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Adrienne Warren

‘A Europe That is Truly Whole and Free’: Poland and Sweden Encourage the EaP

Coinciding with their tour of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia back in October, Foreign Ministers Carl Bildt of Sweden and Radosław Sikorski of Poland, penned a joint article about the Eastern Partnership. The article, highlighting both the benefits and sacrifices required of the EaP nations, also outlines both Foreign Ministers’ hopes for the Vilnius summit–and its significance beyond just the event…

Bildt and Sikorski’s article, entitled “Making Europe Whole”,  recaps some of the main achievements of the EaP in its nearly 5 year history:

“…We have finalized work on Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine that, once signed, will lead to broader and more profound co-operation with the EU. We have signed a host of Visa Facilitation Agreements, most recently with Armenia. And here and there we have seen some significant progress on the European reform agenda.  While much of the work has been about negotiating dry texts and adjusting bureaucratic standards, we have step by step opened very real doors for trade and travel.”

The FMs also reiterate the need for renewed commitment to the Eastern Partnership program by the EU and EaP countries, as well as defining some of the key areas where resolute action is required:

“…We need a stronger commitment from our partner countries to common values. We also need a concerted effort from all parts of society to make the most out of the new opportunities. Real transformation will only happen in countries that decide in favor of change. We stand firm in our demand that Belarus must release its political prisoners and we call upon partners to stay clear of practices of selective justice. We are concerned about democratic backsliding. And we still wait for Ukraine – the original front runner of this partnership – to take the final step that will allow the EU to sign the Association Agreement in Vilnius.”

However, in addition to encouragement, Sikorski and Bildt express compassion for what can be a very painful process of change:

“As frequent visitors to Eastern Europe, we know that some of these things are not easy. What the European Union is asking may include sacrifices, and for some – even losses. But at the same time, we are deeply convinced that the gains are bigger and the effort is worth making.”

The Foreign Ministers feel, however, that the sacrifices required are worth it, based on numerous studies and practical experience:

“All studies – and all experience – show that closer relations with the European Union bring considerable economic benefits over time. We have seen this in the countries that joined the EU in 2004, when for example Poland’s trade with Sweden almost doubled during the years immediately following accession. We have seen it in Turkey, which has had its economic miracle underpinned by closer economic ties with the EU. And we are convinced that we will see it again in those Eastern European partner countries that sign and make full use of the new agreements on offer with the EU.”

The FMs continued, saying:

“Closer integration with the Union will provide an anchor for reforms.  Adjusting legislation to the EU acquis may be frustrating, but in country after country we have seen how this has helped increase prosperity, raise income levels and improve the lives of ordinary citizens. The EU will, of course, be ready to assist. In 2013 alone, over 600 million euros are available for our partner countries, and the more they reform the greater the support will become. None of this is pure altruism, or part of a zero-sum game.  Countries that are stable, prosperous and secure make better neighbors for us, just like they do for countries such as Russia. During our trip, we will therefore reiterate our strong solidarity with those partners that are subject to short-sighted external pressure to abandon further EU integration.”

Addressing the pivotal importance of the Vilnius Summit, the Ministers elaborate, explaining:

 “The Vilnius Summit will hopefully be a summit of achievement. At the same time, it will mark the beginning of deeper integration between the EU and the countries of Eastern Europe. This is a good thing for all of us. And while we believe that the door to the EU must remain open for any European country that wishes to join and fulfills all the criteria, our final message during this round trip will not be an abstract promise, but a practical encouragement to take action.”

But, ultimately, Sikorski and Bildt argue, the decisions about the future of each EaP country, lies not in Vilnius but in the localities themselves:

“From Minsk in north-west to Baku in south-east, everyone must understand that the future will be decided there – not in Warsaw, Stockholm or Brussels. For Eastern Partnership countries the logic is simple: the depth of their relationship with the EU will ultimately be determined by nothing else but the depth of their commitment. The more convincing the agenda of European reforms, the more ambitious the path of European integration – and the more realistic our vision of a Europe that is truly whole and free.”

See also: Making the Rounds in the Neighbourhood

PL MFA: Polish-Swedish-French talks on the Eastern Partnership

sources: Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Poland

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Graduated in International Relations and Russian. Resident of Estonia, but a citizen of the world. Most interested in contributing to the progress and education of mankind--as the primary tool of achieving global unity.

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