Ukraine: EU welcomes Presidential elections, takes note of early assessment
The EU welcomes the Presidential elections in Ukraine and will work closely with the next President to ensure the country’s political and economic stability, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso said a joint statement issued today.
“We take good note of the OSCE/ODIHR’s preliminary assessment that the presidential election in Ukraine was characterised by high turnout and a clear resolve by the authorities to hold what was a genuine election largely in line with international commitments and that respected fundamental freedoms, despite the hostile security environment in two eastern regions of the country,” the statement said, urging all Ukrainians to take these polls “as an opportunity for a fresh start for the country,” and accept the outcome of the vote once the final results are known.
Van Rompuy and Barroso described the successful holding of these elections as a major step towards de-escalating tensions and restoring security in Ukraine. “We count on the continued commitment of all parties to the Geneva Joint Statement to the electoral process and to its outcome, and welcome Russia’s statements that it will respect the will of the Ukrainian people and engage in a dialogue with the new Ukrainian President,” said Van Rompuy and Barroso.
They stressed the need for further steps towards easing tensions in Ukraine, including the use of leverage on armed groups to de-escalate the situation on the ground.
“Ukraine and its people now need peace and stability in order to engage in the implementation of much needed and far-reaching reforms,” the statement said, adding the round tables of national unity have shown that Ukrainians from different political backgrounds and regions are ready to take up this challenge.
The EU stands ready to assist Ukraine in this endeavour, and it counts on other international partners to do the same, the statement concluded. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
New Pro-European Group Formed In Armeniahttp://www.azatutyun.am Karlen Aslanian 22.05.2014
Prominent civil activists announced on Thursday the creation of a new political movement that will campaign for Armenia’s European integration and against its planned accession to a Russian-led union of ex-Soviet states.
Holding the founding gathering of their “political and civil alliance” called the European Choice, they said will strive to consolidate Armenian political parties opposed to joining the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. None of those parties has shown a strong interest in the initiative so far.
The European Choice was initiated by Boris Navasardian, the chairman of the Yerevan Press Club who has also headed a grouping of several dozen non-governmental organizations supporting Armenia’s participation in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program. Their EU-sponsored Civil Society Platform strongly criticized President Serzh Sarkisian after he unexpectedly decided last August to make Armenia part of the Russian-dominated bloc at the expense of an Association Agreement with the EU.
Navasardian on Thursday reiterated his view that membership in the Customs Union would lead to a “loss of sovereignty” and “very serious socioeconomic problems” for Armenia. He said integration with the EU is what would guarantee the country’s economic development, independence and security.
“For us, the key thing is to prevent Armenia’s accession to the customs and Eurasian unions,” said Artur Sakunts, a human rights campaigner and another founding member of the European Choice. “It’s a real threat, a plan to create hegemony of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s regime.”
Anna Shahnazarian, an environment protection activist, claimed that “colonization” by Russia would also make Armenia’s political system more repressive. “Membership in the customs or Eurasian union would make the realization of my civil rights impossible,” she said.
Ahead of their meeting, the European Choice leaders appealed to several pro-Western opposition parties to join their initiative. Only one of those parties, Zharangutyun (Heritage), is represented in Armenia’s parliament.
Unlike Zharangutyun, the three other opposition parties holding parliament seats have not explicitly objected to Sarkisian’s controversial foreign policy choice. Consequently, none of them was invited to participate in the meeting.
Representatives of Zharangutyun and the other invited political groups also did not show up. The pro-European activists said they were told that those parties need to thoroughly examine the initiative before deciding whether or not to join in.
Navasardian asserted that virtually all Armenian parties are reluctant to displease Russia. But he said he still hopes that some of them will team up with his new grouping. “If they don’t, it will mean that forming a new political force in Armenia with a clearly pro-European ideology is imperative,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
‘Unprecedented’ high-level meeting in Brussels takes stock of EU-Georgia agenda ahead of Association Agreement signature
The domestic and security situation in Georgia and in the wider region, the state of play of EU-Georgia cooperation and the future development of relations were the focus of an “unprecedented” meeting, yesterday in Brussels, between the European Commission and the Government of Georgia. The meeting, headed respectively by President José Manuel Barroso and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, reflected “Georgia’s unique relationship with the EU” and “the special nature of this relationship,” a joint statement said.
The EU reiterated its firm “commitment to political association and economic integration with Georgia, opening up a new chapter in EU-Georgia relations.”
Both sides welcomed the completion of work on the Association Agenda, a set of jointly agreed priorities for 2014-2016 that will help prepare Georgia for the implementation of the Association Agreement (AA), which, Georgia stressed, “is not the final goal in the EU and Georgia’s mutual cooperation”.
The Commission reaffirmed the EU’s “unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.” It also acknowledged “the European aspirations and the European choice of Georgia and its commitment to build deep and sustainable democracy.”
Both sides stressed the importance of holding the forthcoming local elections “to the same high democratic standards as parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012 and 2013.”
The joint statement also underlined the need for Georgia to continue reforms in all areas relevant for the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan, including human rights and data protection, as well as in the justice sector.
Both sides noted the importance of close cooperation on energy issues and highlighted Georgia’s increased role for the EU’s energy security.
The European Commission and Georgia pledged to step up cooperation in a range of sectors, such as energy, transport, agriculture and rural development, tourism, education and research. The Commission welcomed Georgia’s long-term socio-economic development strategy (Georgia 2020), pledging support in the implementation of the DCFTA.
The Georgian side welcomed the EU’s commitment to step up its financial assistance to Georgia for the period 2014-2017 to accompany the implementation of the Association Agreement. Indeed, yesterday saw the signing between the European Commission and the Georgian government of a Financing Agreement worth €19 million for the ‘Framework Programme in support of EU-Georgia Agreements’ to assist with reforms in priority areas necessary for the successful implementation of the Agreement. The European Commission also announced additional funding to Georgia of €30 million, in line with the Eastern Partnership’s “more for more” principle, “in recognition of Georgia’s progress towards deep democracy.”
The Commission reaffirmed the EU’s continued commitment to peace, stability and conflict resolution efforts in Georgia. The sides agreed on the need “to engage more actively with the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia with an emphasis on identifying pragmatic solutions.” They underlined their commitment to the Geneva International Discussions, welcomed the continued support shown by EU Member States for the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) and emphasised its contribution to the stability of the country.
A separate memo, published today by the European Commission, provides background information about the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, due to be signed on 27 June, as well as the EU’s financial assistance to Georgia. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
European Commission – Memo