Atlantic Council

Toward a Transatlantic Strategy for Europe’s East

Toward a Europe Whole and Free

Miroslav Lajčák,
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs,
Slovak Republic

Tamar Beruchashvili,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,

Vadyam Prystayko,
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs,

Konrad Pawlik,
Undersecretary of State for Development Cooperation, Polish Diaspora and Eastern Policy, and Minister of Foreign Affairs,

Samad Seyidov,
Chairman of International and Interparliamentary Relations Committee,
Azerbaijani Parliament

Paula Dobriansky,
Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs,
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Location: Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.

Time: 10:15 a.m. EDT
Date: Friday, January 30, 2015

Transcript By
Superior Transcriptions LLC

PAULA DOBRIANSKY: Well, good morning, everyone. I’m Paula Dobriansky. I’m a member of the Board and the Executive Committee of the Atlantic Council, and I’m very, very pleased to be here this morning with you. We had a very, I think, exciting discussion and leadoff this morning, and we’re going to do the same now.

First, by the way, I do want to congratulate the Atlantic Council and also the Latvian government as the EU presidency really for their vision to do what we’re doing today, which is to try to forge a comprehensive transatlantic strategy for Europe’s East. This is really an opportunity because it brings us together. Whether we have some divergent views or not, it’s bringing us together to take stock, to reassess the EU’s East Partnership, to also have a discussion about the U.S. role in this – in the region, and also to foster and advance an impactful Neighborhood Policy.

So I want to go immediately to our distinguished panel. And we’re going to hear first from the Slovak deputy prime minister and minister of foreign and European affairs, Miroslav Lajčák. And I want to pose to you the question of let’s step back and look at what is the best strategy going forward, you know, holistically. What has worked? What hasn’t worked? Look at the political, the economic and security elements. From where you’re sitting, what would you put forward for discussion? And welcome.

MINISTER MIROSLAV LAJČÁK: Thank you. (Laughter.) Thank you. And like you, I really appreciate the opportunity to be here and to discuss strategically our partnership with regard to our Eastern policy. And I think the kickoff was very good. I really liked Radek and Steve’s beginning of the discussion.

These issues are very serious. We are challenged by the way that we did not expect. And we, as of today, are unable and not prepared to respond accordingly.

Of course, Slovakia is not an observer. We are directly affected by what’s happening in Ukraine. First of all, the narrative that you have right to interfere or even intervene into other countries because there are people who speak the same language is totally unacceptable. And second, using the energy as a political weapon. And third, of course, the games about bypassing Ukraine as a major transit country for Russian gas makes us a collateral damage to all of it.

So the best answer to all this is a successful, democratic and prosperous Ukraine, and this is also the best sanction, because we speak a lot about sanctions. So, how to get there?

Ukraine needs two things: peace and successful reforms. We speak a lot about war. We don’t speak enough about what does it take to – for Ukraine to succeed economically, and that is – that is extremely important. We really have to address things that we have mentioned a couple of times, but not much has been done – it was mentioned also by Radek, I think – address the issue of corruption, the issue of de-oligarchization. In Ukraine, we need to have an inclusive dialogue with regions. And of course, we need national ownership of all these processes.

I’d like to see more active, more visible role of the European Union in these processes, someone who is directly responsible for day-to-day communication with the Ukrainian government, because we must not allow Ukraine to fail. If Ukraine fails, we have failed. We don’t want to fail.

Second, on Russia, I am not repeating what has been said already. Of course, the behavior is unacceptable. But apart from being critical to Russia’s action, we should also analyze what we have done wrong, and there are mistakes we’ve committed. First of all, we ignored the signals. I mean, Russia made no secret of their plans, intentions, and we chose to ignore it. I mean, Russia switched its attitude towards Eastern Partnership from neutral to negative, and there were signals such as Armenia’s swap of sides or change of positions, and we did very little. President Putin’s speech in – at Valdai Club again outlined very clearly how he sees the world. And what we need is our vision and our strategy.

Some people say that this is a beginning of a new era. They call it post-post-Cold War era. So I would like also this discussion to help us to formulate how we see this new era – how we see Russia’s place in this era, how we see our place and role in this era, and most importantly what are we going to do to get there and to play the role we want to play in this situation.

And for this, and with this I conclude, we need to, first, serious analysis of the situation; second, of our actions. We need to switch from reactive to proactive mode because we have been thinking about what’s in Mr. Putin’s head, but we keep reacting to the developments, to the events. We don’t set the agenda, and this should change.

And my humble suggestion, too, is, first, have security. It means thorough implementation of our commitments from Wales. Second, strong economic partnership, transatlantic partnership. TTIP, of course, is the best answer, an ambitious TTIP. Third – and that’s probably the most important – our support to our partners to the south and to the east, those who are willing to join the world of values on which our communities are built. Keep the EU enlargement policy alive. Keep NATO open-door policy alive.

Use the incoming Riga summit as a(n) opportunity to make loud and clear what’s the perspective for our Eastern partners, what comes after association agreements, DCFTA. There has to be a vision beyond these agreements and visa liberalization. So this is the moment when we shall speak out about this.

And the last point, of course, let’s be serious with our values. I mean, let’s not speak about our values, but let’s demonstrate that we respect our values in our – in our lives and in our actions.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Thank you. I want to come back to you, and I will after we each have a chance – our panelists each have a chance to respond to some questions. But I especially want to come back to you because I think one of the challenges is the fact that there’s a process, that some are questioning whether it takes too long, it puts countries in kind of a gray zone and it’s problematic. But we’ll come back to it.

