On 12 May, Madrid hosted a high-level conference entitled The Future of the EU’s Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood.
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, the former President of Latvia and current President of the Club de Madrid, outlined the historical background of the developments in the EU’s Eastern and Southern neighbourhood and their mutual relations. She also pointed out that the EU should be responsible for its neighbours, and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) should be built on the basis of equality.
Pierre Vimont, former Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, recognised that the ENP should be retained since it has yielded results, though it was a mistake not to listen to partners more.
Bernardino León, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya, criticised the EU for its approach that had been too bureaucratic; he noted that a more creative approach is needed as well as a better understanding of how cooperation should be built with the neighbours to the south. Southern countries wish for more Europe, seeing Europe as a model for development.
At the discussion in the Eastern Partnership panel, viewpoints were broached that the Eastern Partnership is not a genuine policy, only a package of instruments. The Riga Summit could become a ground-breaking event: it should be jointly demonstrated that we stand united even despite the security situation.
Andrejs Pildegovičs, State Secretary at the Latvian Foreign Ministry, defined the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit as a decisive moment that could pave the way for further development of the Eastern Partnership or, in case of failure, it could become the last such summit. It is going to be a summit where EU’s commitments will be reconfirmed, assuring that the EU has a strategy, appropriate instruments and the funding required for its implementation.
Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, the State Secretary for EU Affairs at the Spanish Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Ministry, commended the work of the Latvian Presidency and expressed his gratitude for the organisation of this conference in Spain, thus connecting the informal meeting of the EU and Southern Neighbourhood Foreign Ministers in Barcelona on 13 April with the Eastern Partnership Summit to take place in Riga on 21-22 May.
The conference was organised in support of the Latvian EU Presidency priorities in both the eastern and southern dimensions of the ENP.
The speakers at the conference were the former President of Latvia and the current President of the Club de Madrid, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga; the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya, Bernardino León; the former Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Pierre Vimont; the State Secretary at the Latvian Foreign Ministry, Andrejs Pildegovičs; the State Secretary for EU Affairs at the Spanish Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Ministry, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo; the Portuguese State Secretary for European Affairs, Bruno Maçães; as well as a researcher at the European Policy Centre, Rosa Balfour; a researcher at Carnegie Europe, Richard Youngs; the former Director of the Anna Lindt Foundation, Andreu Claret; and the Swedish Ambassador at the EU Political and Security Committee, Anna Jardfelt. The debate was moderated by the Spanish Foreign Minister, Secretary-General of the Club de Madrid, Carlos Westendorp, and the Director of the Elcano Royal Institute, Charles Powell.