LII COSAC 30 November – 2 December, Rome European integration prospects: Global role of the European Union and projection of its policies in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe Lolita Čigāne Chairperson of the European Affairs Committee of the Saeima Dear Colleagues, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen! The year 2014 is indeed the year of radical challenges, one can even say the ‘moment of truth’ for the Neighbourhood Policy of the European Union. This reality can not be ignored. As has been clearly pointed out, military expansion of Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq, Syria and Libya as well as Russia’s blatant aggression in Ukraine significantly destabilised the EU’s Southern and Eastern regions. These regional ‘tectonic’ geopolitical changes now pose a threat to the EU’s own territory, economy and integrity. Can we deal with them, by assessing or perhaps even reforming our current regional cooperation policy instruments: the Union for the Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership? I deliberately put the two EU foreign policy directions – the Middle East and the North Africa and the Eastern Europe – close together, since only the EU ability to deal with both of them will give the so much-desired global credibility to the foreign policy of the united Europe. Both regional policies must not be opposed to each other neither in the official statements, nor in the behind-the-scenes bargaining process and fighting for funding. It is my deepest conviction that by indulging member state’s temptation to prioritize their geographically and culturally closest regions, the European Union is losing its strongest asset– solidarity and unity. Unfortunately, the division and inability to look beyond narrow regional interests is sometimes the Achilles heel or weak point of the European Union. In Latvia we cannot pretend that the huge territory in Syria and Iraq controlled by the so called Islamic State - a safe haven of extremism, does not concern us. The Islamic fundamentalist movement causes major threat for all EU and as pan-European challenge calls for engagement of all member states. Similarly, here in South of Europe we should not ignore the situation in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. The Eastern Partnership will be one of the priorities during our upcoming Presidency and the Riga Summit should set in motion a fundamental revision of it. There are lots of practical matters that should be considered during the Riga Summit, for instance, taking stock of the signed Association Agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova and searching for new cooperation models in the areas of mutual interest with Belarus, Azerbaijan and Armenia. However, along these practical matters an in-depth discussion has to be conducted on at least two key outstanding political issues: 1. Setting out clear and fair goals within the Eastern Partnership: what should be the outcome of this Initiative for those partner countries with a true aspiration to join the European Union one day? 2. and most challenging - how to build relations with Russia? Dear Colleagues! I am convinced that the reviewed Eastern Partnership must convey a clear political message that Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia will have an opportunity to start EU accession negotiations at some point in future, after completing all the required democratic reforms and ensuring compliance with the set criteria. Yes, no one has doubts that the reform process will take a very long time, perhaps even decades. However, a clear perspective of accession will be the best motivation to make serious and significant reforms in the Partnership countries. In my view, till now the Eastern Partnership has been focused on an overly technocratic approach, similar to that applied in accession negotiations, but didn’t give partners a clear prospect of closer European integration. Eastern Partnership should be diversified with a tailored approach to each specific partner country. In recent years, I have had the opportunity to visit Ukraine frequently. And during these visits I was surprised to witness the growing support for the European integration in Ukraine. “Thank you for believing in us and helping us! We also want to be where you are now - in Europe!” that was the common message in all conversations, facilitated by my knowledge of the Russian language. According to the latest sociological surveys, public support in Ukraine for the EU membership is approaching 70%. Ukrainians, who fearlessly stood under sniper bullets in Maidan last winter or who now as voluntaries are fighting against Russian backed separatists and Russian regular forces in Donbas region, are driven by desire for freedom, rule of law and sense of belonging to the broader European space. Same principles on which the European Communities were created by their founding fathers Schuman, De Gasperi and Adenauer. That is why the Riga Summit will seek to agree on relevant roadmaps including strong and supportive signals for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, with a perspective on either accession or a special privileged economic and political partnership in distant future. Second,– key issue- on Russia. Unfortunately, Putin's Russia has been escalating the conflict aimed at the reacquisition of the control over former Soviet area. Annexation of Crimea, arming of Donbas separatists, as well as involvement of regular Russian army units, on the Ukrainian territory attest Putin`s imperialist goals. A couple days ago I came across a quote, “in March 2014, Europeans woke up in the Vladimir Putin’s world”. I can fully agree with the firm approach by NATO on Russia’s possible further aggressive behaviour, but thinking of long term solutions, we are far from finding them. As a representative of a country with a long history of the Soviet occupation, I would like to point out that before restarting EU’s relations with Russia a radical change in Russia's behaviour is needed. First, Russia must respect the sovereignty and full territorial integrity of Ukraine. That would allow the EU to withdraw the majority of sanctions. Second, and more importantly, Russia has to fully recognize the European choice of the Ukrainian, Georgian and Moldovan people. Unfortunately for now Russia is showing no signs of willingness to de-escalate the conflict and its troops are still present in Ukraine. I wonder whether in current conflict Putin sees the world as a zero-sum game, where only one can be the winner, rather than search for a win-win compromise, I am however afraid that in his eyes any compromise could only be a sign of weakness. Dear Colleagues! One can agree that the European Neighbourhood policy faces challenges of unprecedented complexity. However, I truly believe in the EU’s solidarity and ability to find a solution in the most difficult situations. This has been a major driving force of the European integration and we have previously benefited greatly from that. The Riga Eastern Partnership Summit has the potential to become a major milestone for the fundamental review of the Partnership. It has to use the opportunity to give to our partner countries a clear roadmap for the enlargement perspective in the more distant future. At the same time, the European Union should speak clearly and straightforwardly with Russia. I will be glad to see you at the events of the Parliamentary Dimension of the Latvian Presidency in Riga!