The Visegrad Ministers of Foreign Affairs, on the occasion of the informal meeting of Visegrad and Eastern Partnership countries in Budapest on April 28–29, 2014, discussed future tasks in the light of the new challenges.
The Ministers confirmed the validity of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy and stressed their strong commitment to its vigorous implementation. They noted a substantial change in the geopolitical context of the realization of the goals agreed at the Vilnius Summit and expressed an urgent need to react effectively to the new challenges. They highlighted the importance of:
- Signing the AA/DCFTA with Georgia and Moldova in June 2014, as agreed by the European Council,
- Implementing the AA and sign the remaining provisions of the AA/DCFTA with Ukraine as soon as possible, right after the presidential elections,
- Supporting reforms of the most committed EaP Partner Countries and stressing that a perspective of European integration remains the best stimulus for deep reforms,
- Adjusting relations with each of the six partners to different needs and ambitions, taking into account current geopolitical context.
The Ministers encouraged EaP frontrunners to make full use of the “more for more“ principle and expressed support to additional EU funding in support of the implementation of AA/DCFTA by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.
The V4 Ministers rejected any military or economic threat against EaP Partner Countries and in this context reiterated their full support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. They condemned the Russian armed aggression and the annexation of Crimea as well as the political and military actions to destabilize the Eastern part of Ukraine. Such a deplorable action undermines the fundaments of European peace and security and the validity of international legal order and principles. Given the lack of full implementation of the Geneva Joint Statement of April 17 and the recent deterioration of the situation in Eastern Ukraine, as well as the further build-up of Russian troops close to the Ukrainian border, the Ministers agreed that further targeted measures must be intensified against those undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.
The Ministers offered an active support to the economic and political stabilization of the country, expressed the need for additional resources to the EU package and their readiness to support, together with OSCE and the Council of Europe, in creating conditions for free and fair elections and for guaranteeing human rights. V4 Ministers welcomed the declared readiness of the Ukrainian leadership to offer inclusive solutions to all regions and national and linguistic minorities, and create the conditions for free and fair elections and expressed their expectations in this regard.
The Ministers welcomed the decisions of the April FAC to assist Ukraine in the field of civilian security sector reform, police and rule of law, including through a CSDP mission. They welcomed the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and its leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities in de-escalating tensions and expressed support for expansion of the Mission to draw on its full potential and to strengthen its scope to cover dialogue facilitation and other related tasks. Ministers condemned the detention of a group of OSCE military inspectors and of their Ukrainian hosts in Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine, and called for their immediate and unconditional release.
Regarding the visa liberalization process, the Ministers noted with satisfaction the opportunity of visa free travel for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, reiterated the commitment to achieve the same goal soon for the citizens of Ukraine and Georgia, as well. They expressed readiness for further progress with Armenia and Azerbaijan and welcomed the readiness of Belarusian authorities to negotiate on visa facilitation and readmission agreements, stressing the conviction that mobility of people should be advanced.
V4 Ministers underscored the importance of strengthening dialogue and cooperation related to energy security. In this context they underlined the need to swiftly implement transparent market rules in the Ukrainian energy sector and activities already in force in EU. They expressed their readiness to strengthen EU energy security, involving Ukraine and other interested EaP countries and respond firmly to any disturbances in the field of energy supply security.
The Ministers appreciated the efforts of the Commission and the European External Action Service in implementing the goals set out in the Vilnius Declaration. They encouraged further action in the sphere of people-to-people contacts, support for the civil society, strengthening and developing the multilateral dimension of the EaP, including flagship initiatives and sectorial cooperation. They invited COM to prepare feasibility study regarding an EaP Economic Area.
They encouraged all partners to take bolder steps towards active cooperation within EaP programs and stressed the need for better EaP visibility. The public of Partner Countries should recognize benefits of closer ties with the EU.
V4 countries stressed that the long-term programming of EU financial support is crucial for structural reforms. At the same time the EU needs to react swiftly to new challenges. In this context, the Ministers encouraged the COM/EEAS to increase flexibility of EU assistance and use of ENI funds allowing speedier, better coordinated and more strategic delivery.
The Ministers expressed the readiness of V4 countries to share experience with better and enhanced use of International Visegrad Fund instruments, to provide more targeted assistance in capacity and institution building for implementing AA/DCFTAs with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, joint projects serving good governance, judiciary and police reforms, strengthening civil society, transparency and freedom of media for all. They are ready to answer special needs in Ukraine by regrouping additional resources and combining force with other relevant institutions and like-minded countries.
The Budapest informal EaP ministerial meeting strengthened the commitment of the V4 to work closely with partners in implementing the strategic goals of EaP and adapting it to new realities and challenges in the region. All these actions could contribute to a successful summit meeting in Riga.