"The Eastern Partnership is more important than ever"
Chancellor Angela Merkel began her government statement by pointing out that the circumstances under which the Eastern Partnership Summit meeting will take place in Riga on Thursday and Friday are radically different to those prevailing when the last summit was held in November 2013.
Angela Merkel said that "Russia’s unlawful annexation of Crimea" had led to a "massive destabilisation of eastern Ukraine" and had called the European peace order into question in the long term.
"To put it bluntly at the outset, particularly in the given situation, the idea of the Eastern Partnership is more important than ever," stressed Angela Merkel.
The target is greater prosperity in partner countries
Through the Eastern Partnership Germany continues to support its Eastern European neighbours on their path towards greater democracy and the rule of law. If we are to be good neighbours, she declared, we must firstly "offer our partners the chance to move closer to the EU in political terms and the chance to integrate in economic terms". In partner countries this is intended to result in the rule of law becoming more established, as well as creating jobs and generating more prosperity. "We want to help improve everyday life for the people."
Good neighbourliness, however, also means affirming our commitment to shared values and principles, including democracy, the free market economy, human rights and good governance. The Chancellor believes it is important to underline this intention once again at the Riga summit.
Association Agreements provide valuable impetus
Angela Merkel pointed to the tangible progress made since the summit at the end of 2013. The Association Agreements between the EU and Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova made it possible for both sides to open their markets, even if long transitional periods have been agreed. The agreements strengthen democracy and the rule of law, afford better human rights protection, and harmonise technical standards and administrative practice. The alignment with EU standards is thus anchored in the agreements.
"For all partner states it is true to say that the Association Agreements have generated valuable impetus for domestic reform processes," declared Angela Merkel. And this, in turn, is a precondition for more investment in modernising the economy, and of course for greater economic growth. "It is still our goal to fully implement the Association Agreements," said the Chancellor.
Guidelines for the Eastern Partnership
Angela Merkel explained three fundamental principles on which Germany’s position vis à vis the Eastern Partnership is built.
Firstly, "The Eastern Partnership is not an instrument of EU enlargement policy," said Angela Merkel. It is important not to raise expectations that cannot then be satisfied.
Secondly, the six partner states are very different and have differing perspectives and expectations. This makes it essential to have individually tailored offers for each partner country. Germany respects the decision of Azerbaijan and Armenia not to enter into an Association Agreement. We are even willing to step up cooperation with Belarus in spite of very apparent differences of opinion, in particular with respect to human rights, said Angela Merkel.
Thirdly, "The Eastern Partnership is not directed against anyone, and particularly not against Russia," stressed the Chancellor. It is not a question of "either/or, either moving closer to the European Union or complying with Russia’s wish for closer partnership with these states".
Angela Merkel also looked at the situation in Ukraine. "In the 21st century we do not accept any thinking in terms of spheres of influence, and that still applies to the situation in Ukraine." We are going to need staying power to restore law in this tormented country, she said. "We have the necessary patience, and we have the staying power we need. The Minsk package of measures points us in the right direction."
G7 – accepting responsibility for the future
In her statement, the Chancellor drew a connection to the G7 states which will be meeting at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria on 7 and 8 June. "We see the G7 as a community of shared values," declared the Chancellor. The G7 states can only accept responsibility at international level if they work to achieve liberty, democracy, the rule of law and respect for international law.
This year’s German Presidency falls in a watershed year for international cooperation. This applies to the UN summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, to the conference on financing for development and to the planned climate agreement that is to be adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference at the end of the year in Paris. "We, the G7 states, want to send a strong signal of credibility and support in this respect," underlined Angela Merkel.
The focus, however, is on long-term global challenges. For instance, the G7 states aim to further empower women. Women’s active participation in economic life around the world will reduce poverty and inequality, foster growth and thus encourage social cohesion. The Chancellor pointed out that an important precondition is to give women and girls the chance to obtain vocational and professional qualifications, especially in developing countries.
Improving health systems
Another point on the G7 agenda is to make health systems more resilient. "The Ebola epidemic was a wake-up call for all of us," said the Chancellor and pointed to an initiative for improved crisis management. With the President of Ghana John Dramani Mahama, and the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Angela Merkel has submitted to the United Nations proposals for better crisis management to respond to global health emergencies.
The summit in Schloss Elmau will also look at the use of antibiotics. The World Health Organization aims to ensure, through a global action plan, that life-saving antibiotics remain effective. At the start of May the German government adopted its own antimicrobial resistance strategy.
Stepping up free trade
World trade too is to be strengthened. This will generate impetus for the recovery of the global economy, for sustainable growth and for employment, stressed the Chancellor. Germany would like to see swift progress made on the free trade agreements between the EU and the G7 partners Japan and Canada.
As regards TTIP, the free trade agreement between the EU and the USA, the shared goal is still "to finalise the political framework by the end of 2015," underlined Angela Merkel.
Decent working conditions worldwide
Any extension of free trade must ensure better implementation of social and environmental standards, especially in international supply chains, said the Chancellor. "Our goal is to see decent working conditions worldwide. That is why we are also working for occupational health and safety."
Angela Merkel looked back at the collapse of a textile factor in Bangladesh two years ago, in which more than 1,100 people lost their lives. "I am working to see that victims and their families at last receive full compensation."
Thinking for tomorrow – acting together
The heads of international organisations such as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have also been invited to attend the G7 meeting in Schloss Elmau, as have the heads of state and government of many African countries, including Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Acting together also means acting with international partners, said Angela Merkel. The dialogue with African states is of key importance. To find lasting answers to the urgent global challenges of our time, we must work closely with every region of the world.
EU summit with Latin American states
Only a few days after the G7 summit the Chancellor will fly to Brussels, where an EU-CELAC summit meeting between the EU and the 33 states of Latin America and the Caribbean is intended to bring new impetus to political and economic cooperation.
Angela Merkel stressed that Latin America is an important partner for Europe, in promoting sustainable development, in climate change mitigation, and in combating international terrorism. Europe and Latin America are also becoming increasingly important for one another in economic terms. The EU is the second largest trade partner of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Joint answers to the challenges facing us
"We can only stand firm in a global world that is changing faster and faster if we develop joint answers to the challenges facing us all," concluded Angela Merkel. She will be working for this, she added, "within the framework of the partnership with our Eastern European neighbours, within the scope of the German G7 Presidency and in cooperation between Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean".
The Eastern Partnership brings together on the one side the European Union and all its member states, and on the other Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus. The summit meeting in Latvia’s capital city Riga will take place on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 May 2015. The Eastern Partnership is an EU project that is part of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The Partnership was officially adopted at the European Council meeting in December 2008. The first summit meeting was held on 7 May 2009 in Prague.