Titus Corlăţean, ministrul afacerilor externe
Reuniunea miniştrilor afacerilor externe din statele participante la SEECP

Astăzi, 20 iunie 2014, ministrul afacerilor externe, Titus Corlăţean, este gazda celei de-a treia reuniuni a miniştrilor afacerilor externe din statele participante la Procesul de Cooperare în Europa de Sud-Est (SEECP), organizată de România.

Reuniunea este dedicată discutării ultimelor evoluții la nivel regional, prezentării activităților Președinției-în-exercițiu române a SEECP, dar și pregătirii Summit-ului SEECP (București, 25 iunie 2014).

În cadrul reuniunii, ministrul afacerilor externe, Titus Corlăţean, a susţinut următorul discurs:

Dear Prime-Minister,
Your Excellencies, Dear colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me a particular pleasure to open the South Eastern European Cooperation Process Ministerial Meeting. This is the first high level event marking the end of the Romanian Chairmanship-in-Office of the Process, the third term of this kind my country is completing since the inception of the SEECP.

I would like to point out few things I consider meaningful for this particular moment in Europe. For three anniversary reasons:

First of all, this year we celebrate 25 years since the fall of communism. Without the courage of millions of people and in the absence of an unremitting political will, I am sure we would not have been seated at this table in this very moment.

Second, as our Prime-minister mentioned, a decade has passed since the 2004 enlargement. That moment made Europe a safer place, and demonstrated the effectiveness of the Copenhagen criteria, the role of the Pre-Accession Instrument and the importance of regional cooperation.

Not least, we remember 100 years from the beginning of the Great War. The world changed completely from that year, and I believe this commemoration must trigger reconciliation and reconfirm the constructive role of the states which rose from ashes and rubble.

It’s a reality widely acknowledged that the history had been tougher with our region in comparison with the rest of the Europe. Meeting the challenges of change and interdependence through regional cooperation should continue to represent the key priority for the years ahead in order to have a united and prosperous South-Eastern Europe. In this regard, SEECP should continue to bring its contribution to the development of an area of stability, security and prosperity, sharing one European future.

For 17 years, the SEECP represented a forum for political debate which helped the accession of three of its participants, which founded this structure with the declared goal of joining the EU. Today, this group counts five SEECP participants. All other participants are either candidates, potential candidates or seek a closer relationship with the EU.

As Chairmanship-in-Office of the SEECP, we constantly followed the synchronization of regional actions with the efforts made by the countries of the region in order to fulfil the EU accession criteria. Our initiatives were meant to complement and support these efforts, a reason that stayed behind the decision to focus our Chairmanship-in-office agenda on events related to the enlargement negotiating chapters 23 and 24.

In this context, we organized, in April this year, a Regional Conference on Anti-Corruption; in the beginning of May, took place in Bucharest the Meeting of the Presidents of the Councils for the Judiciary from the SEECP participating states and at the end of May - the SEECP meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs ministers.

We also organised the meeting of SEECP Heads of consular services, the Regional conference on migration statistics and on Monday, we will host a Regional Conference on cyber security.

Since the beginning of this year, the idea of maximizing SEECP potential as a common platform for the South-Eastern European states on their path towards Euro-Atlantic integration and the main regional political forum, has been gaining momentum. The objectives of enhancing the effectiveness of the process and strengthening the ties between the participating states, between the process and the European Union, as well as with other international partners, became important goals for all the participating states. Therefore, we effectively started the reflection on the reform of the SEECP; a first meeting of the Ad-Hoc Working Group took place in Sarajevo, on 23 April 2014.

This is a process that will significantly strengthen the most important political forum of our region, so as to be able to meet the present challenges and make a better use of opportunities.

It is also important to remember that we have now a SEECP Parliamentary Assembly,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, the challenge ahead of us is complex and requires wisdom and rapid reaction. In the last months we have seen elections in many European states and for the European Parliament. The results made the political landscape more complicated. In this region not only we care for what is the political trend in the Europe as a whole, but about what this tendency will bring to the European policies targeting neighboring regions.

A stronger Union must pursue its main political objective, and make populist rhetoric disappear. By no means, throughout history and nowadays, people moving freely have ever endangered a society. To the contrary. It helped economies grow. Same goes for EU enlargement: it never weakened the Union, quite the opposite. Enlargement always brought good things for the EU and its citizens and at the same time shaped the EU as a powerful positive force on the international arena.

