Declaration by the Friends of Ukraine Group, ahead of the EU Eastern Partnership Summit on 24th November 2017

Rebooting the European project extends beyond the EU’s boundaries Declaration by the Friends of Ukraine Group, ahead of the EU Eastern Partnership Summit on 24th November 2017 A better Europe implies a prosperous, stable European neighbourhood – one that is fundamentally transformed and has parted with its post-Soviet legacy. Failing to set out the longer-term […]

Rebooting the European project extends beyond the EU’s boundaries

Declaration by the Friends of Ukraine Group, ahead of the EU Eastern Partnership Summit on 24th November 2017

A better Europe implies a prosperous, stable European neighbourhood – one that is fundamentally transformed and has parted with its post-Soviet legacy. Failing to set out the longer-term perspective for our Eastern European partners would be a generational geopolitical blunder. There will be fewer incentives for them to transform their post-Soviet economies and control their borders, and they will be more vulnerable to destabilisation by Russia.

The upcoming Eastern Partnership summit presents an opportunity to reinvigorate the European Union’s commitment to its European neighbours. The leaders should seize it and offer a clear political vision to their Eastern Partners – or face a risk of reforms backsliding.

The Eastern Partnership has helped strengthen the governance and economies of Eastern Europe. Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have all committed themselves to adopt close to 70 percent of EU laws and standards. The prospect of greater trade and visa liberalisation have driven forward reforms in these countries that would not have occurred otherwise. This has been a prime example of how the EU, through pledges of greater integration, can successfully condition hard reforms in the region to the benefit of both the EU and the partners.

Regrettably, in recent months, discussions around Eastern Partners have become bogged down by a narrow dichotomy: membership vs. non-membership. Countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova deserve a European perspective. We understand that the time is not yet right for membership per se. A political solution is needed for a third way that would transcend this narrow choice.

Besides membership, the EU still has multiple “carrots”, including sectoral integration and popular projects such as elimination of telephone roaming charges. This also includes the perspective to join – if and when a country qualifies – the EU’s emerging Digital Single Market, Energy Union, or its Customs Union.

The alternative to this positive agenda is a dangerous inertia. The EU seems to be entering a political standby mode, expecting these countries to spend the next decade implementing existing agreements with no further integration on the table. This would be like riding a bicycle uphill – taking our feet off the pedals will mean backsliding. We can already see a corrosive “EU fatigue” setting in across Eastern Europe.

The Eastern Partners need to do most of the work themselves. Their main motivation should be the knowledge that fundamental reforms, ending corruption and consolidating the rule of law will make their countries stronger and more prosperous. But EU leaders know too well that reforms are painful, and citizens must be shown that they bring longer-term gain. If societies in the region stop seeing a positive prospect, we should not be surprised when their elected representatives opt to forego the pain and the unpopularity that come with it.

An EU offer of a forward-looking vision is the way to ensure that our Eastern Partners continue reforming. The time has come for the EU to snap out of its inertia and demonstrate that it is still a driving force for good in its own neighbourhood.

Signatories:

MARIELUISE BECK GERMANY

Member of the Bundestag 1994-2017

CARL BILDT SWEDEN

Foreign Minister 2006-2014

Prime Minister 1991-1994

MIKULÁŠ DZURINDA SLOVAKIA

Foreign Minister 2010-2012

Prime Minister 1998-2006

DR HANS-GERT PÖTTERING GERMANY

President of the European Parliament 2007-2009

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN DENMARK

Secretary General of NATO 2009-2014

Prime Minister 2001-2009

SIR MALCOLM RIFKIND UK

Foreign Secretary 1995-1997

Defence Secretary 1992-1995

VYGAUDAS UŠACKAS LITHUANIA

EU Ambassador to Russia 2013-2017

Minister of Foreign Affairs 2008-2010

ALEXANDER VERSHBOW US

Deputy Secretary General of NATO 2012-2016

PIERRE VIMONT FRANCE

Secretary General of European External Action Service 2010-2015

 

About the Friends of Ukraine Group

As external advisor to President Petro Poroshenko, Anders Fogh Rasmussen convened the Friends of Ukraine bringing together a group of leading politicians and former senior diplomats who want to contribute to a more balanced debate on Ukraine and advance the case for a reformed, European Ukraine.

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