By Pavel Filip, Prime Minister of Moldova
The 5th Eastern Partnership Summit, due to take place in Brussels at the end of November, will be a moment of timely questions and key decisions. How will the EU respond to the European aspirations of associate members? What is the general evaluation and what are the policy choices of European decision-makers in what concerns the relationship between the EU and its Eastern neighbourhood? Should we expect the continuation of business-as-usual or a tipping point, which would bring more clarity? What is the future for EaP (Eastern Partnership) countries? As is often the case, a complete answer cannot be offered to all these issues at a one time event. What Moldova, as an associate country, hopes for is the right balance in rhetoric and policies between idealism and pragmatism. I will try to explain what this fortunate outcome would entail.
Europe in general and the European Union in particular are in a better shape than a few years ago. Economic growth has returned and populist momentum has decreased with mainstream politicians winning key elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany. My hope is that this wind of positive change will influence the perception on the European perspective of countries like Moldova. What will happen in Brussels will be consequential for the future of committed associate countries like Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. Against those who would hope and advise otherwise, we advocate for clarity and value-driven answers. We strongly believe that our place is in the West and that our return to Europe should be welcomed in official statements and encouraged; obviously, any outcome and final decision will depend on the pace of reforms and our performance. But the openness policy will help us mobilize and act and bring on board those who are still skeptical about our European path.
In Moldova, in a political climate in which the pro-Russian socialists, if in power, would abandon European integration, the positive signal would matter a lot. At this point, we believe that inscribing in the Constitution the pro-EU direction of the country would be an adequate answer to revisionist attempts and the EaP summit would only strengthen this option. The EU is a symbiosis of democracy, rule of law, prosperity, and development, and it is our major task to prove to the Moldovan population that one cannot have one without the other. The decisions are important not only for the Eastern countries, but also for the future of the EU: the question about the Eastern Partnership is part of a broader reflection process about the future of Europe. The fundamental debate has not yet taken place at the EU level and it is unlikely to take place before the November summit, but the initial positions will frame the conversation.
Recently, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have put forward a joint position paper with regard to the 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit. It is normal to set a high bar for European accession. In the Moldovan case, despite encouraging evolutions and progress in the last two years, we admit things remain to be done under the framework of the association agreements, there are fundamental things to be accomplished so that the democratic and economic progress will produce direct effect in our citizens’ daily lives. There is room to transform the relationship and to make it more results-oriented, there is room to put more resources where they can trigger virtuous cycles of consolidation and growth. We have a whole range of ideas and policies that can help making our progress irreversible: more connectivity via better and safer transport links, reduction of roaming charges, more energy cooperation and integration, enhanced academic mobility and scientific exchanges, more market opportunities and investments in key structural reforms, the implementation of circular labour migration schemes, and increased cooperation in crisis management, conflict resolution, and societal resilience.
At the same time, amid reconfigurations, progress and national sensitivities, we argue that the European integration door should be kept open for those who meet the standards. Such an approach would serve both the EU’s goals and ours. We believe in the power of the Eastern Partnership Summit to bring together clear strategic directions and pragmatic ideas, to enhance cooperation and to make it more effective. The principles behind the creation of the EaP should only be reinforced.
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