From South Eastern Europe, we must send a clear message as well. Objectives aimed to change the life of people for the better are difficult to reach. We can see populism rising and we can see complaints that the EU standards are too strict on purpose, in order to make the result impossible. Sometimes we hear that the benefits arrive too late to be helpful for the people. It is not true; such rhetoric is just aimed to discourage the public and to make the leaders shift the agenda.

The Stabilization and Association Process encompassing all actors in the Western Balkans symbolizes that the wounds of the wars that marred the whole decade of the ‘90s started to heal. Ten years since the launch of the SAP, all actors in the Western Balkans considerably advanced on their way towards the EU. At the same time, the Chișinău joined the SEECP and its European perspective became clearer thanks to the implication in regional cooperation, the pursuit of its European integration gained pace and substance. The European perspective of South Eastern Europe is a complex endeavour.

I am optimistic on the signal the European Council will send this year, in what the accession objectives of all SEECP actors at this table is concerned. Individual performances were significant and new executive authorities following elections are expected to show hard wearing political will on the path to reforms. At the same time, increased alignment with EU positions on matters of Common Foreign and Security Policy will be appreciated by EU institutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since our last formal ministerial meeting, the results on the path to EU are remarkable: we have seen the Stabilization and Association Process carries weight and is a successful blueprint for a candidate, as the Council is richer having officials from Zagreb since 1 July 2013. At the same time, Podgorica and Belgrade started their accession talks, a major step ahead to the achievement of their European perspective and also a mobilizing drive for the difficult work lying ahead.

Governments in Belgrade and Pristina went an extra mile by the Agreement of April 2013, a backbone document for the regional stability, whose implementation becomes a must, following recent elections in Belgrade and Pristina. For Belgrade, our support in the direction towards the EU remains unyielding. Deep transformation of the society requires patience and motivation to implement European standards in what protection of persons belonging to national minorities or market economy is concerned. Enlargement seeks to make a country stronger by implementing the EU values and standards.

Reconciliation is the corner stone of stability in our region. It represents our share in serving lasting security and speaks about the essence of regional ownership. Belgrade has shown wisdom – and this is well appreciated – in embarking upon the EU facilitated Dialogue with Pristina. We hope this Dialogue, the framework for the European future of both Pristina and Belgrade, will contribute to Pristina’s steady progress towards complying with EU requirements.

By the same token, we are glad Tirana’s perspective to be a candidate state is closer than ever, once the Report on the progress in fighting corruption, organized crime and on the judicial reform was adopted by the Commission this month. What the report underlines is encouraging and I believe EU MS will look into it with willingness and political realism.

For our friends in Skopje there is a time for engaging in the consolidation of the democratic institutions, in respecting the points of view of the opposition and in severing the ties between the ruling party and the public institutions. Such approach will lead to the green light to open the accession talks.

In Chişinău, this year brought consistent transformation which paved the way towards the signature of the Association Agreement with its trade component. This is an example for the region as a whole and, along with the decision of the visa free regime depicts the dimension of the deep relation with the EU for the general public.

We are confident that government in Ankara will spare no effort in advancing the dialogue with the EU, as the potential of this country is enormous and the spirit of competition always made it grow.

In Sarajevo, time has come for a clear option: adopting the principles and going faster towards the EU. The political will of the candidates and potential candidates must be solid and visible in order to press on the EU institutions, on the EU MS as well, in order to go ahead with the open doors policy. The individual performance is an irrefutable argument for the enlargement.

Romania has also been a strong supporter of the NATO Open Door Policy. Following this spirit, we support that a strong signal for the aspirants should be sent at the Wales Summit. However, we acknowledge that the NATO enlargement should remain performance-driven. Therefore, we encourage the aspiring countries to advance and enhance their domestic reforms, to sharply use all the partnership tools provided by NATO in order to get closer to the Allied standards.

Your Excellencies,

Recent months proved that outside the confines of the European Union a forged unstable context can ignite at any time, using any reason and questioning everything: from human life to EU integration aspirations. In these circumstances, the international law and human rights are recklessly violated. We have seen this in Georgia, six years ago, we have witnessed a similar situation in the Republic of Moldova, in the bloody month of April 2009, and this year in Ukraine. Such course of action sets aside the interest of the people and their chance for a better future. Together, we must stand against this manipulation by demonstrating that EU enlargement brings development and serves the interest of the people. It is a fair game. Four examples prove this assertion to be right, and I am sure my colleagues in Ljubljana, Sofia, and Zagreb, will agree with me.

I will stop here looking forward to hearing your points of view.

Thank you for your attention.