Warsaw, 21 November 2003
Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the UNECE, as one of the two international organisations that represent EU Member States, Central, Eastern and South European States, Caucasus and Central Asia, and the USA and Canada, I would like to thank the organisers for this opportunity to participate in this CEI Summit and to address you.
The Central European Initiative is making a remarkable contribution to stability and prosperity in Europe through dialogue and cooperation projects. The UNECE recognizes the efforts made by the CEI Member State Governments to achieve these objectives within a framework of economic and social development, and common security in the Region.
Today, we are facing new challenges and opportunities in the European region, with the political map due to be redrawn once again after EU enlargement. As we have underlined today many times, five of the existing CEI members will join the two others, Austria and Italy, in the European Union in May 2004. Another two, Romania and Bulgaria, will access the EU in 2007 and Croatia, very likely, one year later. Could anyone have predicted this remarkable achievement fifteen years ago? Prospects of EU accession for other SEE countries in the framework of the Stabilization and Association Process starting in 1999, was recently strengthened at the Thessaloniki Summit with the new Partnership Initiative.
This enlargement will create particular challenges and new opportunities for the new neighbouring countries. The European Council in Thessaloniki endorsed the European Commission's new neighbourhood policy or a Wider Europe policy which includes among others three CEI members. The EC defined new neighbourhood instruments which will assist new neighbours to further develop the economic and political relations with the EU. UNECE sees the integration process within the context of EU enlargement, SAP and a Wider Europe as a building block for the future of a stable, prosperous and secure broader Europe. The progress achieved is very much welcomed by the United Nations and in particular by UNECE whose mandate assigned to it in 1947 is to promote economic cooperation within the UNECE Region.
At the CEI Summit in 2002, you discussed the future of CEI and the impact of EU enlargement on its work. The benefits of regional lateralism for strengthening democracy and prosperity are increasingly recognised. The CEI is a good example of regional cooperation within the UNECE region. UNECE will continue to provide its support to your activities through our normative work, policy recommendations and technical assistance. I would like to reiterate UNECE commitments to cooperate more intensively with Western Balkan and CIS countries among the CEI members.
To focus attention on the opportunities that enlargement brings, UNECE has launched a "Wider Europe" programme focusing on the impact of EU enlargement on energy, trade, transport and environment, providing an opportunity for member States, the business community, civil society and academic institutions to come together to look "beyond enlargement" and assess how economic cooperation could be strengthened in an enlarged Europe, the Western Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asia included.
In 2002 in Johannesburg at the WSSD, governments made strong commitments to seek intergenerational solidarity and therefore to mobilize their national efforts and enhance international cooperation to achieve the objectives of sustainable development. I would like to use this opportunity to raise further your awareness of the need to work together towards the agreed targets. May I invite your governments to participate in the first Regional Implementation Forum on Sustainable Development in Geneva in January 2004.
The EU Lisbon Strategy set a target to make the EU the most competitive part of the world by 2010 which will benefit from knowledge-based economy. Competitiveness and growth in the twenty-first century is greatly dependent on progress achieved in building a knowledge-based economy and information society.
I therefore invite all the CEI countries to pay special attention to the Information and Communication Technologies and to the work of WSIS, the first part of which will take place in Geneva in December this year. The Information Society is becoming a major UNECE focus. The new technological developments require an impartial definition of the regulatory framework and an institutional guidance to allow broader use and benefit of these technologies among all parts of society.
In this context, the UNECE has a particular responsibility to support transition economies to adopt the bold economic and social reforms needed to bridge the digital gap and build a knowledge-based economy, which has become an engine of growth in developed market economies.
UNECE is working in this direction as part of the global UN process for ICT and also related to the preparation of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). We at the UNECE believe that we are in a strong position to contribute to ICT for development and provide assistance to Governments in developing national strategies and goals for the Information Society.
Excellencies, UNECE is convinced that working together at the regional level is a source of innovation and progress in both institutions and standards. Regional and sub-regional integration can lead to the adoption of programmes and action plans to establish a set of guiding principles and commitments specific to the region and contribute to the development of global programmes.
The UNECE is ready to cooperate with the CEI and tackle the challenges of sustainable development and the information society, to gain advantage from the related opportunities that are arising in the CEI Member States with EU enlargement, but also to reduce risks of possible threats and new socio-economic gaps in the region.
I see the role of UNECE becoming even more relevant in the coming years, especially in relation to the twin trend of globalization and regional integration, offering as it does an open and accessible platform to all its member States for economic integration within the framework of a wider Europe, but at the same time within the closer European and transatlantic cooperation.