Speech/statement | Date: 06/02/2004
Norwegian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Kim Traavik's statement on democratic development in Ukraine and Belarus given in Riga 6 February 2004 (09.02.04)
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Norwegian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Traavik
Democracy beyond the Baltics
Statement on democratic development in Ukraine and Belarus given in Riga 6 February 2004 at the conference "Democracy beyond the Baltics" hosted by H.E. Mrs. Sandra Kalniete, Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Madam chair, ladies and gentlemen,
Today, as the three Baltic countries are poised to become members of NATO and the European Union, we salute their achievements.
Baltic societies have been fundamentally transformed; suppressed civil societies have been rebuilt; historic cultures are flourishing.
The three Baltic countries have carried out necessary, and frequently painful reforms. They have worked hard to meet the membership criteria of the EU and NATO.
Yet the three countries have not become inward-looking or insular. Rather, they have become much-valued partners in European and international cooperation and have carved out for themselves a distinct foreign policy profile.
The present conference is yet another expression of the determination of Latvia and its neighbours to contribute actively to stability and prosperity in the region and beyond.
There can be no doubt that Baltic membership of NATO and the EU will provide a powerful boost to political stability, economic growth, and social cohesion in the region and beyond.
It will provide an impetus to strengthening the relations between Russia and her western partners, as well as for constructive engagement of Ukraine and, eventually, Belarus.
As neighbours, Russia, the Baltic countries and the Nordic states share important common interests. The Baltic Sea Cooperation has served the region well. Now the time has come to reassess its direction, against the backdrop of EU enlargement.
In the future, it could make important contributions to the evolution and implementation of the Wider Europe initiative. And it could have a key role in the implementation of the Northern Dimension Action Plan.
Through sustained cooperative efforts in areas such as stemming the alarming spread of diseases like tuberculosis and HIV/Aids; fighting the twin scourges of organised crime and corruption; and protecting and restoring the environment, we will be able to make a tangible, positive difference in the lives of ordinary people in the Baltic countries and in Northwest Russia.
And in the process the region will make an important contribution to the continuing expansion of the zone of stability and prosperity of which the European Union and NATO are the main guarantors.
NATO and EU enlargement are seminal events. At last, Europe is becoming whole and free. But we must not allow new divisions to replace those that are being done away with.
This is why the EU’s and NATO’s programs of outreach to the countries on their new peripheries are so important. The EAPC and the PfP remain essential instruments for strengthening ties between the Alliance and its partners, and for promoting vitally needed security sector reform in transitional countries.
And the EU’s Wider Europe initiative will be an important instrument to promote democratic reform and economic development, and hence stability, in our part of the world.
Norway has a long history of supporting reforms and promoting regional stability with a view to promoting stability in Europe. We have gained much experience from our exceptionally close cooperation with the Baltic countries, and with Russia in the High North.
This experience can be put to good use in support of the evolution and implementation of the Wider Europe initiative.
And under the European Economic Area – or EEA - Agreement, which makes us a part of the EU’s single market along with present and incoming EU members, Norway will be making a sizable economic contribution to bridging economic and social gaps in the enlarged EU.
With our EU partners, we wish to explore how the EEA financing instruments can be used to promote the objectives of the Wider Europe initiative.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We will have to reach out to countries like Ukraine and Belarus. Ukraine is a big country at the heart of Europe. Belarus in a few months’ time will share a long common border with NATO and the EU.
Belarus in particular is a troublesome interlocutor, however. It is hard to engage constructively with a regime that systematically tramples upon basic human rights, that violates commitments freely undertaken in the context of the OSCE, and that tolerates neither political opposition nor independent media.
As long as the Lukashenko regime remains as repressive and its human rights record remains as bad it is today, any contacts will necessarily have to be limited and selective.
Let us be clear about it: Democratic reform is a precondition for reaping the benefits, economic and otherwise, of partnership.
In the meantime, we must further strengthen our ties with the forces of reform in Belarus as well as Ukraine. We are grateful to the host country for having facilitated the presence here today of prominent and courageous representatives of the Belarus opposition. I was particularly moved by Ms Krasovskaya’s intervention this morning.
In the past, the Belarus opposition has been divided. You will be stronger if you stand together. If you do, anything is possible, as shown by the toppling of Europe’s last but one dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, three and a half years ago.
We in the international community stand with you. We urge you to communicate this to the people of Belarus. We for our part should do as much as we can to promote and support unity among the Belarus forces of reform.