The Eastern Partnership Summit
“On September 29 and 30, the Eastern Partnership Summit is held in Warsaw. Leaders and representatives of 27 European Union countries and 6 Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) will participate in this biggest event of the Polish Presidency and its climactic point. On this occasion we have prepared a special material.
Poland: to convince the twenty six
A statement that the European Union (EU) is 27 countries with differing foreign policies is a truism, which, however, needs to be repeated. Acting within such a group in one’s own interests requires expertise. Warsaw’s attempts at matching this challenge while promoting the Eastern Partnership (EaP) programme. While presiding the Council of the European Union, Poland gave priority to the EaP. Taking it as a good omen that with Sweden’s help the EaP was included in the EU policy in Prague in 2009, Polish diplomatic service persists in its efforts to strengthen and expand the programme. It is worth fighting for, since the EaP is nothing other than a wholesale version of Polish Eastern policy under the umbrella of the EU. Under construction is the mechanism that is to channel development of the Eastern Europe countries without the objection of Russia.
The most difficult task seems to be finding such a formula that dispels anxiety about expansion and at the same time does not exclude its possibility. Preserving the former element is important to the opponents of expansion within the EU itself. The latter is a catalyst for positive changes in the EaP countries. Whether this can be achieved in times of Middle East occurrences will turn out within a couple of days. Skilful use of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia events allows a deepened involvement in the EaP region to become the issue of security of the immediate EU neighbourhood.
Armenia: to get out of isolation
Armenia joining EaP programme has not become a significant turning point for the country. It is spoken of strengthening the democracy, human rights observance, diversification of energy and most of all – regional security. The ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh crisis between Yerevan and Baku leaves it imprint on these matters. The positive aspect of EaP initiatives are the preparations for Association Agreement negotiations with the EU and efforts of Armenian officials to increase the tightness of borders and to build modern system of managing population records. These actions are leading Armenia to visa regime liberalisation with the EU.
Armenia’s hope for the EaP Summit is mainly directing the EU attention to the willingness to develop and end its regional isolation. Armenia’s signing the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) would notably increase the pace of economic development catalyze pro-democratic changes. Yerevan, as well as other EaP states (with the exception of Belarus) will be presented by the country’s president Serz Sargsyan. He will be lobbying for boosting the introduction of non-visa traffic between the EU and Armenia.
Azerbaijan: small appetite
Azerbaijan is the richest, most powerful and fastest growing country in the South Caucasus. It successfully pursues its interests in the region. Considerable fuel deposits make Azerbaijan’s position in the relations with the EU incomparably better than those of other EaP countries. Baku with its involvement in building Southern Gas Corridor is one of the key partners of Brussels in the energy sector sphere. The constant threat of conflict with Armenia and the resulting need of an efficient centre of power do not promote the political system liberalisation. Thus, the part of the programme which aims at bringing the EaP countries closer to the East European values, falls on barren ground in Azerbaijan. However, it would have been inappropriate to decline Brussels’ invitation, not only out of politeness but also out of political calculation.
Polish-Swedish initiative is used by Baku to pursue its own interests: boosting the cooperation on energy and exerting pressure on the European Union to become more involved in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan is not a member of WTO, so it cannot start DCFTA negotiations, which in turn precludes any chances signing the Association Agreement. Baku does not seem to be concerned about that. At the EaP Summit, one can expect building basis for starting negotiations on visa facilitations and agreeing on readmission of Azerbaijani and European Union’s citizens.
Belarus: Minsk check
The game between Belarus and European Union has the atmosphere of anticipation full of tension, which was preceded by a year of deadlock. The captain of Belarusian team Alexander Lukashenko understands that menacing cries coming from the Union’s corner are hollow. He knows the weak points of the opponent and has a feeling that it is worthwhile playing in defence, hitting below the belt from time to time.
Will Sergei Martynov, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Belarus, turn up at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw? For many European politicians, he is the friendly face of Belarusian regime. This gentleman fluent in English was invited by Radoslaw Sikorski. The Polish Minister consulted Catherine Ashton about the matter. What did their arrangements sound like? Will the whole plan misfire without the official representative of Minsk? Or does not the EaP Summit’s declaration have to be signed by all the member countries? Indeed, one can attempt at comprehending the reasons for Martynov having been invited by the Union’s officials. It is more difficult, however, to imagine that the representative of Belarusian authorities signs the Summit’s declaration which touches upon democracy, human rights and rule of law. Yet, it is not impossible. The Eastern Partnership desperately needs legitimisation and political support which are so hard to get in times of crisis undermining the Old Europe. Declaration of a community of interests signed by all the EaP countries will be enough to trumpet the success. We are waiting then for Alexander Lukashenko’s decision on letting his head of diplomacy out to Warsaw. The fate of Eastern Partnership is in Papa Lukashenko’s hands.
