This page has been archived

19. 11. 2008 9:50

Foreign policy priorities of the CZ PRES

Projev A. Vondry na Institutu pro bezpečnostní a rozvojovou politiku (ISDP) ve Stockholmu 12. listopadu 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the aftermath of the Georgian crisis, greater foreign policy presence of the European Union is not any longer a matter of scholarly discussions. It is a vital must in an increasingly fragile atmosphere eastwards from the EU. At the same time, calls for strengthened leadership and enhanced crisis management within the EU appear in the context of the world financial crisis. I´d have three remarks in this respect:

I. Political action is most of all a matter of political will. Personalities count at least as much as institutions in generating one. President Sarkozy and his implication in the Georgian crisis is an excellent example of how genuine leadership is important in shaping and realizing a common EU foreign policy response. The Lisbon Treaty will facitilitate leadership and we have to do our best to bring into being. But let´s be aware that it is not a cure-all – the Treaty alone will not replace our own motivation and will not discharge us of hard work.

II. For any EU foreign policy to work – with or without Lisbon Treaty - it must be one of EU-27. I believe that in the nascent EU Foreign Policy it is crucial to preserve the principle that is at the core of EU´s historical success in reconciling European states. It is the care that EU has always dedicated to striking a careful balance between different political views, interests and perspectives, balance between the smaller and the bigger member states, new and old, North and South, East and West.

III. The world of today is an extremely dynamic one. If we want make a difference on the international stage, flexibility and ability to react quickly must be the defining characteristic of our foreign policy.

What will be the priorities of the Czech Presidency? Similarly to the previous Swedish Presidency, we are thinking of 3 E´s: Economy, Energy and Europe in the world. The last chapter, dedicated to external relations, could be seen as a table on three legs, with a possible fourth, stabilising one.

1) Eastern partnership, energy security and a new strategy of our relationship to Russia

2) Transatlantic relationship

3) EU Enlargement

4) Up-grade of the relationship EU-Israel

1) Eastern partnership, Russia and external dimension of energy security will be our key priority

Russia. In the context of the events in Georgia, it has become clear that East is the direction EU foreign policy should be looking in the up-coming years. Our relationship to Russia will be pivotal in the determination of EU´s geopolitical weight for the next decades.

- Last week we have made a difficult but unavoidable decision – to renew negotiations on PCA with Russia. Reengagement with Russia is necessary. Unless EU is to loose further leverage, dismantled by mushrooming bilateral deals with Russia or Gazprom, it is necessary to deal with Russia at a 27 + 1 format.

- Engaging with Russia does not mean returning to „business as usual“: 3 implications are clear

a) our requirement for Russians to fulfil the August conditions must continue to stand. We must show that de facto and de iure is not the same.

b) we must by no means negotiate on the Medvedev proposal for a Security Pact, unless it is with USA at the same table and outside of the EU framework. EU is the ground where a common EU position on the pact must be agreed among the 27, but the proposal as such should be negotiated with Russia:

- on the ground of OSCE or other neutral ground

- jointly with the US.

c) we must strive for a common EU policy on Russia

The third point might be the most difficult one

- European perceptions of Russia differ fundamentally depending on what country you are looking from. From the perspective of Warsaw the keyword is THREAT. From the perspective of Berlin it is OPPORTUNITY. From London or Rome it is BALANCE. Despite the fact that London was unable to pursue this policy during the last five years, it is just a matter of time for the pendulum to swing back to its usual place.

- Czech Presidency will have one advantage and one disadvantage in this respect. The disadvantage is that we are not a superpower and Russia likes to deal with the big ones. The advantage consists in not subscribing entirely to any of these 3 views, while having a first hand experience and knowledge of Russia. We are in a softer geopolitical position than EU members directly neighboring with Russia. We understand the motivations of the remaining EU countries. We may try to reconcile these 3 diverging views of Russia.

- The EU divide on Russia has 2 main strategic implications:

1) we need to develop a concept of an Eastern partnership – how to deal with countries „in between“

2) we need a strong transatlantic relationship

Eastern partnership – in the era of enlargement fatigue, we must find new concepts for granting our Eastern neighbors more political attention and more financial resources. Georgia is a common transatlantic task. But Ukraine – divided as it is on its NATO membership perspective – remains an EU homework. Offering a project-based institutionally anchored cooperation might be the way to solve the quadrature of the circle.

