A renewed partnership building on an area of peace, security and prosperity
1. Closer dialogue with Eastern partners
Designed to prevent the emergence of new dividing lines within Europe and to create a ring of friends at EU borders, the Eastern Partnership is an EU initiative directed at 6 countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), for which the EPP Group has been a driving force from the very start in 2004. This privileged partnership is built on mutual commitment to common values and offers EU neighbours the opportunity to share the benefits of the EU through gradual integration in the EU economy.
• Strengthening the Eastern Partnership: During the 2009-2013 legislature, the EPP Group has worked hard at deepening the Eastern Partnership and preparing the ground for the conclusion of association agreements with neighbouring countries. Association agreements, includingDeep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas are crucial tools for the profound transformation of these countries and will play an instrumental role in strengthening stability, consolidating democracy and promoting economic growth and well-being. The EPP Group welcomed the association agreements initialed with Moldova and Georgia and the cooperation agreements signed with the other Eastern Partners.
• Condemnation of the pressure exercised by Russia on Eastern Partners: The EPP Group strongly condemns the unacceptable pressure, using political and economic means, exercised by Russia against Eastern Partners, especially in the run-up to the Vilnius Summit, to deter them from association with the EU.
• Euronest Parliamentary Assembly: The EPP Group initiated the process that led to the creation of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, which constitutes the parliamentary dimension of the Eastern Partnership. It encourages dialogue and the sharing of best practices in parliamentary work methods, and also plays a crucial role in bringing Eastern partners closer to the EU and in reaching out to their citizens.
2. European perspective of the Western Balkans
The EPP Group has always insisted on the European perspective of the Western Balkans, supporting the ongoing economic and political efforts in the region.
• Successful EU mediation effort between Belgrade and Pristina: The EU-facilitated dialogue allowed an agreement to be reached between Belgrade and Pristina, paving the way for a normalisation of their relations and providing the first steps on their European path.
• Accession of Croatia to the EU: On 1 July 2013, Croatia finally became the 28th Member State of the European Union. This was a major success for the EPP Group, which has strongly supported the accession process and had pushed for early accession before the opening of negotiations in 2005. The EPP Group welcomed 5 new Members from Croatia to the Parliament.
3. Openness to the South: Euro-Mediterranean policy
The EPP Group favours a differentiated partnership between the EU and countries in its Eastern and Southern neighbourhood. It recognises the strategic importance of the Mediterranean area and considers that the EU, which is the main lender in the region, should be more involved there. The current geopolitical situation in the region has called for an enhanced cooperation in order to achieve a situation of peace, stability and prosperity.
• Support to democracy and rule of law: The peaceful popular demonstrations of the “Arab Spring” which began at the end of 2010 constituted a milestone in the modern history of the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood. They expressed a legitimate aspiration to democracy, the fight against corruption and the respect for the rule of law, to which the EU can contribute to advancing through enhanced political dialogue.
• Measuring individual performances of the neighbouring countries: Having actively supported the end of violence and the peaceful democratic transition in those countries, the EU conducted a review of EU neighbourhood policy to strengthen its dialogue and cooperation with Southern Partners sharing common democratic values. The “Partnership for democracy and shared prosperity” with the Southern Mediterranean is based on the “more for more” concept defended by the EPP Group. ‘More for more’ stands for a more meritocratic neighbourhood policy which foresees more political and financial support to those neighbourhood countries that implement more reforms and are more democratic.
• Involvement of civil society and promotion of grass-roots development: The EPP Group has advocated greater involvement of civil society in the initiatives taken in the framework of the Southern Partnership in order to spread the values of tolerance, respect for human rights and gender equality. It also insisted on giving more active support to local businesses and to promote direct investment.
4. Support to the Middle East peace process
• The EU is an active player in supporting efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and contributes to the Middle East Peace process, in particular as a member of the so-called Middle East Quartet (US, EU, Russia and UN). The EPP Group strongly supports the peace process and believes in comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on the two-state solution.
One voice for Europe worldwide
The EPP Group has been at the forefront in promoting the idea of a credible, visible and coherent external policy. The institutional innovations introduced by the new Lisbon Treaty offer the EU a unique opportunity to take its rightful place on the international stage and speak with one voice.1. A consolidated European diplomacy
The Parliament fully asserted its role in the setting up of the EEAS (European External Action Service), and the EPP Group largely inspired the debate on the legal nature of the service, its composition and financing. • Setting up of the European External Action Service (EEAS): The EEAS is the major innovation arising from the Lisbon Treaty. It relies on the resources and institutions of the EU and the Member States to assist the High Representative in the role of coordinating European external action. Above all, it counters the dispersal of powers within the EU and improves the anticipation and responsiveness of European crisis management.
2. Crisis management and conflict prevention
• The EU operation centre: The EPP Group has always called for the setting up of a permanent European centre of operations to ensure the coherence and credibility of European action and therefore welcomed the Member States’ agreement on its creation. The EU Operation Centre was activated for the first time in the framework of EU action in the Horn of Africa to coordinate and increase synergies between the EU’s civil and military actions.
• Strengthening of European defence policy: The EPP Group firmly believes that in view of the current security situation, greater substance must be given to European defence policy. More than twenty missions have been completed throughout the world in response to political and humanitarian crises, armed conflict, or to support the reconstruction of a state. Having been active in the Horn of Africa to combat piracy, the EU launched the EU Training Mission in Mali, willing to respond to the serious instability threat in the wider Sahel region and demonstrating its ability to react effectively.
• Reinforcing of EU military capabilities: The only way to maintain Europe’s technological lead and reduce costs at the same time is by protecting and developing an efficient European defence industry. In line with the EPP Group’s priorities, Member States have demonstrated their will to do more together. The Ghent Initiative provides for the pooling and sharing of national capabilities and support structures, thus intensifying military cooperation at EU level and allowing a better and more rapid response to security challenges.