DCFTAs with Armenia, Georgia and Moldova to be finalized before Vilnius?
14 March 2013
The European Commission is making progress in talks on free trade agreements with several Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries and hopes to complete negotiations with three – Armenia, Moldova and Georgia – by the EaP-EU Summit in Vilnius at the end of November.
A sixth round of talks was held with Moldova on 12 March and a final round of talks should be held next week with Georgia (there have been five rounds already) while Armenia, so far, has held four rounds of negotiations.
Georgia is reported to be asking for the inclusion of a commitment to EU membership in its agreement and this demand could hold up the finalization of the talks. Stefan Füle, the Enlargement Commissioner, has recently been saying that the perspective of EU membership should be held out to those EaP partners who have made most progress maybe as early as the Vilnius Summit. But he is also urging Georgian politicians to stop bickering as this would help him in persuading his colleagues in Brussels of the merits of making such an offer to EaP countries like Georgia.
The negotiations with the three EaP countries center on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreements (DCFTA) which if signed and implemented would put a great deal of EU legislation into the legal systems of the partner countries and effectively create a free trade area with and among these countries.
A DCFTA running to around 900 pages (please note that the document was not officially published and therefore does not represent an official document) has already been negotiated and initialed with Ukraine but not yet signed as a gesture of disapproval by the EU of the continued imprisonment of Julia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister and Jurij Łycenko, the former interior minister of Ukraine. The Ukrainian CSF National Platform has appealed (see here) for the two sides to nevertheless sign the agreement arguing that this will push the government into implementing pro EU reforms.
Where the DCFTAs to be negotiated, signed and implemented by the end of November then this would mark a huge success for the Eastern Partnership policy. The Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Sweden recently informed other member states in a non-paper that the Vilnius Summit is of “crucial importance for EaP policy”. The four countries suggest that Moldova and Georgia should be able to conclude negotiations by the Summit and look to Ukraine to “demonstrate determined action” presumably a euphemism for freeing the two opposition politicians. The four also set great store by progress on implementing visa free regimes by Moldova and Georgia.
Armenia, which has run into political problems following last month’s contested presidential election is not mentioned in the document but its leadership has been telling top EU politicians that it will sign and implement a DCFTA after the election. Moldova too is in the middle of a government crisis while, in a positive development, Georgia’s two warring political parties have recently patched up their differences over foreign policy .
The assessment of a country’s democratic credentials are still a major factor for the EU regardless of its drive to complete DCFTAs with the EaP countries. This for the moment puts Belarus and Azerbaijan beyond the pale, makes progress with Ukraine difficult and puts a question mark on Armenia. The four member states mentioned earlier say that “the political situation, respect for principles of democracy including democratic conduct of elections, rule of law…should remain important criteria for assessing the progress of partner countries”
Eastern Partnership Photography, international conference in Minsk
The Institute of Journalism of the Belarusian State University in Minsk will this week host an international conference on “Photography in Eastern Partnership countries: challenges and solutions”. The conference will take place on 21-22 March 2013, as part of the EU funded Eastern Partnership Culture Programme project ‘SAY CHEESE! Capacity building, networking and promotion of thematic Eastern Partnership photography’. A photo exhibition ‘Document and image: When photo journalism becomes art…’ will be officially opened as part of the conference.
The conference will feature challenges and prospects for the development of photography and national photo market in Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. On March 22, participants will have an opportunity to take part in round table discussions on topics such as photography education, stock photography as a means of legal income, legal aspects of photographic activities, possibilities for promotion of national photography in the Eastern Partnership region and beyond, as well as prospects for cooperation with other countries and with the Federation of European Photographers.
The photo exhibition will feature works by Belarusian photojournalists, as well as associations of photographers from other Eastern Partnership countries. The exhibition will be officially opened on March 21 at 18.00 in Mikhail Savitsky’s Art Gallery (Svabody Sq. 15).
The SAY CHEESE! project wants to boost the capacities of photographers’ associations in the EaP region, and to encourage their networking with each other. The project aims at enhancing abilities of local professional and amateur photographers to create and sell high quality thematic EaP photos; finally, the project wants to promote thematic EaP photography within the EaP, the EU and at international level.
The €12 million Eastern Partnership Culture Programme aims at assisting the Partner Countries in their cultural policy reform at government level, as well as capacity building and improving professionalism of cultural operators in the region. It seeks to strengthen regional cultural links and dialogue within the Eastern Partnership region, and between the EU and ENP Eastern countries’ cultural networks and actors. (EU Neighbourhood Info Centre)
Urban Foundation: A Network of Cities of EaP Region is Being Created
On March 13-15-ը the Urban Foundation had organized an international conference in Yerevan and Dilijan in the framework of the project Capacity for Integrated Urban Development: Integr-ABLE funded under ENPI Black Sea Cross-border Cooperation Instrument. The conference which was attended by mayors or vice-mayors of 29 cities from Romania, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, aimed to not only summarize the achievements of the project but also to provide a platform for communication with each other and conception of ideas for future cooperation.
During the opening of the conference, the First Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration Vache Terteryan emphasized the importance of cooperation between communities of EaP region for successful participation in coming EU ENPI projects.
The format of the conference allowed representatives of municipalities to spend much time in personal and group deliberations during which possibilities of cooperation were discussed in various fields of urban development. Upon the end of the conference, almost all participating cities signed joint declarations thus creating a good basis for future partnerships. On March 15-ին, in Dilijan a three-sided agreement was signed between Dilijan, Tsekhaltubo (Georgia) and Vadul Luivoda (Moldova). Besides, the mayor of the Romanian Focsani visited Berd (Tavush region) which was a step towards creation of sister city relationships between the two cities.