Members of the European Parliament met with their counterparts from the Eastern Partnership countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – for the third session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, in Brussels, on 28-29 May. According to the European Parliament the objectives for discussion included shared security concerns, trade, energy cooperation and social issues, as well as discussing the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius.
According to the EU:
“EURONEST is a multi-lateral parliamentary institution which brings together Members of the European Parliament with those of the Eastern European Partner countries pursuing a project of European integration, political association and deeper economic inter-action. Armenia , Azerbaijan , Georgia , Moldova and Ukraine are currently members of EURONEST. Belarus for the time being does not take part in the Assembly’s activities, due to political reasons.”
However, in light of Belarus’ absence, the assembly gathering consisted of a meeting for the ‘working group on Belarus’, for which Belarusian opposition representatives were invited for the meeting. Belarusian foreign minister Uladzimir Makei was invited to the event, but refused to go to Brussels. Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, the chair of the Euronest Working Group on Belarus, commented on his choice, saying:
“The refusal of the foreign minister to visit the meeting of the working group devoted to Belarus, the fact that he cannot come and sit at the table together with representatives of Belarusian opposition and civil society shows that the EU and the Belarusian authorities have not topics to discuss.”
Saryusz-Wolski elaborated, explaining that Belarus’ presence in the EaP gatherings was necessary because of its symbolism in showing commitment to change and progress:
“No radical changes are possible unless the situation in Belarus is changed, and the Belarusian parliament is recognised as a democratically elected body. We know about talks with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan at different levels. Belarus is the only country that is not involved in talks. Relations with the country remain at a low level. The Eastern Partnership thinks Belarus pursues a policy of self-isolation.”
Other countries also caught Euronest headlines during the week, as an urgent resolution on justice in Georgia was discussed. Georgia was represented by the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on European Integration Victor Dolidze, and the meeting was initiated by the European People’s Party and the National Movement of Georgia. However, the Euronest PA Bureau refused to pass the document for discussing the resolution in the plenary session because it did not receive the two-thirds majority of the members of the bureau.
The Third Ordinary Session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly opened with an address by EP Vice-President Jacek Protasiewicz, and speeches by the Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle. Füle spoke about the importance of 2013 for the Eastern Partnership, referring to it as “decisive” for EU-EaP relations and the neighbourhood countries:
“2013 is a decisive year for the Eastern Partnership, one that has the potential of marking a milestone in the advancement of our relations. The outcome of the November Summit in Vilnius will determine the next steps. Its success depends on deliverables. I cannot stress enough the importance and necessity of advancing in the implementation of agreed reforms if we are to deepen our relations and proceed together to the next level. For this to happen we all need to apply ourselves with more vigour. The European Union is conscious of its own responsibilities. However, the main burden lies with our partners.”
At the closing of Euronest, MEP and Euronest co-chair Evgeni Kirilov underscored the hopes for coming breakthroughs for the EU and EaP relations at the Partnership Summit in Vilnius this November, saying:
“Euronest wants to send a strong message to Heads of State and Government, on their respective commitments and the aspirations of citizens. Members see the Vilnius Summit as a crucial step towards political association and achievement of free-trade areas between the EU and its partners. However, for this to happen, partners have to strengthen rule of law and respect for human rights.”
A sentiment echoed by Ukraine MP Borys Tarasyuk, co-chair for the eastern partner:
“The Vilnius summit holds promise of signing major pacts with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, but it will be up to respective governments to use the crucial six months we have left to show progress in areas which have been clearly indicated by the EU.”
Speaking about the conclusions and resolutions from the Euronest Assembly, European Parliament President Martin Schulz that they were three-fold in nature: the need for effective legislative approximation in the economic field as a precondition for benefiting from future trade agreements, the role of integrated energy markets in ensuring energy security, and the focus on combating poverty and social exclusion. Schulz elucidated saying:
“To deliver better results for our citizens, we have to strengthen Parliamentarianism both within the EU… and in the relations between the European Parliament and national Parliaments of our wider European neighbourhood. We are partners in the struggle for democracy and in the fight for the common interests of our citizens. We are not willing to accept the fact that the citizens of Belarusare still deprived of freedom and basic fundamental rights. We will always uphold democratic values and support the people in Belarus in every way we can.”
Schulz also addressed the turning point the Vilnius seminar offers and the role Euronest has to play in it, saying:
“We have to do our homework before the Vilnius summit, especially concerning the promotion of democracy and the rule of law. It is our job to hold our governments accountable and push them to follow up on their commitments.”
The next Euronest assembly will take place next autumn in Yerevan, Armenia.
Ambitions of EU and East Partners for the Vilnius Summit | A decisive year for the Eastern Partnership
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