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Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel following the Eastern Partnership Summit

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 15 december 2021.

Thank you Charles,

Indeed, I am also glad that we finally had the opportunity to have a physical meeting with our Eastern partners, because the current geopolitical situation really demands it. And indeed, we were discussing the current challenges but also the future of our partnership.

And I can pick up where you just left. Indeed, there was an empty chair in the room. And I hope that this chair will soon be filled by a legitimate, democratically-elected Belarusian leader. We all know that the Belarusian regime represses its own people; it instrumentalises migrants, putting their lives at risk; and it is launching in parallel a hybrid attack against the European Union. You know that we responded to this attack rapidly, forcefully and in all unity. We introduced sanctions; we coordinated with our partners - mainly the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. We prepared the blacklisting of transport companies involved in the smuggling of migrants. We increased our financial support to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland on border management. We are working with the United Nations agencies to support the people trapped at the border. And we reached out to countries of origin and transit, in particular Iraq, to stop the smuggling. It was good to see a consensus among us - the 27 Member States and the 5 Eastern partners. We unanimously condemn Lukashenko's behaviour. And we all stand with the Belarusian people.

Indeed, the second topic was our shared concern about the Russian military build-up along Ukraine's eastern border. We are calling on Russia to de-escalate and refrain from any further aggressive acts. We assured Ukraine of our steadfast support and commitment to its sovereignty and to its territorial integrity. And there should indeed be no doubt: the European Union will respond firmly to any further aggression against Ukraine.

The third topic we have been discussing was the cooperation, and in particular the joint fight against the pandemic. The European Union has shared 13 million doses of vaccine with our Eastern partners. And more is to come. The Commission has just signed a EUR 35 million agreement with the Polish development bank. It will allow Team Europe as a whole to step up the delivery of vaccines to the Eastern Partnership countries. And we are also ready to provide vaccines to the people of Belarus. We have set aside vaccine doses and we are right now looking into ways of delivering them to the Belarus people as quickly as possible.

But beyond COVID-19, we also support our partners deal with other pressing challenges. Just before the Summit, we signed an emergency support package for Moldova of EUR 60 million. As you know, Moldova faces a severe gas supply crisis. And with this programme, we help reduce the impact of rising gas prices on the most vulnerable people in Moldova.

Finally, we have been talking about the deepening cooperation with our partners, across the board. Today, we have launched a new, more ambitious phase in our Eastern Partnership; a new agenda to help us in our joint work on recovery and reform, underpinned by significant investment. Indeed, as Charles said, as part of our overall EUR 300 billion Global Gateway initiative, the Economic and Investment Plan for the region, the Eastern Partnership, could trigger EUR 17 billion of investments for our Eastern partners. There are very interesting, impressive projects in the pipeline, for example making buildings in Moldova more energy-efficient, or to expanding high-speed internet to rural Georgia, or to rolling out fibre optic cable under the Black sea - just to name a few. So we invited our Eastern partners to get on board and to work with us on building new links in the shared region.

Thank you.


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