Swiss Ambassador to Armenia Lukas Gasser: Switzerland will try to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without questioning the established formats such as the OSCE Minsk process
by David Stepanyan
By the end of this year, the Swedish Government plans to adopt a new seven-year strategy for development cooperation with the EaP region, committing up to 500 million euros for this purpose, Foreign Minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, said in an article at the "Day" daily.
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) was launched in Prague in May 2009 after an initial proposal by Sweden and Poland. The idea - and promise - was to start a process of ever closer relations between the European Union and our Eastern European neighbours: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. Together, we have established that the EaP is based on a community of values, including democracy and human rights, and that it should accelerate the political association and economic integration of the Eastern European countries with the EU. We have also agreed that the partnership has a particular role to support those who seek an ever closer relationship with the EU. Furthermore, several of the partner countries have unambiguously stated that they even seek a clear perspective of future membership in the EU, and the EU has welcomed their European choice.
The new Swedish strategy will follow the cooperation that Sweden has been involved in with several of the EaP partners for a long time - in some cases since the early 1990s. The overall focus is on human rights, good governance, gender equality, civil society, the protection of the environment and the development of market economies. Sweden has also recently appointed a special Ambassador for the EaP, with the task of further enhancing our contribution to the partnership in the EU and in relation to the partners.
For Sweden - and for the EU - there are no alternatives to continued whole-hearted engagement with our Eastern European neighbours. Sharing the same continent, our destinies are intertwined. How we go about it is a matter of our choices. In the coming years, much of the focus should be on the implementation of mutual commitments in areas such as trade, mobility and further democratisation and protection of human rights. At the same time, we should start considering the next steps towards a reunited Europe, which could include an "EaP economic area". In any case, the EU has an obligation to remain ambitious in our approach towards the Eastern Partnership, as long as that ambition is matched by even a single partner. This idea, often referred to as the principle of "more for more", implies that the more progress a partner country makes, the more the EU will offer that country in return, in the form of closer relations and enhanced financial support.
It is my deep conviction that we have everything to gain from ever deeper relations in Europe and that, in a longer perspective perhaps, the door to the EU must remain open to any European country that wishes to join and that fulfills all the criteria.