Let me welcome the Georgian foreign minister, Her Excellency Tamar Beruchashvili. And I wanted to ask you particularly about Georgia because where you’re sitting. Georgia has expressed very clearly its desire to be part of European institutions, and you’ve stated it very clearly. So, in this context, how does the, you know, East Partnership, how has it helped you, or not?

MINISTER TAMAR BERUCHASHVILI: So thank you very much. First of all, thank you very much for Atlantic Council for excellent cooperation and opportunity to speak here in front of such a distinguished audience. And I would like to also congratulate Latvian presidency and our dear friend Edgars for this opportunity to bring together the dialogue about very important issues today about forging transatlantic partnership for Europe’s East. So I hope the Latvian presidency will be successful to meet some of the important goals of our priorities.

So as it was mentioned already, today we are witnessing collapse of international order and fundamental principles of European security architecture. The geopolitics, unfortunately, is back, and we need to be equally vigilant, vigorous and visionary.

For us, for Georgia, this is first of all competition of values. In this context, we see guarantee of our secure and stable democratic development in fostering European and Euro-Atlantic integration. For Georgia, this is a national idea and civilizational choice that enjoys support of the wider population and political elite, and that makes Georgia unique among Eastern Partnership countries.

So last year was very important for us. As it was said, we signed association agreement, including DCFTA, which was indeed historic moment for Georgia. And definitely we want to stress that this is not the end goal of our cooperation with the European Union.

On the NATO side, we obtained in Wales Summit the substantial package, NATO-Georgia. Of course, the MAP would be more desirable and we believe well-deserved, but still we believe the substantial package will help Georgia to make further step towards our goal: NATO membership.

And now implementation is a key, and we have this all very important framework and very high commitment and very high support of the society to deliver on all these commitments and to deliver on all the reform agenda, which is not easy, could be unpopular, require serious resources, time and expertise. So we believe this is a joint exercise, and rely on strong support of EU and NATO in all this process.

But for all that to be happen, we need to deal with dramatically changed security environment. (Audio break) – agreement for more deep integration with occupation regime in Sukhumi. Another agreement is under preparation with South Ossetia, which is definitely a step forward of annexation of Georgian territories. And I want to stress that in all this story that we face today, by no means Ukraine, despite the fact that this is the burning issue, is not an isolated case. It just one part of big Russian scenario to expand dominance in so-called – and create so-called spheres of interest. So we are literally punished for our choice, for our sovereign choice to be part of European and Euro-Atlantic community. And without sort of security guarantees and a security shell – and you mentioned this gray zone – it would be very difficult to sustain this not only enthusiasm for reform, but popular support.

So therefore I believe now time comes when West has to be united to defend value-based partnership. It’s extremely important to have the common strategy of the EU and U.S. We expect also that there will be concrete agenda set for those who are willing, able and capable to deliver on the European and Euro-Atlantic agenda. And, as it was mentioned already, we entered through association agreement in a very challenging process, which is a process and can deliver only in a medium and a long term, but in the short term requires very serious transformation. And for support of the general public and in general for the European idea, it’s extremely important to work on concrete deliveries on the short term. And we believe that Riga Summit will be real opportunity to demonstrate that European agenda delivers. And we expect that despite the challenges that EU faces internally, despite the challenges in the Eastern Partnership countries, Riga summit will be important summit to demonstrate that Eastern Partnership delivers.

And there are a number of concrete issues that is ready to be presented, and in case of Georgia, we are very much committed to the visa liberalization. This is a very challenging process and required serious modernization of our efforts. But we are at the final phase of completion of Visa Liberalization Action Plan, and I hope there will be green light from the Commission regarding visa movement for Georgia’s citizens. In our case, this opportunity has particular added value because Georgian passports are getting more attractive for residents on occupied territories, on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and that can play kind of reconciliation element also in Georgian situation.

Plus, we expect that there will be concrete roadmap based on principles of differentiation and more – for more, equipped with relevant resources to support this transformation in all domains of the association agreement.

And finally, I hope there will be enough courage and vision from our EU partners to demonstrate that there is light at the end of the tunnel. And there will be signals regarding European Perspective for those countries who are willing, able and are ready to go through this very difficult pass, but at the same time this is the future they have chosen. So I believe that will be well understood because we are not talking about membership tomorrow. We know we are not ready and Europe is not ready, but sending this signal will be absolutely important for domestic and international purpose, and mobilize further efforts for reform. And that will be signal, also, for those who don’t believe that European project can deliver today.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right. Thank you very much –


MS. DOBRIANSKY: – Foreign Minister, for your very, very clear statement. I think you’ve given us a very precise indication of where Georgia stands.

I want to welcome Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Vadyam Prystayko. And, you know, I want to pick up on what the Georgian minister put forward. She mentioned the Riga Summit and some expectations. Ukraine, I think, has been very clear in terms of what its needs and desires are. You might want to restate them, though, specifically. But what would you hope out of this summit? And what are the areas that you would say are your biggest priorities that you think are not being met to date?

DEPUTY MINISTER VADYAM PRYSTAYKO: Thank you very much. Thank you for putting me just right after the Georgian colleague – (laughter) – because she actually did what I would have to do and she described what our priorities are. We can – I can subscribe to everything she was saying, including that we believe that we have been punished for the choice.

And we spent at least the first part of this morning talking about what Russia needs, what Russia fears, what they want, how can we give them something, on expense of Ukraine for example, so they will be satisfied and they will leave Ukraine for – and Georgia doing whatever they want. I believe that we are coming from the wrong assumption, that they fear something about security. We are too generous to give them this doubt, you know. And in reality, what we believe in Ukraine now, that they don’t believe that NATO is seriously putting some threat to them, immediate, but they are doing what they want. And that’s your choice, of European choice or American choice, how to describe, how to, you know, legitimize their concerns and give them something return – that, in turn, they want. And I would like to wean us from, you know, trying to decide for Ukrainians what Ukrainians would be willing to sacrifice for the – to have – to find sort of a way out for Russians to leave Ukraine, leave in peace, if it is even possible.

