The EU’s Eastern Partnership celebrated its two years birthday at the recent Summit in Warsaw. The timing of the Summit wasn’t optimal with the EU looking more to the Arab Spring in the South and inward to the debt crises. Although the Summit hardly will go down in history, the EU and its partners could look back at some achievements during the first period of the Partnership:
– A new institutional framework for the EU’s relations with the partners to the East has been established – and works. Dialogue and cooperation comprise several levels: Governmental, parliamentary, civil society and local.
– Negotiations on an Association Agreement (AA) with the Ukraine comprising a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) are very close to be finalized – but await the outcome of the trial against former premier Tymashenko.
– Negotiations on new AAs with Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia have been commenced.
– The Civil Society Forum has been established and has taken up its important work among others resulting in a host of projects initiated.
– New financial resources have been brought about to the partner countries adding up the total assistance to approx. 1.8 billion Euro until 2014.
– Euronest Parliamentary Assembly constituted by members of the European Parliament and parliamentarians from the partner countries has held its first session.
– A Comprehensive Institution Building programme has been initiated with activities within the area of public administration , rule of law and EU regulatory approximation.
– Five flagship projects have been launched in the field of integrated border management, SME’s, energy efficiency, environment protection and civil protection.
– Visa Action Plans with Ukraine and Moldova are being implemented with the aim of visa liberalization. Visa facilitation and readmission agreements are being implemented with Georgia.
– A multilateral framework for cooperation and consultation has been established.
– Moldova and Ukraine have joined the EU Energy Community.
– Trade between the EU and the partner countries has increased during the last two years.
So good progress could be registered in several areas.
But there are shortfalls as well:
– Unfortunately political and economic reforms have not been implemented with the pace, perseverance and consistency as could be wished. Actually backlashes economically and politically have taken place in more partner countries not least in Belarus. The principle of good governance, freedom of media and rule of law remain challenged and the level of corruption still alarmingly high.
– Frozen conflicts in the area have remained frozen with no progress to register.
Prospects for the future
A lot is at stake with regard to the future development of the EU Eastern Partnership. The EU has important strategic interests in developments in its eastern neighbourhood.
It’s in the EU’s interest that the countries are stable, sustainable democracies and have efficient border control to prevent illegal migration and cross border crime. It’s in the EU’s interest to have stable transport of energy and to have well functioning economies as a basis for trade and economic cooperation. And it’s also in the EU’s interest to cooperate on environmental protection and sustainable growth. In brief: It’s in the fundamental interest of the EU to have good neighbours to the East.
The ball presently is in the half of the Eastern Partners. It’s up to the partner countries to demonstrate a genuine interest and will to follow a course of economic and political reform and build sustainable democracies – supported by the means contained in the Partnership. If they do so, they will have qualified themselves for increased EU assistance and engagement.
They are not very likely to obtain a perspective of EU membership in the short and medium term but they could through their deeds contribute to keep the door open and strengthen their position in the long run.
With the “competition” from the South for EU attention and money it’s in the eastern partners best interest to follow a course of reform and democracy. By doing so they will also strengthen the voice and position of those in the EU advocating their cause kicking the ball back in the EU’s half to deliver.
This could eventually make up for a more spectacular out come of the next EU Eastern Partnership Summit in 2013. Perhaps even a more explicit European perspective – for instance in the form of an European Economic Area “East” model!
Source of information – Eastern Partnership Community