The foreign ministers of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine are together in Brussels on Thursday (24 June) for their first joint visit to the EU since the three countries formalised the format of ‘Associated Trio’ last May. This exclusive opinion by David Zalkaliani, Aureliu Ciocoim and Dmytro Kuleba highlights their countries’ higher EU ambition.
David Zalkaliani, Aureliu Ciocoi, and Dmytro Kuleba are the foreign ministers of, respectively, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
Seven years ago, on 27 June 2014, our countries – Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – took a historic and decisive step towards their European future as they signed the Association Agreements with the European Union.
They included Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas and became the most ambitious agreements the EU has ever concluded with its neighbours. These agreements consolidated our freedom, democratic development and the process of building prosperous states.
They essentially upgraded the relations of the three Eastern Partners with the European Union and placed them firmly on the political and economic map of Europe, recognizing our states’ European aspirations as well as common history and values we share with the rest of Europe.
The EU became our first trade partner, major investor and destination for millions of our citizens travelling visa-free.
The agreements provide a framework for enhanced political association and economic integration between the EU and the Associated Partners gradually leading them towards integration into the EU Internal Market.
The agreements serve as effective and comprehensive guides to the dynamic reform processes in the three Associated Partners. For the EU, these became also powerful instruments to accompany and assist us along the road of this historic and challenging transformation.
The then President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, noted on the occasion of the signature that these are not just any other agreements, but milestones in the history of our relations and Europe as a whole.
Since then, the Associated Partners have been gradually and steadily implementing the agreements. We have reached tangible progress reforming public administration, liberalising trade, transforming transport and energy, developing people-to-people contacts through visa liberalisation, promoting environmental agenda, enhancing security.
Strengthening our democracies and the rule of law, fighting corruption and improving the judicial system have always been and remain essential priorities. Certainly, much work still remains to be done, but our commitment is strong.
While focusing on the reform agenda, our countries have remained exposed to security challenges, in particular, the unresolved conflicts.
Russia’s attempted annexation and illegal occupation of the territories of Georgia, Ukraine and the unresolved conflict in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova have severely threatened the sovereignty and undermined the territorial integrity of our countries.
These violations of international law have significantly destabilized European and regional security and undermined the rules-based international order. We look forward to working together with the EU to promote peace and security in the region.
Being three independent nations, we are united behind our European choice and the desire to bring our relations with the EU to a new level. Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have already gained significant experience in cooperating and coordinating on the path of our European integration, including within the Eastern Partnership (EaP) format.
Setting the Association Trio reflects our aspirations to become members of the European Union, affirms our commitment to further progress in implementing Association Agreements with the EU and explores a new momentum for the strategic development of the EaP with regard to ambitions and progress of partners.
Beyond the overarching goal to achieve membership in the European Union, the Association Trio will work on expanding, in addition to DCFTA-related issues, the agenda of dialogues between European Commission and partners to new thematic areas such as transport, energy, digital transformation, green economy, education, justice and home affairs, strategic communications, healthcare, culture etc.
We will be looking beyond the DCFTA framework to seek additional tools for deepening our economic integration as well as enhancing a strong, safe, and reliable connectivity with the EU.
Another important element of the Trio’s joint activity will be to enhance security and defence cooperation with the EU, including on countering hybrid threats, strengthening cyber resilience, developing cooperation platforms with the relevant EU agencies and services.
We will continue participating in CSDP missions and operations proving our status as reliable and valuable partners in the EU Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) projects.
On 24 June we visit Brussels for the first time as the Association Trio. We intend to make this cooperation as practical and result-oriented as possible, and also forward-looking and open to new benchmarks. Our common message is:
The path of change may be thorny, but it is matched by our commitment and determination. The EU can make a real difference in our region. We are ready to engage actively with the EU on political, expert and civil society levels to promote the European perspective of our states. Let’s seize this opportunity together.
Effective implementation of our Association Agreements is a priority. At the same time, let’s work together and see where our joint dialogue with the EU can bring added value, speed up integration and develop further opportunities.
The Eastern Partnership needs a political boost and new horizons of cooperation. We shall work together on bringing the EaP framework closer to the needs and aspirations of its participants. While preserving the inclusivity of the Partnership we should not limit the potential for differentiation.
The Associated Trio is a manifestation of our strong determination and sovereign choice of our nations to pursue the path of European integration. We are at a new juncture of our journey and we hope that our friends and partners will stand by our side along the way of our European integration.
Photo: Twitter of Head of the MFA of Ukraine