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Joint Statement on the Eastern Partnership of the Foreign Ministers of the Visegrad Group

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad Group (V4) and the Eastern Partnership countries met on May 3 and 4, 2016 in Prague under the Czech Republic Presidency of the Visegrad Group. The event was also attended by the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations as well as by representatives of the European External Action Service, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany.

Prague, May 4, 2016

The V4 Ministers reaffirmed their strong support to the Eastern Partnership as a strategic dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy. They expressed readiness to further strengthening it in accordance with the Riga Declaration in an evolving active framework for cooperation and contacts among governments, parliaments, local authorities, members of civil society and business communities. They welcomed the renewed focus of the Eastern Partnership on regional cooperation and differentiation as stipulated by the recent European Neighbourhood Policy Review. They also recalled the need for both consolidation and reinforcement of the Eastern Partnership in the years to come. Ministers underlined the need to follow with the reforms in the partner states, strengthen the internal stability and resilience of partners, enhance investment in integrated border management, continue the mobility agenda and to focus on the interconnectivity projects, bringing the Partner countries closer to the EU.

Participants reconfirmed that cooperation with Eastern Partners is based on common values, mutual interests and commitments as well as the free will, respect for the sovereignty and independence of all parties, and not directed against anyone. They supported the ongoing efforts to create for partners more tailor-made framework for cooperation, underlining the need for differentiation in European Union’s approach according to the level of aspirations of each partner. They also recalled the need to react strategically for the consequences of the present challenging geopolitical context the region has for the Eastern Partnership countries and the European Union.

The V4 Ministers appreciated efforts of Georgia and Ukraine, resulting in positive assessment of European Commission regarding their visa liberalisation efforts, and expressed hope that the citizens of both countries would enjoy soon the visa-free travel to the EU, as well as recalled Moldova’s earlier success on this path. They reconfirmed that implementation of Association Agreement/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area is the key task for Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine within their relations with the European Union and offered their support to the reform efforts made in this context. Ministers underlined the fact that fulfilment of the related conditions brings these countries gradually closer to the European Union and its internal market, and called for more efforts which would allow both the Eastern Partnership countries and the European Union to enjoy the full benefits of these agreements.

The V4 Ministers underlined the importance of enhanced cooperation among Eastern Partnership countries across a wide spectrum of areas in order to increase the resilience of the partner countries and their ability to withstand internal and external pressures, thereby contributing to the stability of the region.

The V4 ministers agreed to intensify coordination with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, to support their reform processes related to DCFTA/AA, and to share V4 experience in this regard.

Ministers underlined the need to keep inclusiveness of the Eastern Partnership program, allowing for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus to choose their own individually tailored relations with the European Union. They welcomed the progressing negotiations with Armenia, the start of the dialogue with Azerbaijan, and the improvement of relations with Belarus since their last meeting.

The V4 Ministers reiterated that the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia represents a violation of international law and a challenge to the European security. They called for full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, and a peaceful solution in accordance with international law. V4 ministers continue their support for Ukraine's unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and appreciate the contribution of Belarus in facilitating talks.

Ministers expressed full support of the V4 to the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and the three Co-Chairs, expecting both sides to respect strictly the ceasefire, refrain from the use of force and resume efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The V4 ministers stressed their continued, consistent and strong commitment to the Eastern Partnership, and their wish to work closely in implementing its goals. They announced their intention to make cooperation in the areas of state building and education distinct priorities for the coming years, as well as their wish to play more active role as a group of EU Member States, as envisaged by the last ENP review. They reiterated that 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 ministers also expressed their readiness to cooperate closely with partners in preparing the next Eastern Partnership summit, to be held in 2017, as well as the related Business Forum, and Media and Civil Society Conferences.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic

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