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Building Europe's East

Anförande i Tiblisi, Georgien

It was in November 1989 that history suddenly confronted our generation with a new and challenging task - to build a truly new order of peace, prosperity and security for Europe as a whole.

The progress since then has been truly immense.

Out of the then European Community evolved the stronger European Union, and this Union has since been enlarged to include the approximately 100 million people in the ten nations stretching from Estonia in the North to Bulgaria in the South.

And few would deny that it was the magnetism of European integration and the model provided by the different policies of the European Union that made the democratic consolidation as well as the rapid reform of these countries possible.

Today, we have a belt of not only new democratic stability, but also economic dynamism and impressive growth that stretches from the Gulf of Finland down towards the Bosphorus.

Of great importance for this development has naturally also been the fact that the trans-Atlantic security structures have been extended to cover these countries as well. This has provided the feeling of security necessary in order to be able to advance towards the future.

The European Union that has emerged from this vast process of enlargement - that has gone hand in hand with the deepening of integration in numerous important areas - is a very different union from what it was in the past.

Today, it represents that largest integrated economy in the world. In trade terms it is the undisputed number one - in fact being larger than the number two and number three taken together. It is the largest market for more than 130 nations around the world. And its policies in different areas are increasingly important on the global stage.

In Lisbon two weeks ago we concluded the work on the so called Reform Treaty, thus taking the Union out of its process of treaty discussion that has been dominating the past few years.

Complicated in its different details, the Reform Treaty will enhance the ability of the Union primarily in the fields of foreign and security affairs. And it is my sincere hope that ratification will proceed so that this revised treaty - the Lisbon Treaty - can enter into force by January 1st 2009.

As we move forward with the Reform Treaty, it is only natural that we contemplate how we should proceed with that great challenge that history presented uswith in 1989.

We have integrated the Western, Northern, Southern and Central Europe.

The immediate tasks are lying ahead of us in the Southeast - the different countries and challenges of the western Balkans, and the great task of the continued modernization and European accession of Turkey.

But it is obviously important that we focus more on all of the issues of Europe's East.

Yesterday I paid a brief visit to Ukraine as that great country is in the final phases of forming its new government after the recent parliamentary elections, and I had reason to congratulate President Yushchenko on the continued democratic consolidation of the country.

With membership of the World Trade Organization around the corner, the road should be clear for the so called Enhanced Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, leading to a deep free trade arrangement that I am convinced will be of immense benefit to both Ukraine and the European Union.

We also see the prospect of deeper cooperation in the increasingly important area of energy policy, as well as on different aspects of foreign and security policies.

The European perspective on which there is a broad political consensus in Ukraine is obviously of great importance for the future of the country, but should also be seen in the larger perspective of the East of Europe. What is possible for Ukraine should also be possible for all the other countries of this region.

To the North of the Ukraine we still see the semi-Soviet dictatorship of Belarus trying to preserve its powers, but increasingly I think it is only a matter of time until there has to be change in Belarus as well, thus opening up the same doors for cooperation and integration with the European Union as we are seeing in the case of Ukraine.

But the rulers in Minsk should know that it is to be a friend of democracy - not having problems with Moscow that is the key to the relationship with the European Union. You earn your way to Europe, by true commitment to democracy and the neccessary reforms.

Last week there was the last summit meeting between Russia and the European Union under President Putin. We had hoped that there would have been clear signs of a political will to overcome the last hurdles on the way towards Russia's membership of the WTO, but unfortunately that was not the case.

It is natural that we seek close and constructive relations with the Russian Federation. But the last few years have seen the build-up of differences in a number of areas that unfortunately have made it difficult to move forward in the way we should have wished.

Accordingly, the opening of talks on a new framework agreement between Russia and the EU will not happen until well into next year at the earliest. By that time, I hope there will be a new readiness in Moscow to enter into a more constructive relationship also in the areas in which we have seen differences building up in the last few years.

One of these areas of differences have been aspect of Russia's relations with its neighbours, and Georgia is obviously one of them. The ongoing economic blockades by Russia against Georgia are obviously not in accordance with the principles that should guide relations between European countries - apart from them being also totally counterproductive from the Russian point of view.

The countries of the southern Caucasus deserve more attention that they have often been given. In a number of ways I believe their importance will increase in the years ahead. Already we see them developing as important gateways between the central and western parts of Europe and the countries of Central Asia, notably in the increasingly important area of energy. This region could be a true hub for energy, trade and investments.

Georgia of today is a success story. There is still a lot of work to be done - the success story lies in what has been acheived and in the commitment of the Georgian society to the path of reform.

I did notice that the World Bank in its survey - "Doing Business" - of business conditions around the world, puts Georgia at the very top of the list of reform countries. In only one year'stime Georgia has moved up from position 112 to 18. Overtime these figures should translate into prosperity for each and everyone.

Georgia must stay on its reform course - for its own sake, for the region and for the East of Europe. Georgia must reconfirm its commitments of reform - it must earn its way to increased cooperation with the rest of Europe.

Georgia also carries the task of taking part in the efforts to solve the long-standing conflicts in Eastern Europe, notably in Georgia itself with the two breakaway regions. A solution requires patience, determination and statemanship and must be sought within the greater context of relevant international organizations. The soft power of success is key to overcome conflicts, tensions and historical legacies.

The building of Europe's East is part of the great challenge to which history presented us in November 1989. We are not yet half way completed. Thus far focus has been on the region stretching from Tallinn to Sofia, now the focus is increasingly on the Southeast - Sarajevo and Istanbul. And then we stretch also to Kiev and Tbilisi. The success here will serve as an important inspiration for the wider Caspian region and Central Asia. In the building of Europe's East it is also important to find ways to include Russia.

To conclude, the democratic transformation of Europe will never be secure until the democratic transformation of Europe's East is fully completed.

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