3rd Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Visegrad, Nordic and Baltic States
March 12–13, 2015, High Tatras
Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Visegrad, Nordic and Baltic countries met in the High Tatras on the 12th and 13th of March 2015. During their third regular meeting (following the two previous ones in Gdansk and Narva), the Ministers discussed how to strengthen cooperation between their countries and exchanged views on current foreign and security policy issues, such as energy security, the situation in Ukraine, strategic communication in response to propaganda, Eastern Partnership, and the fight against terrorism. Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Energy Union, also participated in the deliberations.
The Ministers had a good discussion on the broader issues of energy.
The Ministers agreed that energy security, in the context of the crisis in Ukraine, had never been as important to Europe as it is today. They discussed the urgent need to strengthen the security of energy supply, increase energy efficiency, and maintain competitive energy costs while reducing dependence on gas and oil supplies, with the overall vision of creating a low-carbon economy.
The Ministers recognised that the EU's energy security can be increased by having recourse to indigenous renewable resources. Moderating energy demand through enhanced energy efficiency will also contribute to reduce the EU's energy dependence and increase its energy security for both electricity and gas. Energy efficiency is essential, since the cheapest and cleanest energy is that which is not consumed.
There was broad agreement on the importance of regional energy cooperation to ensure secure, affordable and sustainable energy supply.
The Ministers welcomed the Commissions recent Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward Looking Climate Change Policy and look forward to discussions at the European Council on March 19–20, 2015.
The Ministers fully subscribed to the main goal of the project that is to support comprehensive modernization and prosperity in EaP countries based on common values, norms and standards, i.a. democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and market economy. The Ministers underlined the importance of developing and strengthening the relations with all partner countries involved in the Eastern Partnership.
The EaP Summit to be held in May 2015 in Riga should contribute to fostering the whole process while also examining ways how to adapt it to the new conditions. The key deliverables of the Summit should include the strengthening of economic integration, better involvement of the civil society and stronger incentives to preserve the pro-European commitment in the partner countries.
The Ministers agreed that differentiation of partner countries is crucial in accordance with the level of their ambitions. It is important to provide each partner with tailor-made support. The Ministers emphasized the significance of the signed agreements (AA/DCFTA) by Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine in June last year, which are opening a new chapter in their relations with the EU. The agreements represent a very tangible outcome of the reform efforts invested by the partner countries and the EU. They introduce important instruments for continuation of the reform agenda, which should remain a priority for the partner countries.
The Ministers called upon continuation of developing relations of the EU with the three remaining partner countries Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan. This should be conducted according to the principle more for more. The Ministers expressed readiness to further assist the partner countries during the transition period and support the pursuit of the European aspirations of some partners, through the implementation of the Association Agreements.
The EU activities and visibility remain a principal prerequisite for the success of the whole process. The Visegrad 4 and Nordic-Baltic 8 are ready to stay at the forefront of these endeavors.
The Ministers voiced their deep concern over the recent escalation of violence in Eastern Ukraine that resulted in a great number of innocent casualties among the civilian population. V4 and NB8 countries are convinced that military actions are not an option to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.
The Ministers expressed their strong support to solving the crisis through diplomatic means and welcomed the agreement on February 12 on a package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements of September 2014, outlining clear modalities for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons.
V4 and NB8 stressed the need for a full and unconditional implementation of the Minsk Protocol and the Minsk Memorandum.
A sustainable political solution to the crisis must be based on respect for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within the country’s internationally recognized borders. V4 and NB8 countries remain committed to assisting the Ukrainian government in their effort to stabilize the situation in their country and to carry out urgently needed reforms. Strategic communication in response to propaganda The Ministers agreed that aggressive propaganda undermines the concept of independent media a fundamental condition for free and pluralistic democracies. The Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to further improve strategic communication in support of EU policies and to support the EU institutions in this work. Such efforts should include proactive communication of EU policies both internally and externally, correcting misinformation when it appears, and support for the further development of independent media throughout the region.
The Ministers expressed their abhorrence and condemnation of the recent fatal terrorist attacks in France and Denmark and affirmed that the terror risk remains high in other parts of Europe, too. They expressed the need to urgently step up EU efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism using existing EU instruments to the full to address not least the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters in line with UNSCR 2178.
The Ministers also discussed various aspects of terrorism and violent extremism, mainly related to the situation in Syria and Iraq and the threat represented by ISIL/Daesh to the region as well as its possible global impact. The Ministers agreed that this complex issue requires a systematic and comprehensive approach as well as long-term commitment covering various areas such as military means, fight against terrorism and radicalization, migration, stabilisation efforts as well as humanitarian assistance. The EU regional strategy for Syria, Iraq and the Daesh threat, which is expected to be endorsed by the Foreign Affairs Council on March 16, was also mentioned.