Kraków and Wieliczka, 17 May 2013
The meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad Group and the Eastern Partnership countries as well as of Ireland and Lithuania, holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2013, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, was held in Kraków and Wieliczka on 17 May 2013 under Polish Presidency of the Visegrad Group. The Ministers discussed the Eastern Partnership with a view to the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in November and its significance to the further development of the EaP.
Foreign Ministers of the Visegrad Group, Ireland and Lithuania
- Noted that the Eastern Partnership has proved to be an effective vehicle to support and facilitate democratic transformation of those Eastern European Partners who had embarked on reforms leading towards deep and sustainable democracy.
- Expressed their appreciation of the determination of these Eastern Partnership countries which, despite some internal challenges, are progressing in the process of implementing political, social and economic reforms. They reiterated their engagement in further strengthening and developing the Eastern Partnership and reaffirmed their strong commitment to the objectives agreed in the Joint Declarations of the Eastern Partnership Summits of May 2009 in Prague and September 2011 in Warsaw.
- Stressed the importance of ambitious funding for the Eastern Partnership in the 2014–2020 financial framework. In this context the Ministers emphasized that the pace of reforms determines the intensity of cooperation and therefore partners most engaged in reforms benefit more from their relationship with the EU in line with the “more for more” principle which will also be applied in the new European Neighbourhood Instrument.
- Discussed the way forward to the third Eastern Partnership Summit in November 2013. They reiterated their support for the European perspective of the Eastern European Partners underlining that deep and sustainable democracy is an important prerequisite for the Partners’ ever closer relationship with the EU.
- The Ministers of the Visegrad Group reiterated their commitment to sharing experience on reform and transition with the Eastern European partners. In this regard, they underlined the significance of the "Visegrad 4 Eastern Partnership” (V4EaP) programme designed by the International Visegrad Fund to facilitate the systemic transformation and democratisation of the Eastern Partnership countries.
- Welcomed the substantial progress made in the negotiations of Association Agreements (AA). Reiterated their commitment to the signing of the Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), with Ukraine possibly at the EaP Summit in Vilnius. They acknowledged that the signature should be accompanied by the opening of parts of the Agreement for provisional application. The Ministers expressed their strong support to initialling the AA/DCFTA with the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia at the EaP Summit. They underlined their commitment to advancing the AA negotiations with Azerbaijan.
- Recalled a vital importance of deepening economic integration on the basis of DCFTAs and expressed their expectation to make further steps towards the EU–EaP Economic Area, envisaged by the Joint Declaration of the Warsaw Eastern Partnership Summit in 2011.
- Welcomed the progress made in the process of visa liberalisation. They noted with satisfaction the launch of the second phase of the Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation with the Republic of Moldova with a view to achieving a visa-free regime in 2014 and encouraged Ukraine to move forward with the implementation of its first phase benchmarks in order to pass to the second phase as soon as possible. They also welcomed progress made by Georgia in the implementation of the first phase of the Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation as well as signing of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Armenia, expressing hope that Azerbaijan will soon finish negotiations on similar agreements. They expressed hope that Belarusian authorities would respond positively to the invitation to negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements. They stressed their conviction that mobility of people should not be held hostage of undemocratic conduct of the authorities.
- Reiterated their commitment to the policy of critical engagement towards Belarus emphasising the need to further develop the European Dialogue on Modernisation.
- Welcomed further development of the multilateral track of the EaP ongoing within the framework of the thematic platforms and expert panels. Furthermore, with reference to the review of the flagship initiatives, they emphasized the need to broaden their concept and enhance their impact, as well as to put forward new visible initiatives covering important areas of EaP cooperation. They invited the European External Action Service and the European Commission to prepare proposals in this regard in prospect of the Eastern Partnership Summit in November 2013 and of bringing a new ambitious stimulus for the post-Vilnius perspective of the EaP.
- Appreciated the efforts of the European Commission and the EEAS in implementing the EaP and encouraged them to further develop programmes in the sphere of people-to-people contacts, support for youth and students’ exchanges, and scholarship programmes which are of vital importance for strengthening ties between societies across the continent and enhancing cooperation between the Union and the Eastern European countries. In particular, they stressed the need for full opening of the new comprehensive “Erasmus for All” and the “Creative Europe” programmes for the participation of the EaP countries.
- Stressed the importance of broader engagement of society in the implementation of the Eastern Partnership’s objectives. They reconfirmed their support for the EaP Civil Society Forum, underlined the importance of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly and the Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the EaP and expressed support for the bottom-up development of the EaP Business Forum. They underlined the importance of involving business communities in the Eastern Partnership, in particular in the area of programmes and other initiatives addressed to small and medium-sized enterprises.
- Stressed the importance of enhancing visibility of the Eastern Partnership through the preparation and implementation of a visibility strategy envisaged in the EaP Road Map as well as by applying an EaP label to all EU projects and initiatives in the region.