Address to the Civil Society by Štefan Füle,
European Commissioner for enlargement
and the neighbourhood policy
Delegation of the European Union to Armenia
Yerevan, 29 April 2011
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here in Yerevan today. It is my second trip to your beautiful country and almost exactly one year after my first visit. Today I have had excellent meetings with members of the Armenian government and other key interlocutors. During my trips abroad I also insist on meeting civil society and I therefore very much value the opportunity to address this gathering today.
Armeniais an important neighbour to the European Union. We are constantly strengthening our bilateral relations. Armenia is also a key actor in the South Caucasus region.
Armenia is a full partner of the European Neighbourhood Policy and its eastern dimension the Eastern Partnership which was launched in Prague two years ago by all the 27 EU heads of states and government and the 6 eastern partner countries. I am pleased that we all share the values which underpin this Partnership. This is an inspiration for the sustainable development and increasing prosperity of Armenia.
The neighbourhood policy is not a static framework; I am here in Yerevan to take stock jointly with my Armenian interlocutors of the current relations and to identify areas where we need to strengthen our joint efforts for a deepening and broadening of our relations.
No one has missed the political events in the Southern Mediterraneanover the past few months. These have brought to the fore the importance of a strong and sustainable policy for the European Union and its partners in both the East and the South.
These so called Arab spring protests also coincide with a review process of the European Neighbourhood Policy that I am leading together with Cathy Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission.
We will shortly issue our proposals in a joint document, but today, I would like to share with you my own thoughts of the current state of play of the European Neighbourhood Policy and its future potential in general as well as in relation to Armenia.
The recent upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East have clearly demonstrated that there can only be real, sustainable stability and prosperity based on democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. I must confess that the EU has perhaps not always been very focused about this in its relations with partners. We have often tended to tolerate authoritarian regimes for the sake of stability in the region. But that stability has proven to be a mirage in the desert.
The lesson learned is that we must now put our core values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights even more firmly at the centre of our neighbourhood policy. We must support democratic developments through a constructive dialogue with governments and representatives of societies and we must support this increased engagement with more effective measures. This is the only way to build and strengthen democratic institutions throughout the neighbourhood area.
A corner stone of a healthy democracy is a vibrant civil society. I therefore, feel it is essential to establish a special Civil Society Facility for the Neighbourhood. We aim to make extra money available and to ensure that our support is well adapted to the needs of the Civil society organisations. Our objective is to increase the advocacy capacity of these organisations, their ability to monitor reforms and to participate in the implementation of EU programmes.
Along with increased attention to civil society the EU will be ready to go further with those partners who embark on serious reforms programmes and which will adhere to the core values of the Eastern partnership. In other words we can offer “more for more” to countries which show strong reform commitments. In particular, we intend to pay particular attention to the following areas:
- Free and fair elections;
- freedom of association, expression and assembly;
- an independent judiciary;
- fighting against corruption;
- security and law enforcement reforms.
Together with respect of human rights, progress in these areas by partner countries will trigger greater EU support.
At the same time consideration for each partner’s particular situation rather than follow a “on size fits all” approach will be important.
Central to this approach will be support and incentives for reform. Let me mention to the so-called “3Ms”: market access, mobility of people and money.
First, market access.
Market access is essential for our partners’ economic and social development; gradual integration into the EU’s internal market with its 500 million consumers will provide new opportunities for businesses in our partner countries and hence will support modernisation and growth. Within the Eastern Partnership the EU aims to conclude Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with partner countries as soon as the relevant conditions are fulfilled.
Second, mobility of people.
Visa facilitation and in the long-term visa liberalisation are not only incentives for governments to carry out reforms. These are tools to increase contacts between people from partner countries and citizens and businesses in the European Union. I see mobility of people as an indispensable element of the development of democratic societies throughout the neighbourhood region.
The European Union is not only advocating for reforms through conditions and statements. An important aspect is financial and technical support. A key objective of the review of the Neighbourhood policy is to find new resources from an already stretched EU budget in order to finance our new ambitions, as well as finding a mechanism to provide funding in a flexible way that meets the needs of the partners as well as respond to real progress in reforms.
In addition to the Market, Mobility and Money, the current review of the ENP will also make new proposals in other areas in detail. Let me give some examples:
- improving access to EU programmes and participation in EU agencies.
- increasing our cooperation in key areas such as transport and energy.
- exploring possibilities of further collaboration in the area of the Common Foreign and Security Policy including a possible increased engagement as regards conflicts within the Eastern Partnership region in order to support full stability and security for all people.
