European Parliament members. Photos: europarl.europa.eu
The Parliaments of three Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries – Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – released a joint statement on July 3, calling on the European Parliament to adopt a Resolution prior to the EaP Summit reaffirming its appeal to the European Council to opening the perspective of EU membership to the three Associated Countries.
Civil.ge reached out to some of the senior MEPs on the matter, asking them to comment on the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels in November, and the Summit expectations of Eastern partners.
Six MEPs responded to the query, including two from the European People’s Party and one member from each of the following political groups: the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe; the European Conservatives and Reformists Group; the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.
David McAllister, Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), Germany
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament has received the Joint statement of the Parliaments of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine of July 3, 2017. We have taken note of their call on the European Parliament as regards the suggested resolution and the issue of EU membership perspective. We have also noted the emphasis on our common values, on the EU’s support to our partner’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and on the importance of the implementation of the Association Agreements – which the European Parliament is keen to highlight at every available opportunity.
In the run up to the Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled for November 2017, the Foreign Affairs Committee will draw up a report to be adopted by the European Parliament and containing recommendations to the Council, Commission and the External Action Service (EEAS). The content of this upcoming resolution – including the issue of membership perspective – will be the subject of debates in the Foreign Affairs Committee in September and October 2017.
Gunnar Hokmark, Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), Sweden
The perspective of EU membership is a central component of the Neighborhood policy and the Eastern Partnership.
Every European nation has this perspective and it is important for stability and the strengthening of democracy. Even if there may be different opinions of when a country can become an EU member, this is an important foundation of the European project.
Urmas Paet, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Estonia
The EU has been going through turbulent times in recent years. We have faced many crises such as the refugee crisis, Brexit, terror attacks etc. Even though there is a strong focus on finding a solution to all these problems, we cannot forget our Eastern neighborhood and its efforts to further integrate with the EU. In this regard I am content that the EU finally approved visa-free travel for Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. It is a step forward in tightening relations and also an important moral message of support.
As the Estonian foreign minister from 2005 until 2014 and now as a member of the European Parliament, I strongly support the further political association and economic integration of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova with the EU and the implementation of association agreements. There are also many opportunities to further develop relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.
A clear perspective for EU membership is very important. Every European country which has fulfilled the necessary criteria may apply for EU membership.
One of Estonia’s priorities during its presidency of the Council of the EU is the Eastern Partnership. The objectives of the Eastern Partnership Summit should be ambitious and practical, reconfirming the EU’s continued support for Eastern Partners. Attention should be put on sustainable public sector reforms, the development of transport and energy connections, digital society, entrepreneurship and civil society as well as people-to-people contacts. It is also clear that the EU continuously needs to focus on conflict resolution in the neighborhood.
Anna Elżbieta Fotyga, European Conservatives and Reformists Group, Poland
Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova have all signed Association Agreements (including DCFTA) with the EU and received a visa-free regime with the Schengen countries. These deliverables keep the populations of these countries hopeful that their countries will receive further benefits from EU integration.
Countries that will continuously pursue a reform agenda and stronger economic growth must also receive more integration mechanisms from the EU in order to keep these processes alive and create more leverages for reform and further democratization. The upcoming EaP Summit in November will be the best opportunity to lay out the strategic goals of EU-EaP relations.
Rebecca Harms, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, Germany
The Eastern Partnership Summit will be one of the most important events in Brussels, in the European Union, this autumn. I understand very well that especially the Association countries want to get confirmation for their perspectives. The membership perspective is laid down in the EU treaties; so for countries, which want the membership, there is the possibility to apply. However, in order to come closer to the EU, to come closer to the membership perspective, some progress has to happen on both sides. The Association countries have to implement the changes to their legislation, to adapt to EU laws and regulations, as agreed upon in the Association agreements. This way – implementing our agreements – is the best way to go into the direction of the European Union. On the other side, many things have to be done within the European Union. Especially since Brexit, the EU is not in its best shape. Therefore, the EU has to agree internally how to proceed – together and with our neighbourhood. The whole debate on “two-speed-Europe” is an ongoing discussion. Our Eastern partners need to get assurance from us, the EU, but they also have to see our internal political problems.
The European Parliament will vote a resolution [before the Summit]. We will address all these issues and as an institution closely cooperating with our colleagues from the EaP countries’ parliaments, we will find a good solution. Nevertheless, we should not only concentrate on the membership perspective. This Summit should also focus on the problems the Association countries and the neighbouring countries have to solve: fight against corruption, establishment of the rule of law, judiciary reforms, and difficult debates on constitutional reforms – in all the three Association countries we have such problems. Only talking about the membership perspective will not help to come closer to the EU.
As one of the best friends of the Eastern Partnership countries, as a strong supporter of the idea to open the EU for members from the East and as a MEP, who fought really hard for the visa-free regime and the Association agreements, I think now is not the time for general discussions, but for implementation and reforms.
Victor Boștinaru, Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Romania
The joint statement of the speakers of the Parliaments of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova is a very significative one, as it emphasizes the strong will and commitment of these countries towards European integration. Moreover, it shows their readiness to cooperate and assist each other, what constitutes a key European principle. In the S&D group, we strongly value this commitment, which is beneficial for both sides, and we will certainly support adequate recommendations in the report that the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament will draw ahead of the November Eastern Partnership Summit.
While we take note of the statement and of the efforts made by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, we indeed believe it is high time for real and renewed commitment also from the EU’s side. We are confident the Estonian Presidency will take all the necessary steps to help with the implementation of the Association Agreements and with all the necessary reforms, but also to make progress on the issue of the frozen conflicts and the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the three countries, and to tangibly feed their European aspirations.