Czech Republic presented a paper with this idea, our Swedish and Polish friends followed with a very well elaborated and detailed paper on Eastern Partnership and based on that the Commission will publish in the end of November a document, which should become a basis for this important initiative.

The partnership should include very concrete measures. Bilaterally we should go ahead with visa liberalisation accompanied by better border management. In the area of economy, deepened free trade agreements should be negotiated. In the domain of energy, we should extend EU energy acquis to our partner countries – as we have already seen in the Balkans, the benefit of such measures is mutual.

The Czech Presidency would like to formally launch the Eastern partnership by an „Eastern summit“, organized in Prague, probably in spring 2009 with participation of EU27 + 6 (Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia). This summit should commit EU on the structure of the partnership. In 2008 we´ve had a „Meditarreanean spring“, spring of 2009 could be an „Eastern“ one.

Energy security. One of good examples of how Eastern partnership could work in practice is cooperation on energy security. The Czech Presidency would like to organize a Southern Corridor summit, planned in Brussels, in the TROIKA format + 6 (Turkey, Kasachstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine). We are working hard on that.

2) Transatlantic relationship

The EU divide on Russia is one of the many reasons why we need a strong transatlantic relationship. We need a strong partner to lean on, when we occasionally floppy. The transatlantic pillar can only be strong enough, if both partners enjoy the same level of security. A marriage cannot last, if one of the couple has an umbrella and the other is standing in the rain. In such case we can expect divorce. The transatlantic couple will go through some really difficult times, if Europe is left out of the Anti-missile defence shield. We will be aware of that when discussing with our partners on the other side of the Atlantic ocean.

Here we are also working hard. President Sarkozy and Bernard Kouchner will be travelling to the US, myself and Karl Bildt will be in the US next week. The current Presidency has been very active and has prepared a paper identifying areas of necessary transatlantic cooperation, such as efficient multilateralism, Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan or Russia. I would add that the main challenges standing ahead of us are to avoid protectionism and isolationism, as well as manage EU expectations from the new administration.

Financial and economic issues.

o EU and US must work together in finding remedies to the current financial turmoil.

o In order to respond to the looming recession we should try to enhance our mutual economic growth by rejuvenating the Transatlantic Economic Council.

Energy and Climate. We need to work together on the climate change issues, leadership only works if followed.

Security. Both US and the EU face the same global security challenges and together we can tackle them more successfully. The 60th anniversary of NATO will take place under the Czech Presidency.

The Czech Presidency would like to organize the first meeting of the US President with EU27 representatives. We would be honoured it this meeting could take place in Prague.

3) Enlargement

In the context of financial crisis and events in Georgia, the Balkans seem to be somehow forgotten. We have to finish our homework there as soon as possible. We will be organizing a Gymnich dedicated to the Balkans in March.

- We will encourage Croatia to speed up its preparations in order to finish the accession process by the end of 2009.

- We will also have to manage the situation in other Western Balkans countries in order to avoid the risk of refusal in case there is an avalanche of applications before the countries are ready.

- Bosnia and the future of the OHR will probably also be a big topic

- We also want to act strongly in the area of the implementation of the visa liberalisation roadmaps so as to facilitate contact with the EU for the citizens of the countries of the Western Balkans. Here we would like to bring the ministers of justice in the game to persuade them, that the benefits outweigh the risks, that they many fear.

The Georgian crisis has highlighted one more thing – the strategic importance of Turkey. Now, more than ever before, we need Turkey to help us stabilise our neighborhood. Turkey is also our key partner in the area of energy security. I firmly believe that we should speed up the progress in the accession negotiations – 2 chapters a year are not much. In this context I would like to mention that next year we also might have a window of opportunity with Cyprus and the Czech Presidency will be observing the situation there closely.

4) Up-grade EU-Israel

For EU to become a genuine global player, it is indispensable to have leverage in another pressing conflict area: the Middle East. Engaging into an enhanced cooperation with Israel and bringing positions of the EU and Israel closer in different sectoral areas of mutual interest is one of the most important ways to achieve that.

Some argue, that conditionality between our rapprochement with Israel and progress in the Middle Eastern peace process is indispensable. I am, however, persuaded that a strategic rather than tactical approach would be more beneficial in this respect: up-grade will pave the way for increased EU influence in the region and thus on the peace process too.

I will stop here to open the floor for questions. I believe this overview was helpful and I am looking forward to discussing it further with you.

print article   email   facebook   twitter