Jan Tombiński, Ambassador of the European Union, Petras Vaitiekūnas, Ambassador of Lithuania (new EU presidency) and Tomislav Vidošević, Ambassador of Croatia (newest EU member state) gave a press conference at the EU Delegation on July 3. During the meeting they spoke about the EU as an open project, about Lithuania’s EU presidency priorities, about Croatia’s EU accession experience, and about Ukraine’s Association Agreement prospects. Read below the summary of the ambassadors’ key points.
On EU as an “open project”. Jan Tombiński: Croatia’s EU accession shows that “European project is still an attractive tool to modernise the country, to stabilise democracy, to stabilise good neighbourly relations and to use the potential of a country to the best way”. “Europe is an open project,” Tomislav Vidošević adds.
On EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Jan Tombiński: “The main element in the Association Agreement is not to sign it; the main message is to implement it and mean it. It is not about the ceremonial act, but about the mutual long-lasting engagement.”
On Ukraine’s EU membership prospects. Jan Tombiński: “Ask and respond the right questions at the right time. As for tomorrow, we have to respond to the question of the Association Agreement. If we don’t give an answer to this agreement, then the other questions are without ground.”
Petras Vaitiekūnas: “We not only believe that Ukraine will belong to the European Union, but we also think that Ukraine must belong to the EU. We are working hard to deepen the understanding about the importance of Ukraine in Europe, and about the competition which goes on over this country. There are two systems competing over Ukraine: the European Union and the European civilisation based upon values, on the one hand, and Eurasian Union based upon unstable balance of interests and power, on the other”.
On delaying adoption of EU-related legislation in Ukraine. Jan Tombiński: “The Ukrainian parliament was elected on 28th of October. We are now in July. How much time has been lost since this parliament has been established! Four out of five parties present in this parliament dispose of an overwhelming majority and stress the need to do everything in order to sign the Association Agreement. How does the reality match the declaration? If all energy [spent on other issues] has been dedicated to the work needed to pass the legislation, then, I guess, we would be right in time. In politics it is always better to manage your political time, and not to work under pressure of events. And we are now in the situation when the time is imposing the agenda, not the agenda organising the time.”
On trust in EU-Ukraine relations. Jan Tombiński: “One of the main factors for Vilnius [Eastern Partnership summit in November] is to build trust in relations between EU and Ukraine. This trust was missing for a certain period of time. If we are in a situation that we are confronted with last-minute decisions and solutions, I doubt whether it will be a confidence between us.”
On visa liberalization. Jan Tombiński: “There is missing legislation [in Ukraine] with regard to anti-discrimination law, with regard to setting some administrative agencies related to anti-corruption policy and to data protection. All these laws are linked to Visa liberalization action plan. If these pieces of legislation are not there, then we will not have the assessment of the progress made by Ukraine. The technical procedures are the following: first, legislation needs to be adopted, then the Ukrainian government submits an assessment of what has been done to the European Commission, then the European Commission assesses this progress together with the EU Member States, and then we pass to the next phase. We planned to get all these things ready by Vilnius Eastern Partnership summit (November, 2013), but now I’m afraid that we might not be ready by Vilnius.
This is not about some conditions put by the EU. It is about mutual agreement, because there has been agreement with the Ukrainian side, and therefore it is not something which suddenly came from Brussels”.
On Croatia’s EU accession experience. Tomislav Vidošević: Negotiations with the EU are “not only the issue of harmonisation of legislation in the parliament, but also about the most important thing: implementation of those laws.”
On EU integration’s advantage for young people. Tomislav Vidošević: “The biggest advantage of EU accession is that we are going to live in a free Europe, with no wars, which will mean a lot for the young people and for new generations”.
On Lithuania’s EU Presidency priorities. Petras Vaitiekūnas: Lithuania’s EU presidency will be based upon three pillars: Credible Europe, Growing Europe, and Open Europe. Credible Europe objective will be focused on a stable financial sector and public finance and effective growth oriented EU economic governance and stronger social dimension. Growing Europe objective will be focused on greater investment into research and technological development, deeper integration of the internal market, as well as better employment opportunities and sustainable social security. Open Europe objective will be focused on tackling global challenges effectively, promoting democratic values, contributing to safe neighbourhood, and actively protecting the rights of EU citizens. The Presidency will also focus on the closer integration of the EU and its Eastern Partners, hosting the Eastern Partnership Summit in November 2013. It will pursue the continuation of the enlargement process, smarter control of the EU’s external borders, and better coordination in the external dimension of EU energy policy.