You know, a couple of our presidents already tried to decide for Ukrainians what they want, whether they want to go Left or Right, West and East. And the last events showed clearly that Ukrainians taking the initiative in their hands, sometimes it get bloody. But this initiative is taken them to frozen streets of Kiev, and some of them are really (killed ?), to face their deaths over there, but that they made their message clear.

What you want from Riga Summit? That’s what – it would help if I have a chance to describe in six points what we would like to have now to be able to fight with Russians.

Political support, which we – thank(s) to all of you, we are already having.

Sanctions, which are working, regardless of what Russia is saying. We don’t want them to suffer. We are not bloodthirsty. We just want them to feel a small fraction, to understand how difficult it is on our people, and they might just hopefully, well might reconsider what they’re doing, at least in tactics.

Financial support is crucial because we are bleeding not just blood, but money each and every day. And we are suffering and might fail just because we won’t have enough funds to be able to protect ourselves.

Military technical assistance, and this is serious. I just was asked by a Ukrainian journalist a couple of minutes ago, and he was particularly focusing on the military because that’s – I understand how sensitive to everybody here. And I’d like to tell you that we are not talking about THE issue. We need – we have to have this military equipment to be able to protect, let me remind you, our own borders, our sovereignty. We are not coming to somebody’s else lands so create some sort of argument whether we have to be given. We are protecting our own people and our own land.

And when we are coming to Riga Summit – that’s the last point I would like to make – that, in the political support, we believe, as the Georgians, we have to be given the clear perspective on membership. Again, we can tell after – (inaudible) – that we are not ready yet. Europe is not ready yet. We have to do our homework. We understand. All of us, we understand that. But that’s something very important for people to be able to see where we’re actually going, because Russians do have that sort of idea. They are becoming great again, second polar, kicking everybody’s – (laughter). And, you know, that’s – the pride helped them to survive this ordeal they are going through now. We want to have something more civilized, more refined if you wish, the perspective of living the way you guys are living.

Thank you.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right. Thank you very much. And we’re going to come back to each of you with some follow-up questions.

We have Dr. Konrad Pawlik. Thank you very much for being here. He’s with the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an undersecretary of state for development cooperation, the Polish diaspora and Eastern policy.

You know, this morning we heard Radek Sikorski I think put forth a very interesting phrase: European neighbors rather than neighbors of Europe, that that’s what this is all about. So you, Poland, have a stake in this creation there at the beginning. So where are we now? Are you optimistic? What do you want to see changed, and what’s working, with the Partnership?

UNDERSECRETARY KONRAD PAWLIK: Thank you. Before I will make a couple of points on that, let me thank the Atlantic Council for organizing such a wonderful conference.

Regarding the Eastern Partnership and honest assessment, we should first say that it was established as a tool to promote stability and prosperity in the immediate neighborhood of the European Union in the East, and we wanted to bring the partners closer to the – to the EU, mainly through trade agreements but also by building strong democratic institutions in the Eastern Partnership countries. And as it was said before, Russia was invited initially and then, back then, refused to be at the Eastern Partnership policy.

To make a proper assessment, we should look at the Eastern Partnership from both sides – first of all from the technical point of view, and secondly from the strategical and political point of view. And the technical assessment shows that the Eastern Partnership is very much a success, comparing also to the sovereign dimension of the European Neighborhood Policy. We have three out of six association agreements, including DCFTAs. We progressed, and hopefully we will progress further on in Riga Summit in terms of mobility, with the facilitation agreements entry admission, as well as Visa Liberalization Action Plans, which led – which allowed Moldova to have visa-free regime since April last year. And we hope that the political decision on the visa-free will be taken also in the Riga Summit towards Georgia and Ukraine.

So besides there are several other areas of cooperation. Mr. Sikorski mentioned about them: of border management, energy and the environment. And also an important component, which hasn’t been mentioned I think before, the educational component, Erasmus+ – students from all Eastern Partnership countries can easily study in Europe. So these successes from the technical point of view are significant, especially also comparing to the – to the sovereign dimension of European Neighborhood Policy.

From the political point of your strategic goal, here of course the analysis is a little bit more complicated, to be frank. As long as Moscow perceived the Eastern Partnership as purely technical, it did not react. Yet, when it turned out that the project carries political significance, Russia responded fiercely. But in my opinion, this is – this is a proof of the strength rather than the weakness of the – of the whole – of the whole initiative. It showed the political significance of Eastern Partnership, awakened the European aspiration in the region. In Ukraine, there was half-a-million people on the streets protesting in favor of European aspirations. I hardly find in other places in the European Union such a big support on the streets for the – for the – for the European Union today.

But what all does this mean? The upcoming Riga Summit, comparing the Vilnius Summit, of course will be different, but also not an easy one, I believe, first of all because of the situation in Ukraine, secondly because we are still in the process of managing certain deliverables. But the most important question is the strategic goal, what we want to do farther on.

We believe that we must strongly articulate our strategic goal. We must ask ourselves whether we still believe in the European values are the way to guarantee stability and prosperity in the region. I believe they are. They are guaranteeing this, stability and prosperity in the region, something that was of the origin of creating Eastern Partnership policy.

I think we should also reconfirm our commitment to assist to those countries which conduct reforms based on the more formal principles.

And the third important point, which has been already to some extent mentioned, I think, by the Latvian foreign minister, was the issue of differentiation within the Eastern Partnership. On one hand, we have three front-runners, but the other three consider cooperation with the EU as just one of the vector, not the primary one, in their multidimensional foreign policy. So we believe we also have something to offer to Belarus, Armenia or Azerbaijan. It’s people’s mobility, sector-to-sector cooperation, common aviation areas, cooperation in the field of energy, et cetera. So these are all areas where our engagement can and should be mutually beneficial.

And one more thing is, of course, the issue of propaganda, Russian propaganda, which we also discussed to some extent before. We believe that, of course, there should be a response for the Russian propaganda. The proposal made by the Latvian presidency to organize on the margins of Riga Summit the first forum on media we find very, very useful, and we going to support that. We believe we should create and work on certain media platform which could be not a counterpropaganda in the Eastern Partnership countries, but rather an alternative source of information that is missing – that is missing in Eastern Partnership countries. I’m speaking, of course, and talking, of course, about Russian-speaking media. So there is a missing source of alternative information for Russian speakers in the Eastern Partnership countries, and this should be the main – the main – the main focus.

Minister Lajčák mentioned about Ukraine and reforms that are important from the perspective – from the perspective of the European Union. I just – just last comment on that. Decentralization is something that Poland helps on to Ukrainian government, but we believe that this is one of the crucial reform – and by the way, in Poland it was one of the most successful reform over the last 25 years – because it is also an effective answer to the – to the territorial integrity, something what Ukraine has been challenged.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right. Thank you. You raised a number of very important points.

Now we will hear from Dr. Samad Seyidov, Azerbaijan’s chairman of the International and Interparliamentary Relations Committee. And I think, as being the last at least in the first opening comments, you have an interesting position where you’re sitting. And so take it from where Azerbaijan is sitting and, you know, looking east, looking west, and how you see this partnership working effectively. And you might want to add in a word particularly about energy and energy issues in this mix.

SAMAD SEYIDOV: First of all, thank you very much for inviting me and having me today. It’s really a great honor to be together with friends and colleagues. And actually my friends make my life very easy because a majority of the questions and challenges they covered during their own presentation.

But, frankly speaking, being a representative of Azerbaijan, I want to say that, starting from early today discussions, I can see that, you know, within Eastern Partnership program, everything is going well. This program is really very good implemented, and this is a fantastic and golden chance for members of this program to be more integrated to Europe, to the rest of the world, et cetera.

But at the same time, we see how difficult the real life is, how situation is deteriorating, and we are here in order to find the way out from this very difficult situation. And believe me, if we are not able to understand not only other side but Eastern Partnership made mistakes, shortcomings and some difficult issues, we are not able to see the future if we are not able to analyze the past. This is – this is my position.

And at the same time, of course, Azerbaijan has a very specific and very special relationship with European Union from two angles, if I may say like that. We have great success with negotiations and creating a legal framework of our relationship with European Union countries; for example, as my colleagues mentioned, facilitating of visa regime, readmission agreement and, in July of 2014, signing the special protocol which opened all education, culture and other spheres of European Union for Azerbaijan, which is really great. And this set the really very good aspect for future negotiations. And at the same time, we can see some problematic issues and difficulties within our way to more integrated to the European Union, to the European countries.

And I wanted to show this progress and difficulties from the point of view energy, because when we are talking about Azerbaijan, immediately gas/oil energy sector is coming to our minds. Azerbaijan just recently – in September, actually – has signed and held the groundbreaking ceremony of Southern Gas Corridor with participation of different representative of European nations, and expressed their readiness to be together with the rest of Europe in order to deliver gas and oil and in order to create alternative way for security – energy security for Europe. And this is, I think, the great contribution of Azerbaijan to the European stability and to the European family. And we did it really taking into account that we are thinking not against somebody; we are thinking in favor of Europe and in favor of Azerbaijan. And it gave us the possibility to bring together Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Italia, Greece and other countries in order to find the common grounds for future development. Could you imagine before the signing, these groundbreaking protocols and the ceremony, from the European Union sponsored some (engineers ?) who organized all over the Europe, and especially in Roma, events against TAP and TANAP activities, which is absolutely contradicting the policy which provided by the European Union concerning Neighborhood Program, concerning Eastern Partnership and et cetera.

We, of course, looking for communication and cooperation with our friends and partners. But we should take into account that we came to this cooperation not only because of our desire to be a member of the European Union and international organizations such as Council of Europe and others; we came because we shared the same values. We came because we are looking for our interest and our national values, because European interest and Azerbaijani interest coincide in these matter. And we are looking for justice – justice from the point of view implementation and restore international law, not only in Europe, not only in Ukraine, not only in Moldova or Georgia, but elsewhere, in Azerbaijan.

And that’s why, when we started to speak about frozen – so-called frozen conflicts at the previous session, our colleague mentioned in Georgia, in Moldova and now situation in Ukraine, but let’s remind that 20 years ago this frozen conflict have happened in Azerbaijan and a big territory of Azerbaijan – 20 percent, actually, of territories of Azerbaijan had been occupied. And maybe this is – sounds a little bit strange, but 20 percent of my territory, 20 percent of Georgians’ territory, 20 percent of Ukrainians’ territory under occupation, what is that? This is the price for freedom?

And that’s why, from this point of view, if we are looking for progress within the European Neighborhood Program, if we are looking for understanding – mutual understanding within this program, we should take into account that these kind of problems are existing. I mean different implementation, different approach to the same matters, to the same problematic issues. Believe me, I’m confident if, in due time, European Union, United States of America paid more attention to the violation – a grave violation of international law in Nagorno-Karabakh because of occupation of Azerbaijani territory, nothing had happened in Georgia, in Moldova and in Ukraine. But when those who violated international law can see that nothing had happened, immediately new and more grave situation is coming. And that’s why, if you are looking for way out from Ukrainian crisis, you should return back to the history. You should return back to the cause. You should return back to the problematic issues which started from occupation of my territory, because today here this is a main problem not only for us, but for the rest of the world.

