Eastern Partnership summit kicks off in Brussels
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has set out her commitment for Britain to continue to play a critical role in European security after the UK leaves the EU.
Donald Tusk and Theresa May at the Eastern Partnership summit | Photo credit: Press Association
She was speaking on a trip to Brussels on Friday for the Eastern Partnership summit (EaP) which brings together the EU and six countries of its eastern neighbourhood - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
The summit will discuss ways to strengthen future cooperation for economic growth and stronger governance.
Taking a leading role at the one day gathering, the British Prime Minister reflected on the significant economic and social advances in the region.
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As the UK prepares for its exit from the EU, May welcomed the unified approach to tackle threats and “attempts of destabilisation” from other foreign powers like Russia.
She also reaffirmed the UK’s support to the region, saying it was providing over €50m this financial year to support reform and security in the region through projects like tax reform in Moldova and demining in Ukraine.
The UK, she said, was also spending over €100m over five years in the eastern neighbourhood to “counter disinformation.”
She said, “We must be open-eyed to the actions of hostile states like Russia which threaten this potential and attempt to tear our collective strength apart.
“This summit highlights the crucial importance of the European countries working together to protect our shared values and ideals. The UK may be leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe, and we are unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security.”
“The summit here today is all about taking stock and about looking ahead to see how we can tackle the shared challenges together both in security and development. We must be opened-eyed about the actions of hostile states like Russia who threatens the potential growth of the eastern neighbourhood and who try to tear our collective strength apart.”
She added, “And I am looking forward today to renewed commitments from European countries to working together to tackle these shared challenges in both security and development. I am here to say again that the UK is unconditionally committed to continuing to play our leading role in maintaining Europe’s security. We may be leaving the European Union but we are not leaving Europe.”
From its conception, the EaP has been accused of not fully delivering on its goals of encouraging reform efforts in the six countries and anchoring their relationship to the EU. Friday’s summit is meant to breathe new life into the process.
Questions have been raised about the participation of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been invited to the summit.
But MEP Laima Andrikienė, co-author of the European Parliament’s recommendations on the EaP, said the invitation should not be interpreted to mean that the EU will stop pointing to the human rights record of the Lukashenko regime.
Addressing the opening of the summit, Parliament President Antonio Tajani said, “It is high time for us to set a clear political vision for the future of the Eastern Partnership, based on the core values of democratic pluralism, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and good governance, the fight against corruption and transparency, and the strengthening of civil society.
“Our recent achievements fuel new and legitimate expectations regarding the future of Eastern Partnership. It is of the utmost importance that we ensure that this policy generates concrete benefits for each citizen in the eastern partner countries and in the EU.”
The summit is chaired by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who, together with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, will represent the European Union. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and Commissioners Johannes Hahn and Cecilia Malmström will also attend.
EU foreign affairs ministers were in Brussels on Thursday for high-level meetings focused on the Iran nuclear deal.
The EU has been condemned for inviting the Iranian foreign minister for talks in Brussels this week.
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