Joint article by Guido Westerwelle and Jan Kohout in the FTD

04.03.2010 - Interview

The Czech and German people share a long common history. Most importantly, we have succeeded in turning the dark pages of our past into fruitful and peaceful good-neighbourly relations. Today, our mutual interests within the European Union have also converged to a high degree. An excellent case in point is the EU's policy towards its neighbours.

The EU cannot exist in a vacuum, as developments in our neighbourhood necessarily have an impact on us - just as developments within in the EU have an impact on our neighbours. Better governance, sustainable reform processes, economic prosperity throughout Eastern Europe are undoubtedly in our all interest. Therefore, Germany and the Czech Republic, alongside with other EU partners, from the beginning have actively promoted the Eastern Partnership initiative, aiming at bringing six countries of Eastern Europe (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) closer not only to EU principles and values, but also to its markets, its economical standards and benefits.

The Eastern Partnership targets at concrete action and practical benefits such as assisting our partners in upgrading regulatory frameworks and administrative capacities, thus enabling them to interact more successfully with the EU in key areas. Planning is already under way for concrete projects in the fields of environmental governance, the fight against corruption or disaster relief.

Eastern Europe has faced serious difficulties over the last years.The Georgian-Russian conflict in August 2008, the gas crisis in January 2009, and the international economic and financial crisis have not only had a strong impact on the region. They were also an urgent reminder for the EU to engage all the more closely with its neighbours, especially to the East. The enhanced Eastern Neighbourhood Policy including not only the Eastern Partnership, but also the Black Sea Synergy, can serve as key instrumentsto these ends.

At the core lies the principle of differentiation. Our partners to the East are diverse. They have their individual political and economical systems and vary in their policy outlook. They have reached different levels of interaction and relations with the EU. Therefore, “one size fits all” is not an option: The EU respects the diversity of its neighbours and their different levels of ambition with regard to the EU. Consequently, the degree of progress in forging closer ties with the EU will depend on the individual merits of each country.

At the same time, we believe that joint ownership of the Eastern Partnership project is crucial for its success. We want them all to be “on board”, as the Eastern Partnership needs our partners´ active engagement in shaping this common project.

One of the most important partner countries within the Eastern Partnership is Ukraine. In the country´s recent presidential elections, international monitors have commented the elections as transparent and fair. We very much welcome that President-elect Yanukovich has already expressed his support for the further realization of European values in Ukraine, ranging from internal politics to the economic and financial crisis. Our message to the Ukrainian people is clear: A democratic Ukraine can count on European support in continuing the necessary political and economic reforms. In this context, the Eastern Partnership could provide an excellent basis for future cooperation.

The Eastern Partnership is not a private club. Third countries like Russia and Turkey are most welcome to participate in concrete projects and activities of the Eastern Partnership, where this offers added value.Other countries and International Financial Institutions are equally welcome to contribute within their means. The basic Eastern Partnership framework was designed by the Prague Declaration in May 2009.Now is the time to act, time to deliver and time to produce tangible results in cooperation with our partners.

Thirteen years ago, in the Czech-German / German-Czech Declaration on Mutual Relations and their Future Development we committed ourselves to orientate our relations towards the future. The active engagement of our two nations in the European Neighborhood Policy and in the Eastern Partnership is an excellent practical example of this commitment. We are determined to enhance our cooperation even more in the future, with a strong focus to Eastern Europe and the Eastern Partnership.

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