My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister attended the third Eastern Partnership summit on 28 and 29 November 2013 in Vilnius, Lithuania. My right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Warsi accompanied him. The summit was attended by Heads of State and Government or representatives of the European Union member states and Eastern Partnership member countries. President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso; President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy; President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz; the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland; Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Füle; and the Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht were also in attendance for parts.
28 November 2013
The President of the Republic of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, chaired a working dinner for the Heads of State and Government, which the Prime Minister attended. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, also chaired a working dinner for Ministers of Foreign Affairs. My right hon. Friend, Baroness Warsi attended. Both dinners focused on the future of the Eastern Partnership. The Prime Minister welcomed the signing and initialling of the agreements (listed below) due to take place on the 29 November; they mark a significant step forward in the EU’s relationship with the region. He expressed disappointment with Ukraine’s decision to put on hold the preparations for signature of its association agreement the EU, but made it clear that the door is still open in the future.
29 November 2013
In the presence of the Heads of State and Government, the agreement between the EU and the Republic of Azerbaijan on facilitating visas (relevant for Schengen member countries only); the agreement between the EU and Georgia establishing a framework for the participation of Georgia in EU crisis management operations; the agreements between the EU and the European atomic energy community and their member states and Georgia and the Republic of Moldova were signed. The association agreements, incorporating deep and comprehensive free trade areas, between the EU and Georgia and the Republic of Moldova were also initialled.
Heads of delegation then convened at the plenary Session where the UK was represented by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and subsequently by my right hon. Friend Baroness Warsi. The discussion focused on welcoming the progress made by Georgia and Moldova and looking to the future of the Eastern Partnership. The majority of EU member states also expressed disappointment that Ukraine was not signing its association agreement with the EU. All delegations agreed that the Eastern Partnership offers opportunities for increased prosperity and support for reform in eastern partner countries, which should enhance their wider relationships in the region.
In discussion with other Heads of State and Government, the Prime Minister made the case for the need to reform welfare rules and return the concept of free movement of people within the EU to a more sensible basis, as an essential step to regain the trust of people in member states in future enlargement of the EU.