LII COSAC 30 November – 2 December, Rome European

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
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
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
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
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!