The Eastern Partnership Conference: towards a European Community of democracy, prosperity and a stronger civil society
An international conference entitled, “The Eastern Partnership Conference: towards a European Community of democracy, prosperity and a stronger civil society”, will be held in Warsaw on 29 September 2011. The conference is being organised as a side event of the Eastern Partnership Summit (29-30 September 2011) by the Centre for Eastern Studies, the Polish Institute of International Affairs, and the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum with the EaP Community involved as a media partner.
The conference is co-funded by the European Union. The Polish MFA is the conference partner.
During the conference we would like to bring together civil society representatives, experts and officials from both the EU and the EaP states in order to discuss the most important and current issues related to the Eastern Partnership initiative, such as the assessment of the implementation of the EaP, challenges and prospects over the next years, the role of civil societies in the EaP, economic integration, migration, and visa liberalisation.
15 September 2011
We, the undersigned members of the Coalition for the European Continent Undivided by Visa Barriers, call upon the leaders of the European Union and Eastern Partnership (EaP) states gathered at the EU-EaP summit in Warsaw on the 29th-30th of September, 2011, to reiterate their pledge to establish visa-free travel between the EU and the EaP countries and to commit to do so as soon as the technical criteria are met.
Supporting mobility of citizens and people-to-people contacts as a means to promote mutual understanding, as well as business, civil society and cultural ties, the EU should take steps towards full visa liberalisation as soon as individual countries meet the agreed conditions for well-managed and secure mobility set out in relevant documents.
Visa liberalisation has a common win-win outcome. By introducing the reforms in border security, police co-operation and exchange of information, the EaP countries will be strengthening the security and mutual confidence between the EU and the EaP countries, e.g. in co-operation on fight against organised crime, human trafficking or illegal migration, while at the same time tearing down the barriers that continue two decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The introduction of visa-free travel for EaP countries opens huge economic opportunities for EU business and tourists industries. Visa-free regime will also be a greater motivator for the EaP countries for further reforms.
We call on the EU to remove the wording of “as a long-term goal” as concerns visa liberalisation from all the relevant documents to be signed soon including drafts of negotiated Association Agreements with Ukraine and Moldova, as well as Visa Facilitation Agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Prague Declaration accompanying the launch of the Eastern Partnership initiative stated that the EU “will also take gradual steps towards full visa liberalisation as a long term goal”. However, in the context of already agreed Action Plans for visa liberalisation with Ukraine and Moldova, which serve as models for other EaP countries, there is no justification for postponing visa liberalisation for an indefinite future once the technical conditions are met.
We call upon the Polish Presidency to take concrete steps towards accelerating the visa liberalisation process for the EaP countries. Ukraine and Moldova should move into the next phase of the Action Plan as soon as possible, Georgia’s Action Plan should be launched, and Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements should be made a top priority with Belarus, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Moreover, efforts should be made to speed up the fulfilment of provisions and regulations set out in the existing Visa Facilitation Agreements (VFA) and the Visa Code. VFAs constitute the first step in the direction of abolishing visa restrictions, but so far have largely failed to compensate for negative outcomes following the last enlargement of the Schengen zone. Despite the expectations, the VFAs have not yet become an efficient instrument of simplification and have not yet made any significant impact on the visa procedure.
A renewed commitment to visa liberalisation with EaP countries would demonstrate that the EU is serious about its intention to establish “a more ambitious partnership between the European Union and the partner countries”, as stated in Prague Declaration. It would show that the EU treats its Eastern neighbours genuinely as partners. It would also give the Eastern neighbours, both their governments and societies, stronger motivation to fulfil burdensome and costly reforms that will help the EU to have secure borders. Such commitment should be reflected in the 2011 Summit Conclusions and Declaration.
Analytical Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation, Yerevan, Armenia
Association for International Affairs (AMO), Prague, Czech Republic
BelarusWatch, Lithuania, Vilnius, Lithuania
Civic Belarus, Prague, Czech Republic
Center for International Relations (CIR), Warsaw, Poland
Center for Social Innovations, Minsk, Belarus
DEMAS, Prague, Czech Republic
Eastern Europe Studies Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania
European Citizen Action Services (ECAS), Brussels, Belgium
Education for Democracy Foundation (FED), Warsaw, Poland
Europe without Barriers, Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine
EUROBELARUS International Consortium
EUROPEUM, Prague, Czech Republic
Free Belarus Initiative, Warsaw, Poland
Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, Tbilisi, Georgia
Hungarian Europe Society, Budapest, Hungary
Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation (ІEAC), Kyiv, Ukraine
Institute for Public Policy, Chisinau, Moldova
Instituteof Public Affairs(IPA), Warsaw, Poland
Nasz Wybór Foundation, Warsaw, Poland
Office for Democratic Belarus, Belarus/Brussels, Belgium
Open Society Institute Azerbaijan, Baku, Azerbaijan
Open Society Institute, Brussels, Belgium
Open Society Institute, Sofia, Bulgaria
Östgruppen – Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, Stockholm, Sweden
PASOS, Prague, Czech Republic
Public Movement “Multinational Georgia” (PMMG), Tbilisi, Georgia
Stowarzyszenie Projekt: Polska, Warsaw, Poland
Research Center of Slovak Foreign Policy Association, Bratislava, Slovakia
Romanian Centre for European Policies, Bucharest, Romania
Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA), Bratislava, Slovakia
Soros Foundation Latvia, Riga, Latvia
Stefan Batory Foundation, Warsaw, Poland
Ternopilska Foundation, Żyrardów, Poland
Coalition for the European Continent Undivided by Visa Barriers
Coalition for the European Continent Undivided by Visa Barriers was launched in Warsaw on November 26, 2010 on the initiative of the Stefan Batory Foundation. Today its members include more than 30 non-governmental organizations from different parts of Europe.
The coalition takes joint actions to speed up the process of EU visa liberalization with the countries of the Eastern Partnership (Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) and Russia. We want to make ourselves better heard by decision-makers and make a stronger stand for visa-freeEurope.
The Coalition is the outcome of many years of collaboration between the member organizations. Jointly we have prepared reports and policy papers, recommendations and advocacy tools. The activities of the Coalition are coordinated within the Friendly EU Border project, the Open Europe Programme of the Stefan Batory Foundation.
The members of the Coalition’s Steering Committee include Joanna Fomina from the Stefan Batory Foundation (Warsaw), Olga Stuzhinskaya from the Office for a Democratic Belarus (Brussels) and Oleksandr Sushko from Europe without Barriers (Kyiv).
Stefan Batory Foundation is an independent private Polish foundation established in 1988 by American financier and philanthropist George Soros and a group of Polish democratic leaders of the 80’s. The mission of the Foundation is to support the development of an open, democratic society in Poland and other Central and East European countries. Our priorities include: enhancing the role and involvement of civil society in public life; promoting the rule of law and transparency in public life; developing international cooperation and solidarity. The Foundation works proactively, encouraging long-term thinking, partnership between the public and private sectors, innovative approaches, and coalition building in addressing social problems. In its activity, the Foundation is guided by the principles of transparency, openness and accountability.