Georgia: lonesome warrior
Georgia is to a large extent dependant on external help and political support from other countries. So far it has used: EUR 120 million in addition to ENP grant and EUR 6 million of humanitarian aid for people affected by Russian-Georgian conflict. Furthermore, it makes use of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and Disaster Risk Reduction Programme. Since March 1, 2011, agreement on visa facilitations has been binding. However, Georgians are disappointed with the conduct of the European Union towards Russian invasion in 2008. In their opinion, it is too passive and Europe is more committed to elimination of financial problems of Greece and keeping the stability after Arabian revolutions. The EaP Programme was pushed into the background, while the only opponents of Russia’s actions in Ossetia and Abkhazia are words which remain unnoticed in Europe.
Georgians expect to be given a clear signal when it comes to starting negotiations on DCFTA. President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili makes no effort to conceal his expectations when it comes to declaration of the accession date. However, Saakashvili’s dreams will have to wait for some other time in the indefinite future. Probably no one can imagine an island of only one European country in the Southern Caucasus. Georgians do not lose hope – they fight for recognition.
Moldova: the EU’s darling
The last two years in Moldova are presented as the success of the EaP programme. Inauguration of the Polish-Swedish initiative coincided with the change of power and forming a coalition government of Alliance for European Integration. It is debatable how big the EaP influence on the changes in Moldova was. The fact is, however, that for the last two years Moldova has become the favourite among the European Eastern policy-makers. Among the hard facts which the EaP stands behind are: Association Agreement negotiations proceeding quickly, effective implementation of action plan for visa liberalisation and talks on shared air space. The EU has high hopes for Moldova. This brings great responsibility. The internal problems, no implementation of essential reforms and social division cast doubt on optimistic course of events.
Vlad Filat who is going to Warsaw remains a realist. He does not count on hearing about the EU membership perspective, though it is certainly his dream. Pragmatism tells that two issues will be most important: visa liberalisation and starting DCFTA negotiations. Moldova also counts on extending the EaP to new initiatives that will bring together the officials, business and societies of the EU and EaP countries. Filat is sure that Moldova has no alternative and treats the EaP as a chance for the country’s development. He is not picky.
Ukraine: teetering giant
Ukraine, the biggest country covered by the Eastern Partnership programme, is in theory winning the race for signing the Association Agreement with the EU. Kyiv legislation is the most similar to the Union’s from among all the EaP countries. Non-governmental organisations do not have problem functioning while the local law regulations are more and more similar to the Union’s norms. The ruling party and President Viktor Yanukovych, in view of worsening of the relations with Russia, are inclined to cooperate with the EU. After Nord Stream was opened by Russia, Kyiv looks at its main trade partner and energy supplier with more and more uncertainty. Kyiv, unlike, e.g., Georgia, declares that it is not in a hurry to integrate with the Union. Indirect form, based on deepened cooperation with the Union countries, would be a perfect match here.
European politicians assure, however, that the biggest problem undermining Ukraine’s credibility is currently the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, which will probably cast a shadow over the whole Summit. The completion of Association Agreement at the Summit would be the most important achievement. Nevertheless, it is a well-known fact that this will not happen. Another priority is scheduling the date of Ukraine joining DCFTA. Last but not least, there is the modernisation of European visa regime, to which the Ukrainians object.
The Summit itself will be a success if the positive programme of the event stays devoid of anti-Russian sting. Removing a label of being a Russophobe would also be a fine achievement. Such attitude would create a security cordon around the EaP countries. Decision makers in Kyiv, Baku and Yerevan, being aware that they participate in the programme supported by the EU members that is not subject to Moscow’s reservations, are to be in favour of openness to Europe. Kremlin’s opinion is still an important element of political calculation in the EaP countries and among the leaders of the EU, such as France or Italy. If the agreement on declarations can be reached with keeping the neutral attitude towards Russia’s project, the EaP Summit will be a success. Even if no Association Agreements or DCFTAs are signed.
In October the analysis authored by the Eastbook.eu team and entirely dedicated to the Eastern Partnership will be published.”