Eastern Partnership must be strengthened - French President
European Union/Ukraine/Russia – Press conference given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, following the Eastern Partnership Summit (excerpts)
Riga, 22 May 2015
THE PRESIDENT – The Eastern Partnership must continue and even be strengthened. It wasn’t created to start conflicts, but it so happens that there are conflicts and that the Eastern Partnership must help resolve them.
What I wanted was for the Europeans to be able to speak with one voice on these issues. What do we do with these neighbourly relations, these good neighbourly relations, and how do we sustain the association agreements reached with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova? Also, what do we do about the countries which aren’t part of the association agreements and which also want good neighbourly relations?
Nor must we turn this Eastern Partnership into another conflict with Russia. That’s why I’m in favour of the European Union and Russia – even in the difficult context we’re experiencing, with sanctions again confirmed – being able to embark on discussions about the future.
I also had to discuss the Ukraine issue with Mrs Merkel. We had a meeting with Mr Poroshenko on the implementation of the Minsk agreement, because there’s no other framework than the Minsk agreement and all the parties involved must implement it. (…)
Q. – To return to the Eastern Partnership, I’d like to ask just one question about this Riga summit. Why have it? What concrete results [will it have]? And above all, in the conclusions, which some already regard as disappointing, is there any condemnation of Russia over what it’s doing in Ukraine?
THE PRESIDENT – The Eastern Partnership hasn’t started a conflict; I don’t share the idea that Ukraine was destabilized in Vilnius because of the proposal for an association agreement. It was precisely because Ukraine wanted the association agreement that the developments took place which led to the situation we’re seeing.
Russia has been carrying out activities; we’re aware of them. There have been condemnations by the European Union. So what must we do in this precise period? We must ensure that this Eastern Partnership enables Ukraine to be fully associated, although association in no way prejudges membership – I’ve been perfectly clear on that.
However, we must ensure that the Eastern Partnership can help Ukraine, but also help resolve the conflict, through the implementation of the Minsk agreement. From this viewpoint, the conclusions seem to me absolutely right for achieving this.
Here’s what we have to do next. The Normandy format is the right framework and will continue to be. That’s why, with the Chancellor, I wanted to meet the Ukrainian President so that, when the time came, we could prepare contacts that will be carried out in the Normandy format, possibly at different levels.
Q. – The OSCE has said that two Russians captured in Ukraine admitted to being active soldiers on a mission. Does this damage your trust in the Russian President’s word?
THE PRESIDENT – What’s clear is that the ceasefire isn’t being completely observed. (…) Not all the heavy weapons have been totally withdrawn, although they have been [withdrawn] on both sides, but not completely. There are still extremely worrying situations in certain towns; that’s why we must act and continue exerting pressure, particularly as regards eastern Ukraine and Russia, to ensure there’s full agreement, full respect of the Minsk agreement. Evidence may be provided; it confirms what we’re saying, namely that there’s still interference. (…)./.