Euronest leader: Parliamentary assembly offers a constructive platform for talks

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The recent session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly was a success, bringing together MEPs and their counterparts from Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Bulgarian MEP Evgeni Kirilov tells EURACTIV.

Evgeni Kirilov (S&D) is member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and co-president of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. He spoke to EURACTIV Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.

Congratulations on your election as co-president of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. You have been elected under extraordinary circumstance, I understand?

Indeed, this happened in urgency, as the former co-president Kristian Vigenin [S&D, Bulgaria] was nominated as foreign minister of Bulgaria. On 28 May the Parliamentary Assembly’s leadership was meeting in Brussels, on 29 May the Euronest Parliamentary session took place. I was nominated on Monday [27 May] as the next co-president and elected the next day. And on Wednesday I was chairing the assembly together with the other co-president Borys Tarasyuk [Ukraine].

What was the news from this session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly?

This is the third such session. Let me say that the first session [in 2011 in Strasbourg] was not successful. It was discontinued over serious disagreements between partner countries, and a document could not be adopted.

Can you be more specific?

This was over texts regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict proposed by the Armenian and the Azerbaijani sides. As it was not possible to reach agreement, the document was not adopted. But since then we had positive developments. A second session took place in Baku [in 2012]. The third one took place now and was much more constructive. The parliamentarians from those two countries succeeded to enter in dialogue, they managed to withdraw some problematic amendments based on mutual agreement and we were able to produce documents prepared by four commissions.

We can call it a successful session, as several issues were addressed, relative to cooperation between the EU and the countries of the Eastern Partnership. In addition, we discussed a document in preparation of the EaP summit in Vilnius in November.

This summit is seen as key for deciding on the future of EU relations with several Eastern Partnership countries. In particular, the possible signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement takes centre stage. What do you expect to happen?

We heard a detailed, straightforward statement from [Enlargement] Commissioner Štefan Füle. I think it was seen by the participants to the assembly as realistic. He said that the period until the summit is of critical importance, not only for Ukraine, but for the other countries that are negotiating association agreements. The issue of putting in place free trade agreements, including concluding the  [Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement] with Ukraine was also discussed. Decisions are expected in the autumn.

That’s why the draft document which we discussed as a message from the Parliamentary Assembly to the Vilnius Summit was debated in great detail. The bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly was tasked to update the draft with the achievements of the countries until the autumn. And we expect that we will be invited, the two co-presidents, to deliver this message to the summit.

We are now in the critical stage which will allow the countries to make progress in their EU negotiations process and decide the possibility of the countries to sign the agreements. There are of course considerations of economic nature, but more important are the issues related to democracy and rule of law, human rights, etc.

And for Ukraine, the situation with imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko…

Of course, this issue was discussed as well. And the assembly took the view that even the solution to insurmountable problems is possible.

Some countries in the EU hope that it would be possible to sign the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement for the sake of geopolitics, even without solving the Tymoshenko case. What do you think?

I have to speak in my capacity of co-president of Euronest. The EU’s main criticism is formulated as “the problem of selective justice”. It is not up to the Commission, or to MPs, to determine who is guilty and who is not. What is important is that there should be guarantee that the courts’ rulings are not a result of selective justice and political motivations. This is why the judiciary systems of our partner countries need to provide such guarantees.

There are different opinions and many say that Ukraine cannot wait at the crossroads; that its population sincerely wishes the process of EU integration of their country to continue. In spite of some opinions, the overwhelming view is that all efforts must be made on behalf of the EU to support Ukraine’s further EU integration, but also that the country concerned should do its homework and assume ownership of the process. This is not about imposing decisions; these should be sovereign decisions of our partner countries.

It looks like German conservative MEPs are the most sceptical towards Ukraine?

My colleague MEPs speak in individual capacity, they express the views of the citizens of their countries. Some of these opinions are very critical and single out areas where progress is indeed needed. But nobody is against the course which is in the interest of the Ukrainian citizens. There may be some partisan positions, but we are a Parliament, and everyone is free to speak. What is important is what happens at the moment of the vote.

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