamentarians as well as with parliamentarians from other EU member states, it is my privilege and pleasure to report and discuss with you, distinguished members of the national parliaments, of the European Parliament, of the European Commission and, of course, of the European External Action Service, about our focus on the Eastern Partnership, 10 years after its launching.

Eastern Partnership is one of the priority topics on the agenda of the RO PRES of the EU Council, in particular in the context of marking its 10 years’ anniversary, in May this year.

The choice of this focus on the EU PRES external agenda came naturally, not only from the perspective of the celebratory year, but also as a reflection of our deep conviction that this unique EU platform for political and practical cooperation with our closest Eastern neighbors has, throughout the years, proved beneficial to EU and its partners. Moreover, this anniversary is an excellent opportunity to thoroughly and openly assess the achievements of the Eastern Partnership and to launch a comprehensive discussion on the priorities for the next decade. By doing that, we are preparing the next level of commitments that should be confirmed politically at the upcoming EaP Summit in 2020.

From Romania’s perspective, it is without doubt that this cooperation has effectively contributed to bringing our Eastern neighbors – Republic of Moldova, Ucraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaidjan, Belarus – closer to the European community of values, principles and norms, in accordance with their own objectives and ambitions. It also helped integrating their economies with one of the biggest and richest markets in the world, strengthening their institutions, increasing connectivity, enhancing mobility and people-to-people contacts in an effort to bring our societies closer together.

This proved to be a win-win initiative, despite at times – accidental or not - setbacks, criticism and reluctance from within or outside this Partnership. It contributed to strengthening economies and societies of our Eastern partners, at the same expanding the area of prosperity, security and stability for the EU. It contributed to bringing more predictability at our Eastern borders and enlarging our scope for cooperation.

These 10 years brought about constant development of our relationships, most prominently through the implementation of the Association Agreements/ Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements and of the visa free regimes signed 5 years ago with the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine. All these steps contributed to committing these countries to a wide range of reforms, increasing their trade with the EU and promoting socio-economic ties with the EU.

An innovative Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (CEPA) was concluded with Armenia and is seen now in Erevan as a “reform-generating tool” “of tremendous importance for the success of our reforms”, as the Armenian prime-minister put it.[1]

There are currently negotiations underway on a new framework Agreement for further deepening cooperation with Azerbaijan, and the progress gives hopes for a successful conclusion rather soon. Then, the negotiations on EU-Belarus Partnership Priorities are proof of an increased and constructive engagement with Belarus.

Within the multilateral, inclusive framework of the Eastern Partnership, we have jointly agreed, at the highest levels, on an Agenda of concrete deliverables for the year 2020 and we have all demonstrated commitment for its successful implementation.

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As EU Council Presidency, Romania is committed to strengthening the European project and its international profile. We have stated our constant support for a stronger, more united EU in all its dimensions - political, economic and social, according to the Presidency motto - „Cohesion – a common European value”.

A stronger Europe can only succeed in connection with a solid and comprehensive external action aimed at strengthening ties with our partners, first of all with our immediate neighbors. As EU Council Presidency, Romania is keenly engaged in promoting the global role of the EU, including a robust European action in our Eastern Neighborhood.

Marking of the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership during RO’s mandate at the helm of the EU Council is a momentous occasion for us, steering the joint efforts in implementing the concrete objectives set for 2020. It is also an opportunity to properly reflect on the progress achieved, communicate the tangible benefits of this partnership and set more ambitious goals for future cooperation.

As EU Council Presidency, we are organizing a series of sectoral ministerial meetings, aimed to mark concrete results in response to concrete needs of the citizens, notably by promoting interconnection projects in priority areas.

Last week, the Third Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy took place in Bucharest, bringing together EU Telecom Minsters and their counterparts from the 6 partner countries. The meeting focused on expanding the benefits of the Digital Single Market to the partners, on issues like harmonization of the broadband infrastructure and leveling international mobile roaming among the EaP partners, as well as on setting the basis for future development on roaming harmonization between the European Union and the EaP. This is firsthand example of delivering on our promises, and producing practical results that impact positively on our citizens’ lives.

At the beginning of April, the EU and EaP Ministers of Energy will gather in Bucharest to discuss energy infrastructure connectivity projects and issues of energy efficiency. It will be a unique opportunity to take stock of the main achievements in increasing EU-EaP energy interconnectivity. High on the list: the EaP flagship project of the gas interconnector Iași-Ungheni-Chișinău with R. Moldova. This project meant to support enhancing R. Moldova’s energy security is also high on the priority list of the Bucharest-Chisinau bilateral cooperation, as last month works on the second phase were started.

In June, an EaP ministerial meeting for transport will take place in Luxemburg, under the RO Presidency, to discuss cooperation in transport and logistics, with focus on transport connections between EU and our closest neighbors.

Also in June, we plan to organize, in Bucharest, the Eastern Partnership Business Forum, marking also the 5 years since the signing of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with three Eastern partners. By bringing together businesses from EU members and the partner states, the event will be an occasion to consider the opportunities opened in the implementation of the specific bilateral agreements of each partner with the EU.

And last, but not least, we are cooperating with our Lithuanian friends for the organization, in Vilnius, in June, of a Youth Forum, that will involve officials and youth representatives in an effort to analyze problems and identify best ways to support youth in the partner countries.

Apart from working on concrete areas the RO Council Presidency is dedicated to making the 10 years celebration of the EaP visible, to communicating the benefits of the EaP and its significance to the people, in an effort to incentivize our joint commitment to this cooperation.

To this end, we support the EU institutions in the organization, on 13-14th May, in Brussels, of a series of High-Level celebratory events, with large involvement of high officials, representatives of youth, civil society, media, cultural personalities and so on. On this occasion, we aim at bringing to the fore our joint achievements and the scope for further deepening our Partnership, for making real the European commitment and aspirations of our partner countries.

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Throughout the years, the Eastern Partnership has evolved, its scope has broadened and adapted to the changing realities, but the goal of bringing our societies closer and improving the life of citizens in the EU's neighborhood has remained the same.

The definition of particular objectives and aspirations related to the Eastern Partnership by individual partner might differ. The range goes from joining the EU, set as explicit objective by the most advanced countries, to different degrees of economic, institutional cooperation. Our joint effort for advancing the Eastern Partnership objectives while also offering tailor-made approaches does pay off to all of our partners. A lot has still to be done to advance the economic, social and institutional reforms in the partner countries. However, one cannot disregard the consistent achievements so far. The degree of rapprochement and adaptation of our partners to the EU is obvious and so are the benefits of this process for the EU and for the partners. We see our task in keeping this process developing and building on the possibility for further European integration of our partners if and when proper conditions are met.

The Eastern Partnership is not only a priority of the Romanian Presidency of the Council, it is a priority of the EU. I am pleased that the Inter-parliamentary conference dedicates its first session to the Eastern Partnership and look forward to discussing with you on the outcome of this policy.



[1] Discurs Pashynian la Parlamentul European pe 5 martie 2019.