Baku. 27 July. REPORT.AZ/ Report News Agency presents an Interview with Jean Asselborn - Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, acting chairman of the Council of the European Union.
- First of all we would like to know the priorities of Luxembourg during its presidency in the EU Council?
- The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU has defined seven core priorities that focus on the key challenges the EU faces today. Hence in these areas, which reflect the priorities of the Strategic Agenda, as defined by the European Council last year, action is urgently needed.
First of all, boosting economic growth and job creation is a key priority for the Luxembourg Presidency. In line with the Investment Plan for Europe, as presented by the European Commission, the Luxemburg Presidency will have a strong focus on putting in place the right framework conditions for an innovative and competitive economy. If implemented successfully, the investment plan will unlock €315 billion in public and private investments in the real economy.
Deepening the European Union’s social dimension will be the second priority of our Presidency. We have to keep in mind that social cohesion is the pillar of the European construction that has most been weakened by the economic and financial crisis. In particular, youth unemployment has increased significantly within the Union and inequalities have widened.
A better management of migration towards the EU is another key priority of the Luxembourg Presidency. Migration is indeed a crucial point, especially in the light of the tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean in recent months. These events call for resolute and sustained action at European Union level. With the objective of bringing the EU closer to its citizens, the Luxembourg Presidency also sets out to promote and reconcile liberties, justice and security within the European Union. To this end, the Presidency will push for progress in the different areas covered by the Justice and Home Affairs Council, ranging from family law and data protection to internal security, immigration and asylum policy.
Another priority of the Luxembourg Presidency consists of revitalizing the single market, most notably by focusing on its digital dimension. We believe that creating jobs and generating economic growth requires above all a deepening and better functioning of the single market. A fifth area of work for the Luxembourg Presidency will be to increase European competitiveness by placing it in a global and transparent framework. In this regard, particular attention will go to improving transparency in fiscal matters, while at the same time ensuring a level playing field at the international level.
Furthermore, the Luxembourg Presidency will do its utmost to effectively promote sustainable development. During the Luxembourg Presidency, the EU will be negotiating several crucial international agreements both in the field of climate change, at the COP21 in Paris, and regarding development policy at the UN conference in New York in September. Finally, we believe that, in an ever more globalized world, we need to strengthen the EU’s presence on the global stage.
- Which major challenges does Europe face today and what can Luxembourg offer to respond to them?
Indeed, the success of our Presidency will be determined by the progress we will achieve in the face of the challenges EU has to deal with right now. In this regard, it is obvious that finding lasting solutions to the migration crisis is among the core priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency. Indeed, we believe that it is important to rally European institutions, Member States and citizens in order to ensure a sound management of migration to the EU. This should be done by intensifying cooperation with third countries, reinforcing solidarity between Member States, stepping up the fight against the trafficking and smuggling of migrants and increasing the channels of legal migration. We are determined to bring work forward in every one of these areas. Another key issue touches upon growth and jobs. I believe that the most pressing challenge, these days, is without any doubt the relaunch of the European economy and the fight against unemployment throughout the Union. To be more specific, we hope that our support for the Investment Plan for Europe, which seeks to unlock investments in the real economy of up to EUR 315 billion, will help to close the investment gap in Europe and generate economic growth and boost job creation.
- Luxembourg plays a significant role in the life of Europe and its institutions. How can Luxembourg assist in resolving protracted conflicts in Europe, especially Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
- Luxembourg continues to support the all efforts aiming at finding a solution to protracted conflicts in Europe: the negotiations in the 5+2 format on a comprehensive political settlement of the Transnistrian conflict, the efforts deployed in the framework of the Geneva International Discussions aiming at addressing the consequences of the 2008 conflict in Georgia, and the mediation efforts by the co-chairs of the Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
5. How do you see the future of the Eastern Partnership program and individual approach towards the participating states taking into account the results of recent summit in Riga?
- The Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga confirmed that the engagement of the European Union and its partners for the Eastern Partnership programme is stronger than ever. We cannot forget that the Eastern Partnership was created on the basis of the following principles: security, stability and prosperity of the European continent. I also insisted on the need to ensure the involvement of partners in the Eastern Partnership. We need to adapt common projects to the needs of our partners and develop individual relations based on jointly fixed priorities. More differentiation leads to more ownership. The Riga declaration confirmed that each partner has the right to choose the level of ambition and the goals for their relations with the European Union. The engagement of partners in the field of rule of law, democracy and good governance is a basic requirement.
The implementation of the Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will be an obvious priority for the Eastern Partnership programme in the years to come. The definition of individual frameworks for the relations with the other three partners, including Azerbaijan, will also be high on the EU’s agenda. We understand that Baku has expressed the desire to engage on a possible future agreement. The Luxembourg Presidency looks forward to contacts between the EU and Baku on this issue. We should deepen our cooperation, especially in areas that benefit citizens directly, such as mobility, connectivity, energy and education. Citizens’ support for the Eastern Partnership, as well as people-to-people contact between the EU and their partner countries, are essential.
The Luxembourg Presidency will work closely with the European External Action Service and the Commission to advance the Eastern Partnership project wherever possible. The review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, for which the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga provided key input on the expectations of the partners, should be finalised under the Luxembourg Presidency.