IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Catherine Ashton remarks on the Foreign Ministers Summit: ‘Not business as usual’
In her remarks to the AFET Committee in the European Parliament Catherine Ashton described the Summit as not 'business as usual', stating ‘there was a good and frank discussion with President Putin, most notably about our neighbourhood and differences, addressed in a trilateral discussion between the three Presidents’.. ‘We gave clear messages about our concerns’.
'The Russian President and his team also gave messages about some of the concerns that they have which led to the decision to hold some consultations at a technical level to explain in greater detail what the impact of some of the Agreements that we've been doing, especially the Free Trade Agreements with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, how this would be in our view of benefit to the economy of Russia and to try and prevent the further spread of misinformation’ – the statement continues. Ashton expressed hopes that the EU will also see the discussion on new agreements going forward in the future, stating that EU wants to have a strong bilateral relationship, a relationship based on mutual respect.
In the main part of the Foreign Affairs Council a long debate on the Eastern Partnership took place - to both do a stock take after the Vilnius Summit, and to focus on what's been happening in Ukraine, she continued. And in the context of the post-Vilnius work, how to support Moldova and Georgia as we move forward with our ambition to sign those agreements, well before the end of this Commission, noting that there were some lessons that EU took away from the Vilnius summit, mentioning also the importance of retaining high level political engagement in the run up to the next summit in Riga and beyond.
We've asked for Ministers to be ready to make high level visits, both individually and in teams under the umbrella of the European Union and expressed the need to continue to broaden our engagement with different groups and society, to combat misinformation about the nature of the agreements with the European Union, this is particularly important in Moldova right now, she underlined, appealing to the support of the parliamentarians.
She also talked about the need to reach out to the civil society, business, and to local regional authorities so that they too understand the benefits of these agreements and the potential for their business, for their economic activity and for society as a whole.