The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad and Eastern Partnership (EaP) Countries, as well as the representatives of the EU Presidency, the Commission (COM), the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Group of the Nordic-Baltic Countries (NB8) had an informal meeting in Budapest on 28-29 April 2014, and discussed the future of the EaP in the light of the new challenges and mid-term tasks, issues to be dealt with halfway between the Vilnius and Riga Summits.

All speakers confirmed the validity of the Eastern Partnership policy and stressed the commitment to implement the goals set in the Vilnius Declaration.  They noted a substantial change in the geopolitical context of the realization of these goals and agreed in the need to adapt to the changed environment and to react jointly and effectively to the new challenges ahead.

V4 Ministers highlighted the importance of signing the AA/DCFTA with Georgia and Moldova in June 2014, as agreed by the European Council, implementing the AA and signing the remaining provisions of the AA/DCFTA with Ukraine as soon as possible, right after the presidential elections and supporting reforms of the most committed EaP partner countries. They stressed that a perspective of European integration, close political association and economic integration remains the best stimulus for deep reforms. The Ministers encouraged partner countries to make full use of the “more for more“ principle and expressed support to additional EU funding in support of reform efforts. They paid special attention to the implementation of AA/DCFTA by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

There was a general agreement regarding the necessity of adjusting relations with each of the six partners to their individual needs and different ambitions, taking into account the changing geopolitical context. V4 participants rejected any military or economic threat against EaP Partner Countries and reiterated their full support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. These participants also condemned the Russian armed aggression and the annexation of Crimea and further political and military actions to destabilise the Eastern part of Ukraine. Such a deplorable action undermines the fundaments of European peace and security and the validity of international legal order and principles. 

There was a wide ranging and active support to the economic and political stabilization of Ukraine. Participants welcomed the declared readiness of the Ukrainian leadership to offer inclusive solutions to all regions and national and linguistic minorities, and create the conditions for free and fair elections and expressed their expectations in this regard. The support was general to the unhindered activities of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and its leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities in de-escalating tensions.

Participants noted with satisfaction the progress made in the visa liberalization process. They  opportunity of visa free travel for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova got recognition and strong commitment has been expressed to achieve the same goal soon for the citizens of Ukraine and Georgia, as well. V4 Ministers expressed readiness for further progress with Armenia and Azerbaijan and welcomed the readiness of Belarusian authorities to negotiate on visa facilitation and readmission agreements, stressing the conviction that the mobility of people should be advanced.

During their talks participants stressed the importance of safe and secure access to energy and paid particular attention of strengthening dialogue and cooperation related to energy security. In this context they expressed their readiness to strengthen energy security cooperation in the EaP framework as well, involving all interested EaP countries.

Participants appreciated the efforts of EU COM and the EEAS in implementing the goals set out in the Vilnius Declaration. There was a general expectation to take further actions in the sphere of people-to-people contacts, support for the civil society, strengthening and developing the multilateral dimension of the EaP, including flagship initiatives and sectorial cooperation. There as an invitation to COM to prepare feasibility study regarding an EaP Economic Area. All Partners expressed readiness to take steps towards active cooperation within EaP programs and all stressed the need for better EaP visibility. The public of Partner countries should better recognize benefits of closer ties with the EU.

The V4  Ministers expressed their readiness  to share  experience of economic and political transition with better and enhanced use of IVF instruments, to provide more targeted assistance in capacity and institution building for implementing AA/ DCFTAs with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, joint projects serving good governance, judiciary  and police reforms, strengthening civic society, transparency and freedom of media for all. V4 Ministers also vowed to assist EaP societies’ in having enhanced access to credible information on the European Union. 

The participants of the Budapest informal EaP ministerial meeting expressed the commitment to work closely in implementing EaP goals and adapting instruments jointly to the new realities and challenges erupted in the neighbourhood. All expressed interest to have a successful summit meeting in Riga.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs)