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16. 4. 2019 18:11

Prime Minister’s Speech on the Ten Years of the Eastern Partnership

Prime Minister’s Speech on the Ten Years of the Eastern Partnership, 16 April 2019.
Prime Minister’s Speech on the Ten Years of the Eastern Partnership, 16 April 2019.
On 16 April 2019, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš spoke at a conference on the occasion of 10 years of the Eastern Partnership. Minister of Industry and Trade Marta Nováková and other important guests attended the conference.

Prime Minister’s speech

Dear Mr President of the Senate, dear Minister, dear Ambassadors, dear guests,

I am pleased to be able here precisely ten years after the founding meeting of the Eastern Partnership on 7 May 2009 in Prague, which is also one of the tangible results of our EU Presidency, with the aim of intensifying the European Union’s partnership with the countries of Eastern Europe and Caucasus.

And it is appropriate to reiterate that these are important countries and that especially the eastern EU Member States see them as an opportunity to re-establish very good economic cooperation. Energy industries, the automotive or engineering industries, chemicals and electronics are traditional commodities of mutual trade and account for a total export and import turnover of CZK 90 billion a year for the Czech Republic alone, and this volume is annually growing. This is information that should be of interest to any entrepreneur who is interested in being active in these markets in terms of commerce or investment.

We are in the right position to play a significant role in mutual trade. As a country historically associated with the former Soviet Union and having long-term relationships with all six Eastern Partnership countries due to its linguistic similarity and geographical closeness, we have a great chance to be among the drivers of economic cooperation within the European Union. This is further underscored by the fact that we are connected with all these countries by industrial focus based on the structure of individual economies and on the quality of technical schools. It is no secret that the eastern technical schools had a good level even before the revolution and that the cooperation of our countries, for example in the energy sector, is still at a high level.

The Eastern Partnership is based on multilateral cooperation, which takes place on the basis of institution building and good governance, creating market opportunities through economic integration and trade agreements, ensuring energy security and better energy and transport links as well as increasing mobility and strengthening contacts between people through the negotiations on visa regime.

There are also key EU free trade agreements between the EU and individual Eastern Partnership countries. Here we have achieved most progress with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, where comprehensive free trade agreements have been in place since 2014, ensuring better access to goods and services, lower tariffs and other barriers to trade, strengthening the regulatory environment and a higher degree of harmonization of standards. It is also important that an enhanced partnership agreement with Armenia was signed in 2017 and negotiations on a comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan were launched in the same year.

Also important is the visa dialogue, as agreements on its simplification and readmission promote the mobility of citizens of the Eastern Partnership countries and also lay down rules on the return of illegal migrants. It is also important to recall that the Eastern Partnership countries were one of the first to benefit from the mobility partnership, which allows their citizens to more easily and safely travel across Europe.

Dear guests, let me say that I consider the Czech Republic to be one of the European leaders of the Eastern Partnership. And I am not just referring to a symbolic leadership, when we started this activity in close cooperation with Poland and Sweden during our Presidency of the European Union, but I am in particular referring to our future relations. In addition to strengthening relations at the level of governments and parliaments, it is also necessary to strengthen the involvement of the broader society. I am referring here to both influencing the attitudes of civil society, involving local and regional authorities and mediating relations among business leaders. I therefore appreciate the ongoing activities of the Ministry of Industry and Trade and CzechTrade, which have presence in half of the Eastern Partnership countries. I also appreciate the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and representatives of entrepreneurs who are relentlessly reviving mutual economic relations. That is also why we can meet again in Prague at the end of the first decade of the Eastern Partnership. And it is my honour to be here.

The Czech Republic is prepared to be a partner of the Eastern Partnership countries with a view to long-term relations, as well as a mediator between other countries of the European Union. We are among the countries with the highest economic performance within the Union. A year ago, Bloomberg described us as the most stable EU economy. Our country is getting richer, we are rising up the ranking and there is no need for scare-mongering. There is a very specific project for the Czech Republic – we do not want to be a Land of Stories. We want to be the Czech Republic:  Country for the future.  This is a new project that will propel us among the elite countries of the old continent. That is why it is our duty to offer assistance in projects that will strengthen both economic relations and political stability and security. This is what I believe the Eastern Partnership is about, and on behalf of the Czech Republic I guarantee that we will do our utmost to meet the objectives of the project in the next decade.

Thank you for your attention.

Andrej Babiš, Prime Minister

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