And at the end of my remarks I want to say that, you know, friends, despite of all difficulties, despite of all challenges which we faced, the way of our integration to Europe, to United States of America and relationships with these countries, this is a priority for foreign policy of Azerbaijan. And, you know, sometimes we can see that somebody – my friend just mentioned about that – some circles in order to create obstacles for Europe, for Neighborhood Programs, creating bad image of the countries who are doing their best in order to be together with civilized world in order to withdraw these countries, these policies from the agenda. I hope that this Atlantic Council meeting will help us, especially for Azerbaijan, to understand that not only black and white are existing. Not only we are – we should think with the language of sanctions, but much more better to help countries, to invest to countries, to do their best in order to bring the projects which so important to the rest of the Europe to the agenda and to create new, peaceful and very acceptable Europe.

Thank you very much.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Thank you.

As we follow up, I hope we go back to the title of this panel, which is very specifically “Toward a Europe Whole and Free.” So I want to come back to you, Prime Minister, if I may, on what’s the right balance? In your own comments, in your opening comments, the issue is, what’s the right balance of reform? And at the same time, the importance of reform in a number of these countries, but at the same time the incentive to be part of the community, not – as I used the term before – in a gray zone. How do you achieve that? Do we need to redefine some of the terms here?

MIN. LAJČÁK: I don’t think so. We just have to respect our own priorities and our own rules of the game, which is not happening right now, and I’m not happy about it. I mean, speaking about NATO open-door policy, in Chicago we said the next summit should be enlargement summit. There was no enlargement in Wales. Speaking about the European Union, you know that the new president of European Commission made a statement that next five years there will be no EU enlargement. So what message are we sending to our public? What message are we sending to the people in the countries that want to join our vision of Europe whole and free? And it looks like we are offering these countries for some sort of political horse-trading.

So we have to be credible. And we should not be afraid of the processes we established and we are in control. And obviously, first of all, you cannot deny any European country the chance to apply for joining European Union because this would go against the treaties. Second, as I said, we own the process. We decide on the dynamics. And it – the process is based on conditionality. The homework must be done. And this is the reforms that, you know –

MS. DOBRIANSKY: But let – but let me push you one bit. How do you get from here to there? I mean, your answer is very clear.


MS. DOBRIANSKY: But how does one make that realized? What’s the impetus? Is it –

MIN. LAJČÁK: Well, stop blocking the process. (Laughter.) Open the process and let the countries prove that they can accept our rules, they can change themselves, they can reform themselves, they can reach the standards that will make it possible for them to join both the European Union and NATO. And when they are compatible, they are operational, then there is no reason to say no. And we are those who are judging the process, and we are those who are saying that enough has been done or not. So there is absolutely –

MS. DOBRIANSKY: So it’s got to be political leadership and political will.

MIN. LAJČÁK: Exactly, exactly, exactly. And I think we are powerful and strong when we are consistent, which we are not right now.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Do others have comments on that or any different viewpoints or points to add? Please.

MIN. BERUCHASHVILI: So I would add the short comment that this is exactly our expectation, that we want to see Eastern Partnership based, in the light of current challenges, more strategic than – (audio break). That would be also – that would create more momentum and opportunities to follow all the principles that been declared at the very beginning.

I don’t like the title, the Eastern Partnership Initiative. That should not be “initiative.” It’s time to have if full-fledged policy of the European Union. And if we – if that will be managed and a strategic approach will be the core of Eastern Partnership, the principles would generate approaches that give possibility to all individual partners to find their own places because all this multi-speed development in the Eastern Partnership already generated, as it was said, three front-runners with associated agreement. But this is extremely important for the EU to find relevant modalities for other threes as well.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right.

MR. SEYIDOV: With your permission, and I would like to add to my colleague’s ideas that if we are thinking about the future – positive future of the Eastern Partnership program, we should at the same time – we should do our best in order to withdraw so-called double standards, so-called double vision, which unfortunately existing within the Europe. With one hand, they are promoting countries to come closer. With another hand, they are doing the job in a different way. From one hand, they are talking about tolerance and multiculturalism, and from another side we can see intolerance and unacceptance of the different point of view.

And from this point of view, I think, if we are talking about the future, we should restore the core value of the Eastern Partnership program, diversity. We should return back that countries should be diversitive (sic) in order to be united.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Let me ask Dr. Pawlik the question about a moral narrative, because in your own comments you talked a bit about that, about the importance of values. Are we not doing enough in having a moral narrative here? We know that on March 18 of last year, when Vladimir Putin spoke before the parliament, the Russian parliament, he drew a line about values in saying that these are not our values any longer. Address that, the question of how do we reinforce our values, because I’ve heard all of you say – and you in particular – that it matters. And then how do you deal with Russia in that regard?

MR. PAWLIK: Well, the values are the key issue and roots of the – of the European Union, and something what is the main issue in our dialogue with the Eastern partners.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: But some say there’s a complacency. So how do you go beyond that complacency, and that translates itself into actions, not just words?

MR. PAWLIK: Yes, well, the part of the Eastern Partnership is the dialogue within the civil society and aspects of human rights. This is one of the important component, even of one of the platform of cooperation with Eastern Partnership countries. This is one of the four platform, so important pillar of the – of the relations between European Union and all the partners.

If you ask how – what are the instruments of that, of course, there are several instruments how we can promote our values, how we can convince to certain values, how we can reassure that they are respected. This can be done through several other instruments. For instance, education. For instance, exchange of youth, exchange of students. This is not just a political dialogue.

