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Joint Statement of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad Group, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Prague, March 5, 2012

The meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad Group (V4) and Eastern Partnership countries—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine—took place in Prague on March 5, 2012 under the Czech Republic’s Presidency of the Visegrad Group. Following the tradition of previous two V4 ministerial meetings dedicated to the Eastern Partnership in Budapest and Bratislava, the Ministers exchanged views on current developments in the Eastern Partnership policy. Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy were invited as special guests with important expertise within the Eastern Partnership.

Foreign ministers of the Visegrad group, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

  • Reiteratedtheir strong commitment to the goals agreed at the launching EasternPartnership Summit in Prague in 2009 that have been reconfirmed and broadenedat the Summit in Warsaw in 2011, noting that the Eastern Partnership policyprocess is on the right track, acknowledging at the same time that theimplementation process could be further improved and speeded up by commonefforts of both the EU side and the Eastern European Partners. The Eastern Partnership Road Map should serve as a guiding document till the next Summit in the second halfof 2013.
  • Encouraged the European Commission and the European External Action Service to include inthe Road Map ambitious goals to be achieved in 2013, as well as mid- andlong-term goals beyond 2013, activities and actions to be undertaken by the EUand Partner Countries with associated timelines, instruments andresponsibilities, EU objectives and benchmarks on commitments taken by PartnerCountries, as well as to incorporate the “more for more” principle.
  • Highlighted the importance of the inclusive character of the Road Map consultation processwith the Eastern European Partners and the EU Member States following the jointownership principle.
  • Reiterated their support for the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. The Ministers consider the Forum to be a crucial component of the democratic reform processin the Partner Countries and an important consultant for the EU institutions. Emphasizedthe importance of the EU assistance for civil society, inter alia through the Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility andEuropean Endowment for Democracy. Welcomedactivities of the Civil Society Forum vis-à-vis the Eastern Partnership Road Map and invited the EEAS and the European Commission to consider relevantproposals and recommendations when finalizing the text of the Roadmap.
  • Expressed support for the European perspective of the Eastern Partnership Countries. Underlined that a strong long-termrelationship between the Partner Countries and the EU could only be built onthe basis of full respect for human rights, democratic standards, and the rule of law, including free and fair elections.
  • Called on Eastern European Partners to strengthen their commitment to democraticreforms and to enlarge the dialogue with the civil society. Reconfirmed readinessof the Visegrad Group and the Baltic States to assist Partner Countries in implementing their reform agendas, including through sharing their transition experience and wider use of trainings.
  • Took note with deep concern of the recent developments in Belarus including the lack of any improvement of the human rights situation and the continuation of repression towards Belarusian civil society combined with the lack of deep democratic and economicreforms in Belarus. Expressed their concern with regard to the worsening of the relationship between the EU and its Member States, on one hand, and Belarus, on the other hand. Stressed their view that a substantial change in Belarusian policies could pave the way to the resumption of the political dialogue with Belarusian authorities. Called upon Belarusto release and rehabilitate all political prisoners.
  • Noted with satisfaction the finalization of the Association Agreement negotiations, including DCFTA, with Ukraine. Expressed their support for its early initialling and subsequent signing and ratification in due course. Reiterated the need to strengthen the rule of law and to guarantee the impartiality of judiciary. Commended the continuation of negotiations on the Association Agreement with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova.
  • Welcomed the launch of negotiations on DCFTA with Georgiaand the Republic of Moldova in 2011 as well as decision to start negotiations with Armenia.
  • Encouraged European Commission, EEAS and Member States to initiate discussion about medium-term goals of the Eastern Partnership with the aim to prepare Action Plans on integration of the most advanced Partners with the internal market and establishment of an economic area between the EU and the Partner Countries.
  • Stressed that the ongoing visa liberalisation process supports democratisation and people-to-people contacts. Its pace should not be held hostage of the lack of efforts by the authorities or their unsatisfactory results. Welcomed the launch of negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan and expressed hope to launch such negotiations with Belarus (and urged Belarus to respond constructively to the invitation to the negotiations), for the benefit of the population at large. Urged the European Commission to continue negotiations with Georgia in order to present an Action Plan for visa liberalization before summer 2012; to sign the renegotiated visa facilitation agreements with the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, as well as launch the second phase of the Action Plans with the aim to establish a visa free regime. Invited the European Commission to develop initiatives of Mobility Partnership with the Partner Countries.
  • Stressed the need to further develop the Eastern Partnership sector cooperation and to implement swiftly the conclusions adopted by the relevant Councils. Reiterated the importance of opening up of the EU agencies and programmes to Eastern European Partners participation, in particular the “Erasmus for All” and other EU programmes supporting youth and students exchange.
  • Underlined the importance of cooperation in the multilateral track of the Eastern Partnership, notably through implementation of flagship initiatives and work programmes of four multilateral platforms.
  • Called for further development of dialogue and cooperation on the CSDP with the Partner Countries.
  • Underlined the importance of increased EU allocations through the new European Neighbourhood Instrument and stressed the importance of embedding deeply the “more for more” principle in the new ENI regulation for the period after 2013 as well as the “second generation” ENP Action Plans and Association Agendas.
  • In particular highlighted the importance of the institutional capacity building for success of reform processes in the Partner Countries as well as the importance of supporting the SME sector, investments and infrastructure projects and therefore called for full use of appropriate EU programmes and funds. Encouraged the European financial institutions to continuously contribute and support infrastructure projects as well as economic development projects. Reiterated their support for the Eastern Partnership Business Forum.
  • Called for speeding up of the launch of new Pilot Regional Development Programmes and the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development, in order to offer specific assistance to Eastern European Partners.

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