Warsaw, 30 September 2011 – The Eastern Partnership – initiated in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy – is currently holding a summit meeting in Warsaw. In addition to the representatives from the 27 EU countries, the governments of the six partner countries of the Eastern Partnership – the Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – are also attending the meeting. Austria attaches great importance to this region: Only recently an Austrian Embassy was opened in Baku, a coordination office for cooperation in development is to be opened in Tiflis, and state visits of Austrian President Heinz Fischer are planned to Azerbaijan and Armenia.
In his speech to representatives of the other governments, State Secretary Dr. Wolfgang Waldner, who represented Austria at the summit meeting today, confirmed that the development of democratic structures meeting the rules of law is essential for the approach of these states to the EU. “The effort to cast off the pressing burden of the authoritarian past is proving to be much more difficult than anticipated. This should, however, not be used as an excuse for pursuing backward policies or for obstructing change“, Waldner said urging the people in charge to speed up the reform efforts and not to fall back on old paradigms. The events of the “Arab Spring” showed that the people would in the end claim their right of co-determination, participation and free expression of opinion.
The Eastern Partnership had heightened the dynamics of the relations to the six partner states and triggered reforms he said: “Great progress has been made, but there is still a lot that remains to be done to fully benefit from the potential available. The success of our cooperation in the Eastern Partnership will very much depend on the degree to which our partners are ready to carry out far-reaching reforms. This also includes the joint commitment to the universal values of democracy, the respect of human rights and the rule of law.”
Waldner said Austria would be very interested in taking the partnership with this region to new levels in order to create a European area of stability and prosperity. Austria’s economy has been enjoying significant increases in exports to this region for many years: In 2010, for example, Austrian exports to the Ukraine rose by more than 25 % to reach € 667 million. Austrian companies continue to play a leading role among foreign investors.
It would be to the benefit of all stakeholders if the relationship to the Eastern partners was intensified by offering political association and economic integration, and he continued: „We have to make good use of this win-win situation that is presenting itself through strengthening our relations. And this calls for dedicated efforts and trust on both sides”, the State Secretary concluded.
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