The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad Group (V4) and the Eastern Partnership countries met on May 14–15, 2015 in Bratislava under the Slovak Republic Presidency of the Visegrad Group. The event was also attended by the Foreign Ministers of Latvia, Romania and Sweden, the Vice-President of the European Commission and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.
The meeting focused on assessing current and outlining future cooperation with the partner countries of the Eastern Partnership. The participants discussed the current developments in the region of the Eastern Partnership, preparations for the forthcoming Riga Summit, as well as future tasks in view of the challenges in the region.
The V4 Ministers reaffirmed their support to the Eastern Partnership as a strategic dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy based on mutual values, interests and commitments. They acknowledged the Eastern partners’ sovereign right to choose the level of the ambition in their relations with the European Union and their readiness to continue to shape bilateral relations individually. They underlined the need for differentiation in European Union’s support according to the level of commitments and aspirations made by the partners and their readiness to meet conditionality of this support. The challenging geopolitical aspects of this cooperation should be taken also into account.
The participants underlined that strengthening democracy, enabling functioning market economies, improving macro-economic stability, business and investment environment, mobility and people to people contacts open new spheres and perspectives of cooperation.
The V4 Ministers stressed that the increased cooperation with the Eastern partners, based on the shared values and principles of democracy, contributes to prosperity and stability in the region and is not directed against anyone. Conduct of reforms in the partner countries represents a corner stone of each country's modernization process, thus improving living standards of population in each partner country.
They outlined that recent events in Ukraine have shown that the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity are not granted on the European continent. The V4 Ministers are committed in their support to the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of all partner countries.
The signing and provisional application of the Association Agreements/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with the three partner countries—Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine demonstrate significant achievements in the partnership between the European Union and the Eastern partner countries after the Vilnius Summit. More actions are needed to ensure that the Eastern partner countries and the European Union enjoy the full benefits of the Association Agreements/DCFTA. The implementation of the Association Agreements/DCFTA sets up the overall objectives of political association and economic integration with the European Union. The V4 countries welcomed the efforts made by Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and encourage them on their paths to come closer to the European Union.
The V4 Ministers welcomed that the European Union and the three partners have developed and launched the Visa Liberalization Action Plans (VLAP). They noted that Moldova has successfully moved to the phase when Moldovan holders of biometric passports enjoy a visa-free access to the European Union. The V4 Ministers emphasized that Georgia and Ukraine have achieved significant progress in implementation of the second phase of their VLAPs. They encouraged Georgia and Ukraine to step up actions to fulfil the benchmarks. The successful implementation of the VLAPs is a fundamental element of enhanced mobility, underpinning the association process.
The V4 Ministers stressed the importance of keeping the inclusive nature of the Eastern Partnership and strengthening ties with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus which have decided to take their own paths in relations with the European Union. They welcomed the actions taken since the Vilnius Summit in 2013 in developing individually tailored bilateral relations between the European Union and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.
The V4 Ministers fully recognize the challenging aspects of the developments in Ukraine throughout 2014–2015 and their impact on the region. The V4 countries condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia which they consider a violation of international law and a direct challenge to European security. They remain committed in their support of Ukraine's unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. The ministers pointed out the need for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Ukraine based on respect of the norms of international law. They called on all parties to swiftly and fully implement the Minsk Agreements. They note the European Union's contribution to promote stability, good neighbourly relations and confidence building in the region. The V4 countries voiced their continued support to the efforts of the Ukrainian leadership to build a modern, democratic and united society, in which the rights and freedoms of all citizens, including the individuals belonging to national, ethnic, linguistic and religious groups are fully respected.
The meeting also focused on discussion of energy security of the V4 countries. The safe and secure flow of energy sources to the V4 countries is of utmost importance for the development of stable, transparent and mutually beneficial relations with the Eastern Partnership countries. The V4 countries have contributed to Ukraine's energy stability and security by opening of the reverse gas flows. These actions represent significant assistance to Ukraine on its way to assure stability and prosperity in the country on its path to come closer to the European Union.
The forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga is an opportunity to take stock of the progress achieved in cooperation with the Eastern partners after the Vilnius Summit. The participants of the meeting in Bratislava recognize efforts of the EEAS and the EU COM as well as the Eastern Partnership partners to implement the goals resulting out of the Vilnius Declaration. The V4 Ministers considered that more actions are needed in developing people-to-people contacts, supporting the civil society, strengthening and developing the multilateral dimension, sectorial cooperation. The V4 Ministers reiterated the readiness of their countries to share experience of the political and economic transition, as well as integration to the European Union with the Eastern partners. They underlined that the thorough reform process was a key element of the successful and the result oriented transformation process of each of the V4 country. The V4 Ministers encouraged all partners to accelerate the reform processes and thus modernize their countries. They emphasized that only stable and predictable business and investment environment could attract foreign investors to foster economic development in each partner country.
The International Visegrad Fund, through its Visegrad 4 Eastern Partnership Program, will continue to offer project-based assistance facilitating the efforts of transformation, modernization, economic development, social progress and supporting civil society in all countries of the Eastern Partnership.
The participants of the V4 and Eastern Partnership ministerial meeting in Bratislava stressed their wish to work closely in implementing the goals of the Eastern Partnership. They look forward to the Riga Summit that will assess the achieved results and will outline the future of the Eastern Partnership.
Source: MFA SK