Ladies and gentlemen, what does the European neighbourhood policy, the Eastern Partnership and the current review process mean for Armenia?
Since the inclusion of Armenia in the Neighbourhood Policy a few years ago, we can together demonstrate significant results.
First, since July last year we are negotiating a new Association Agreement. And we can be proud that substantial progress has been made so far. The new agreement will lead to closer political association and through an integral deep and comprehensive free trade area will also bring economic integration.
Secondly, there is now clear prospects for enhancing mobility and facilitating for contacts between people. Building on the good progress and experiences from other partner countries (like Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova) I hope that we will soon catch up with Armenia to enhance the mobility of citizens. I hope that negotiations on a Visa Facilitation agreement and readmission agreement will start before the end of the year.
Negotiating and implementing these new agreements will require adequate administrative capacity. The EU has therefore earmarked specific funding to support partner countries. The Comprehensive Institution Building Programme of 32 million EUR for Armenia over the period 2011-2013 will help in the implementation of Armenia’s reform agenda.
Thirdly, the EU is offering increased sectoral cooperation in key areas such as energy, transport, institutional strengthening and regional development which are all important domains for Armenia and the success of its reform process. Let me mention that we view Armenia’s desire to be an observer in the Energy Community as positive. It will ensure closer links between our energy markets and provide further legal convergence between the EU and Armenia in the energy field.
Fourthly, we are bringing the EU expertise and experience in the areas of regional development and cohesion, which are crucial for the sustainability of the reform process. Therefore we will develop in coordination with our Armenian partners a Pilot Regional Development Programmes. For Armenia €7 million over the period 2012-2013 is foreseen.
Fifthly, at the multilateral level of the Eastern Partnership progress has been made in areas fostering democracy building, economic development, energy and people to people contacts through a number of platforms and flagship projects. The EU is keen to support the strengthening of relations among all the partners countries members of the Eastern Partnersip, and not only between each of them and the EU.
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to conclude with a few thoughts about our cooperation with civil society. The Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership has now been well established and continues its important work.
However, there is scope for improving its work. It cannot be merely a quasi-consultative body preparing recommendations for governments. Its role should be seen in a much broader context. Civil society organisations play a central role in providing a platform for individuals to participate in a democratic society and in advocating reforms.
Here in Armenia, I would invite all of you to maximise your effectiveness. It is important that the Civil Society Forum national platforms fully use the potential for joint action and this potential is not spoiled by any internal disagreements.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends I would like to conclude by saying that these are challenging and exciting times. It is challenging because the aspirations for political and economic change expressed so forcefully in the Southern Mediterranean and the Arab world have confirmed the importance of EU support on the one hand; but also pointed to areas where we all, the EU and partners, can do better. It is exciting because it provides us with the opportunity to adjust the framework of our relations with a view to better support the democratisation and reform process in our neighbourhood.
Thank you for your attention.
The official launch of “A Practical Guide to the European Union”
Yerevan, 26 April 2011
A practical guide to the European Union is a comprehensive book in the field summarising the information about EU structure and the EU-Armenia relations. It was published within the British Council EU skills project with the support of the UK government. The presentation of A practical guide to the European Union book was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and attended by the representatives from the government institutions, leading NGOs and other key stakeholders. The author of the book, Colm Downs, was also present at the event.
Karine Ghazinian, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is also the chief negotiator on Armenia-EU Association Agreement, stated that EU integration is one of the key priorities of the country and she welcomes the publication of this book containing necessary information about the EU and its structures. She also expressed hope that cooperation with the UK Embassy and the British Council will continue in future.
In his speech the UK Ambassador to Armenia HE Charles Lonsdale mentioned, that “EU integration process is not an easy one. It demands political will and leadership, bolstered by EU support and encouragement. The UK’s EU sklls project has worked to help civil servants inArmenia to confidently communiate with their EU colleagues”.
“As Armenia gets closer to the EU, it is essential for Armenian civil servants to understand what the EU is and how it works. Like many organisations, the EU has its own vocabulary and its own way of operating. That is why we need a book, written by an expert, giving us an overview”, said Onno Simons, the head of political, economic and press information section of the EU delegation to Armenia.
A practical guide to the European Union book was printed both in Armenian and English. It will be dsitributed to the state institutions and the universities with departmetns and programmes on international relations and EU integration.
Arevik Saribekyan, the British Council Armenia director, underlines that the success of the project was largely dependent on the close cooperation and assistance of the government. She particularly stressed the support of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia and the collaboration with the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Civil Service Council thanks to whom the project has been very targeted and reached to the right audiences.