On 25 October at the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers exchanged opinions on the discussion that was initiated by the European Commission regarding the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, which would be carried out in order to shape future relations of the EU with its southern and eastern neighbours, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release.
During the discussion, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis highlighted Lithuania’s active support to the European Neighbourhood Policy and its further development. The Foreign Minister based these statements on his own letter that he sent to EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and to European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle a few weeks ago.
Since the launch of the Eastern Partnership initiative, Lithuania has valued it as an instrument enabling the EU’s eastern neighbours to move closer to the EU. This is one of Lithuania’s most important foreign policy priorities.
Although the European Neighbourhood Policy does not foresee an immediate perspective of the EU accession, the EU should continue its open door policy with regard to its Eastern neighbours.
Besides, the main objective of the Eastern Partnership should be the dissemination of the EU’s common values, including the functioning of democratic institutions and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The EU and its member states have to honour their commitments to help their neighbours in implementing the most necessary domestic reforms.
Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs considers that the EU should not set limits to the development of its relations with the Eastern Partnership countries. The currently ongoing negotiations on association agreements and on comprehensive free trade agreements could become insufficient.
“In the perspective of 10-15 years we would like to see the Eastern Partnership countries fully integrated into the EU’s internal markets and benefiting from the free movement of people, goods, capital and services,” Minister A.Ažubalis said.
When speaking about the future of the European Neighbourhood Policy, it is still very important to ensure the EU’s funding, which would be adequate to the partners’ ambitions to implement reforms. In this area, the Minister stressed the need to bind the EU’s financing with the progress made by the EU’s neighbours – those countries that demonstrate greater ambitions in implementing European integration reforms and stable progress should receive more attention and financial support from the EU.
The intensity of cooperation between the Eastern Partnership countries and the EU will depend on the pace of reforms, the honouring of commitments and on the fostering of democratic values. The European Neighbourhood Policy and, especially, relations with the countries of the Eastern Partnership initiative will remain among Lithuania’s foreign policy priorities. Therefore, Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue participating actively in the EU’s internal discussions regarding the community’s relations with these countries.
The Eastern Partnership initiative is an instrument that was designed for cooperation between the EU member states and six neighbouring countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. It aims at a more harmonious cooperation between the EU and its neighbours in the East, and at a better integration of these countries into the EU.