19 July 2021, Batumi, Georgia
Dear Madam President Zourabichvili, President Zelenskyy, President Michel, distinguished audience,
It is a pleasure to be here today, in Batumi, among good neighbors, partners and friends, to discuss how we can strengthen the trilateral cooperation among our countries on European integration.
Our participation in the 17th Batumi International Conference, which has well established itself as a strategic platform for strengthening the relations between the EU and the Eastern partner countries, is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of the Eastern Partnership policy for our countries, as well as to reiterate our pledge to work together for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous European future.
I would like to start by making one thing clear - the Eastern Partnership is a major success for our countries. Collectively, it has significantly improved our visibility in Europe, and it has helped us access additional tools that help us face common challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, energy security, hybrid threats, environmental and climate issues. The added value of a consolidated Eastern Partnership framework is undeniable, in this regard.
At the same time, individually, our three states have signed Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements that represent -- still today -- the backbone of our national reform agendas, and opened up new market opportunities for our businesses. We have liberalized our visa regimes with the EU that allow our citizens to travel freely to European countries. And we intensified our political dialogues on subject matters important to each of our states. These achievements constitute important steps in the pursuit of our European aspirations, and at the same time, allow us to seek closer ties with the EU on a more consolidated ground.
For Moldova, the DCFTA has brought new opportunities for enhanced trade that our businesses are still exploring. This year, 52% of our agrifood exports and 78% of non-farming exports go to the EU. For over 7 years, Moldovans can travel freely to the Schengen area. Many Moldovans have acquired new skills while travelling, studying or working in Europe, and brought back home new experiences and ideas.
With our Georgian and Ukrainian friends, today, we shared our views on the next steps that our countries could take to strengthen the Eastern Partnership even more. We discussed how we can move towards deeper integration with the EU, as countries that want to build Europe at home, but also become once part of the European family.
The Commission’s proposal for a renewed agenda for recovery, resilience and reform for all its Eastern partners, backed by a generous economic plan of 2.3 billion euros and a potential to mobilise up to 17 billion euros in investments, is excellent news for our countries which are looking to expand and deepen connections with Europe.
This proposal opens up many avenues for collaboration among ourselves and with the EU to work together to tackle modern-day challenges and deepen our economic integration with the EU.
We are set to explore these new opportunities while continuing the implementation of our Association Agreements, which lay the foundation for strengthening our political association and the further deepening of economic integration with the European Union.
We are well aware that the first and the most difficult steps lie at home, in this regard. Strengthening democratic institutions, consolidating the rule of law, ensuring the independence and accountability of the justice system, strengthening anti-corruption institutions, and restoring the trust of citizens in the state are key to unlocking our unexplored potential with the EU, but also with the rest of the world. These reforms are a must that cannot be simply bypassed or delayed. In this regard, we welcome the EU’s more-for-more principle, and the principle of conditionality.
The Batumi Summit Declaration that we have signed today outlines our commitments in those areas where we want to achieve more, and reaffirms our unifying desire to join the Union on a merit-based approach.
While sharing the same values of respect for the rule of law, democracy, and human rights, and being committed to working hard towards consolidating our democracies, we believe that we have the potential to contribute to the EU becoming a stronger union – a union that creates, a union that innovates, and a union that stands for all.