Of course, there are also instruments that are of last resorts, like sanctions. And here we are talking about human rights and breaching the human rights, and this is the case at least – at least for already some years with Belarus, and that we have political prisoners but there are also sanctions that are a response for breaching human rights and fundamental rights in relation to the – to the – to the freedom of speech, in relation to the free elections and et cetera.

With Russia, of course, this dialogue is a little bit different and more complicated. Here I believe we could open a large box of discussion in terms of the problems on human rights in Russia and how we can promote our values towards Russia.

But as regards to the Eastern Partnership, as I mentioned, there are several instruments that can be used.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right. Let me ask the deputy foreign minister of Ukraine about this issue that has been put forward about rules. We heard in this morning’s presentation, and then even here about the importance of rules and how rules are being changed. I’m broadening the question from just a moral narrative to this question of the rules that have existed in Europe and that have preserved stability and security, at least as we have seen up to this time. So the question for you, looking at how the Budapest Memorandum has been undermined, give us your perspective on this because many have said it has ramifications not just for Ukraine, but for the region and even for the globe in terms of what’s taking place and has taken place.

MR. PRYSTAYKO: Thank you.

First of all, when you mentioned to broaden up the moral narrative, it’s so broad already. I mean, how can you broaden this up? (Laughter.)

I have to give you just a simple example. We have people fleeing from the places where the war is going, some of them fleeing towards Russia because they have been promised the – everything, heaven and earth. But some of them, the same number more or less, coming into Ukraine knowing that the difficult times Ukraine living through. What is bringing them towards – into Ukraine? They heard all this propaganda which was bombarding them, Russian propaganda, but they somehow understand that these things, which are very difficult to – you know, to name, to itemize them, something which we can call moral values or values, that’s what’s bringing them to Ukraine because they believe that their place somewhere else because the values are better, the human rights are protected. And this is very important, and we believe that people understand it already.

Coming to – coming to questions about Budapest Memorandum, first of all, I’d like to excuse myself; I’m from the country which is – which is fighting right now, and now our vision is blurred and, you know, sometimes we are a bit over the edge with comments. And me personally, sometimes I say things I regret. I have to remind you that Russia was not the only one who signed the Budapest Memorandum.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Correct, the United States, and the U.K. was also a part of this.

MR. PRYSTAYKO: Exactly. And so two more – two more nations then certainly joined with separate statements. Well, we had all five of them. And as President of Ukraine Kuchma was writing his book that Mitterrand told him, don’t believe them, they will fool you. They won’t be respecting this. Don’t do it. I don’t know; I was not in that particular meeting between two presidents, but that’s what’s in Ukrainian people’s minds nowadays.

And we already heard before that, you know, don’t forget that Ukraine gave up the third-biggest arsenal. We were persuaded to do it voluntarily. Everybody understands in this room how real politics works. At the same time, it was huge arsenal and we have to respect this decision, and Ukrainians believed that in return we will have something – for example, I don’t know, NATO membership or something better than piece of paper which each and every member of no-nuclear club would sign. This is – I mean, it’s no secret for anybody here that Iran is just looking at this, going “Jesus, seriously, Ukrainians, you believed in that? That’s what you have right now.”

MS. DOBRIANSKY: I think in Asia as well, North Korea.

MR. PRYSTAYKO: Asia as well. The North Koreans, we don’t know what they’re thinking, but I believe that’s very close to the same – to the same point.

How can we now – we are having this discussion: How can we deal with Russia now? How can we sort of cement the deal right now if we are helped by international community? What would be the outcome? Another agreement? Should we sign it in Budapest just for fun, again, the same city? (Laughter.)

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right. I think you made your point. (Laughter.)

Let’s go to – (laughs) – let’s go to the floor and take some questions. Yes, sir.

Q: My name is Walter Jurazik (ph).

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Thank you for introducing yourself.

Q: Do you think that Putin take the opportunities of the weak European Union leaderships on issue like unemployment, welfare, immigration and defense? For example, what is the percentage of defense European Union spending and what is the spending of United States when they are (regret ?) and the parliaments don’t want to even spend any dime on the – on NATO defense?

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right. You have the question.

MR. PRYSTAYKO: (Who will ?) stand up for European Union? (Laughter.)

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

MIN. LAJČÁK: We have our problems and we are aware of them, and you mentioned some of them. But this does not mean that we should not respect our commitments and we should backpedal from our principles and policies. That’s what it is, though, and we should not blame Putin for our own problems, of course. I really believe that – and I always try to begin with what have we done wrong rather than blaming the others. And that’s what I tried to address also in my introductory remarks.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: And I think you did.

I think the gentleman right there, you have a question, and then we’ll come up over here and we’ll get you two here. If you’ll introduce yourself.

Q: Thank you very much for – Chris Walker at the National Endowment for Democracy. Thank you for a very interesting discussion.

The title of this panel is “Toward a Europe Whole and Free,” and I think all of the panelists properly emphasized how the values and standards that are so important for the European community and the transatlantic community need to be reinvigorated and focused on. And Mr. Seyidov made a point of saying that Azerbaijan shares the same values as the European Union, but in some very key ways this is contradicted by facts on the ground in Azerbaijan, where there’s a fierce crackdown on free media, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani’s service has just been closed, civil society is undergoing a massive crackdown. And importantly, liberal secular voices in Azerbaijan, including Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus, Khadija Ismayilova have all been imprisoned and are sitting in jail. Given the title of this panel and the statements on the panel, can you explain how the imprisonment of these liberal secular voices enhances stability in Azerbaijan and contributes to the larger idea of a Europe whole and free?

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right. Dr. Seyidov?

MR. SEYIDOV: Thank you very much for this question. This is really very important because, for a couple of hours, we are discussing the situation in Ukraine and majority of the speakers said that, you know, that propaganda which created a lot of impacts to clearly understanding what is really going on in Ukraine, and you know, this propaganda is so properly working not only in Russia, in Europe, but even in United States of America.

Why, in this case, we are not able to say the same words? Because this is, again, the aim and obligation of Azerbaijan in order to respect the human rights, rule of law and democracy. We are a full-fledged member of the Council of Europe and we are on the – covered by the European Court of Human Rights, and nobody in Azerbaijan restricted or arrested because of their political or other things.

But unfortunately, the way of exclude Azerbaijan from European integration, the way of exclude Azerbaijan to be closer to United States of America and to their allies, is exactly what you said: to present us as a country where violated human rights, which unacceptable for the majority of the people who are sitting here, and in order to create the image of that country who is not able to manage human rights and rule of law and democracy in Azerbaijan.

But I wanted to remind you that in Azerbaijan today, Jewish people and Azerbaijani people, Muslim people I mean, and Christians, they are living in peace. And a representative of the Jewish minority is a member of the parliament. And I am – I don’t know who am I; I’m half Azerbaijan, half Jewish, I’m Christian. And this is a real achievement of my society, civil society.

And that’s why, when you are blaming the country, please take into account that today the majority of the problems of the Eastern Partnership because of geopolitics and because somebody, in some circles, try to use human rights in geopolitic means. Thank you.

MR. DOBRIANSKY: All right. Sir, I believe you had your hand up, and then come here. OK.

Q: Thank you very much. I am Asim Mollazade, a member of parliament of Azerbaijan.

We were listening that GUAM country – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova – paid really a very expensive price for freedom: 20 percent of each country under occupation. And second (variant ?) is a creation of Minsk Group: its never-ending imitation of negotiation we have is for Azerbaijan. Now there is a new Minsk Group for Ukraine, but Ukraine now in different stage. You have in heart process of military operation, and every day hundreds of people dying there.

But there is a question, because there is a European humanitarian disaster. A million people in all these countries are refugees – hundred thousands in Ukraine, hundred thousand in Georgia. It’s the refugees from Abkhazia and Ossetia – not only Georgians, also Ossetians and Abkhazians, because everything under military control. It’s the same in Azerbaijan.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: So let me ask you, what’s your question? Thank you.

Q: And my question is that is the Eastern Partnership thinking about this army of refugees? Because I’m pessimist, and the scenario which we have now for Ukraine, Minsk Group, soft scenario, it mean it will be a never-ending story. Is the Eastern Partnership thinking about the millions of refugees in this project? Thank you.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right. Thank you. Should we take –

MIN. LAJČÁK: That’s at the very core of the Eastern Partnership, to make your countries as compatible with our system as possible. We speak – we speak about political association, economic integration, so we want to make your – we want to help you to make your countries politically stable, economically profitable, successful, and the countries where the highest standards of human rights are being respected. This is what Eastern Partnership is about. So this is also the answer to your question.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: OK. Did you want to add anything or no? No? OK.

You had a question, and then we’re going to come to the Romanian ambassador up front here. Please. And if you’ll introduce yourself.

Q: Hello. My name is Rafik (sp). My question is for Vadyam Prystayko.

Vadyam, as you know, as we know, that conflict exists in former Soviet Union countries for more than two decades. With Europe’s inability, with America’s unwillingness, probably these conflict will be there for maybe more decades. So having said that – having said that, how you, as Ukrainian government, took the lessons from this? If the conflict will be – if conflict in Eastern Europe and Crimea will be there for many, many years, what would be your strategy, considering learning from the lessons in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova? Thank you very much.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: OK. Thank you. And then, like I said, up front here we’ll have the Romanian ambassador. He’s right here. Thank you. And please.

MR. PRYSTAYKO: Thank you very much for this – for this question. If I tell you that I have clear picture 1-2-3 how to resolve it and will resolve, we won’t be sitting here with our friends who unfortunately are suffering through the same situation. There is no answer to this new hybrid war we are going through. This is very difficult to deal with because nobody, not you neither us, we have the answer of how to deal with somebody, you know, who’s coming on the unmarked tanks and in little green men, as Ukrainians like to call them. How do deal with it, we don’t know to the very end. What we do know, that we don’t want our people to die right now.

So our plan is very simple. We are looking for cease-fire, respect to the touchline, bringing out the artillery, and then we’ll start in talking. We are opening access for the humanitarian aid. We are going to have elections. But we also have to have our borders closed. That is a simple, simple outline of our actions.

And I’ve been myself through this many, many, many conversations and the negotiations in Berlin, in all these places, with the Russians around the table, within this trilateral group and in the so-called Minsk format. So far, it’s very difficult to achieve because we are coming from different sort of positions, from the different understanding. We are talking about practical things and in return we hear Russian position about philosophical sort of inclusive dialogue to which each and every Ukrainian will agree – we’re a 46 million nation. And then the idea is when we will have this inclusive dialogue everybody will stop shooting because they will understand each other and will love and embrace.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: OK. Ambassador?

Q: Well, Ms. Dobriansky, you are partially right. I’m speaking Romanian, but I’m the Republic of Moldova.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Moldova, Moldova. I apologize, that’s correct. (Laughter.) That’s correct. My apologies.

Q: Well, I wanted to add a voice to the discussion here. And of course, I regret that my minister of foreign affairs is not here. She is a member of the parliament and has still to complete the political process and to install the new government.

I wanted to say that it’s very difficult to remain optimistic and calm when the house of your neighbor is burned, and this fire can every second move to a different house, and you know what is happening. The problem is that I do see two kind of elements.

First of all, we have to be consistent in spite of everything and we have to implement our obligations related to the association agreement. And we are very grateful toward our partners in Europe and in the United States, which assisted Moldova, for instance, to be the first country in the ex-Soviet space – excluding the Baltics – implementing the visa-free regime and also implementing the DCFTA, which is a very complicated animal with a lot of obligations. And what is happening today in the region is that we are weak not in political terms, but in economical terms.

It was a bullet very close to our head in the last elections, in November last year. Therefore, the complications are largely related to the access to the market, still not fully resolved, and also the presence of more foreign and Western investment in our countries, and also about a final matter that I will call it fatigue. The West should fight back its own fatigue, and this is part of the narrative that we very much need. Without solving and settling and sorting out this issue, it’s very difficult to make the Eastern neighbors more confident in our future and our destiny and our civilizational choice that has been put out by the minister of Georgia.

And finally, I would – I have a question and a short phrase. If the Riga Summit will exclude from the agenda any kind of discussions about the prospective for accession to our countries, it will be a strategical mistake and it will be also a part of the narrative that Russia is expecting from the European Union. And in spite of everything, in spite of the troubles and the strategical confusions sometimes, Riga Summit should make a step – an important step in order to formulate a strategy for us, and this strategy is no way outside of the accession process. And when speaking about values, you cannot leave people freezing outside of your house. You have to make a place for them, and this is the accession, (the one ?) accession.

One question to you is, how do you see from your own perspectives, country experiences, the update/upkeep/upgrade of the Eastern Partnership after everything is happening in Ukraine and in Moldova and in Georgia? Because the concept should make through some changes, I believe. Thank you.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right. And my apologies; I obviously needed to have my glasses on. (Laughs.)

You would like to respond to that?

MR. SEYIDOV: Sure. Thank you very much.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: And if you’ll pass the mic – excuse me, could you pass the mic? We’re going to have the Armenian ambassador, who will say a word.

MR. SEYIDOV: Thank you very much. For our colleague for Moldova, we are from the same family, and we are always supportive to each other.

You have mentioned the Riga Summit, which is really very, very important. And we are talking today about the strategy which could be, should be presented during the Riga Summit. I don’t know, maybe Riga Summit will be very important meeting, or maybe just ordinary discussions about the future of the Eastern Partnership. But from my point of view, very important not to create Berlin Wall in the brains of those who are taking part in this program. And from the perspective of Azerbaijan, I want to say, for example, in February ’12, all European country leaders – Georgia, Turkey and Greece, Bulgaria and other – they are coming to Azerbaijan, together with those who are taking part in the building of the pipeline, TAP and TANAP, in order to create the links within the Europe. But at the same time, we are doing our best in order to withdraw hostility from the agenda.

If Riga Summit will be – will create more negative attitudes within the European family, that will be beginning of the end. If some horizons will open during the Riga Summit, believe me, everything in Europe family will be OK. Thank you.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Let me ask other – would you like to make a comment on that?


MS. DOBRIANSKY: Please, please.

MR. PAWLIK: A short comment on the comments made by ambassador of Moldova.

Let me just say about European perspective, I fully share the opinion. I mean, the Riga Summit should mention clearly about European perspective towards these countries, especially that have signed association agreement. To some extent it has been already mentioned towards Ukraine. Last year at the council conclusions it said that it is – that the signature of association agreement is not the final goal in the relations with the European Union. So it is already certain, a political declaration, and we hope it could be replicated towards other partners.

You also mentioned the importance of reforms and what will be afterwards. I have to say one important thing. First of all, Moldova – and congratulations that you have basically achieved all things that were in the – in this technical basket: conclusion of association agreement, aviation agreement and Visa Liberalization Action Plan. But of course, the process still is dependent on both sides. From one side, you should work on the reform agenda, especially its implementation and enforcement. On the other hand, we as the European Union should think what should be – what else we could offer. And this could, of course, have different dimensions, like sectoral cooperation, which could bring even closer to the – a key to the – our standards and norms, European standards and norms, Moldova and other partners that will conclude all other instruments of cooperation, platforms of cooperation with the European Union.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: OK. Any other comments, brief comments on this? Because I’d like to go to our last intervention because we must close.

MIN. LAJČÁK: Very briefly, because I think I made my views and perspective very clear, but two sentences.

First, the Riga Summit will be a message in itself, and not only by what we say, but also by what we don’t say. And I definitely prefer to the clear and loud.

And second, you can help us to help you to address the issues of fatigue or cautiousness when it comes to the perspective by having governments that really address the core problems – they start implementing economic reforms, political reforms, address the issues of corruption. So this is the best way how to win the support from the majority of the citizens of the European Union.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: OK. Thank you for that.

Ambassador, if you’d like to say a few words.

Q: Thank you. Tigran Sargsyan, ambassador of Armenia.

I would like to say two words about Armenian position. It is our interest to continue our close cooperation with the European Union. And it is obvious for us that without technical assistance which coming from European Union, it will be very difficult to modernize Armenian society. That’s why it is our interest to continue this program and to find some solutions, to find some new format to sign association agreement with European Union. We have good experience, and we would like to continue our close cooperation. Thank you.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: All right. Thank you for that.

Let me say I apologize; we’re going to have to close. But let me say I think that the Atlantic Council and the Latvian government, in my view, has certainly achieved one of its objectives this morning with this distinguished panel. All of them were extremely clear about their assessment of the Eastern Partnership and, very significantly, of some of the issues that really need to be addressed. I’ll go back to the prime minister, the Slovak prime minister, in his opening and certainly his point about the need for not what has already been said, but it’s putting it into action: the need for political will and political leadership.

So please join me in really thanking this distinguished panel. (Applause.)