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The EU and Its Eastern Partners

By Messenger Staff
Monday, October 3
On September 29-30 the Polish capital, Warsaw, hosted the Eastern Partnership program summit. Present were representatives of the 27 EU-member countries and the six Eastern Partnership states. One of those six, Belarus, ended up withdrawing from the summit, yet the results have been positively evaluated by the participants.

The Eastern Partnership program was offered to six post-soviet states: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Armenia. The attitude towards the EU among these countries varies. Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are EU oriented; Belarus and Armenia are mostly Russian inclined whereas Azerbaijan oscillates, trying to benefit from both Russia and the EU. The major priority of the Eastern Partnership program is the implementation of democratic values in these former Soviet countries. The program also envisages a deepening of trade and economic relations between the Eastern Partners and the EU.

This EU program raises suspicion in Moscow. A high ranking representative of the Russian foreign ministry stressed in a statement on September 30, that the Eastern Partnership program should not hinder integration processes in the post-Soviet space. It was highlighted as well that the Kremlin is watching attentively the development of this program as it is targeted towards the closest neighbors of Russia. It was also stressed that many Eastern Partnership countries have integral commitments through the participation in the CIS customs union, collective defense and other agreements. The Kremlin thinks that the Eastern Partnership should not interfere with those commitments.

Russia is also paying attention to the fact that the Eastern Partnership program names the post-Soviet countries as eastern European states. According to Moscow’s position some of these countries do not geographically belong to Europe. It is interesting that even some EU countries do not accept the term “European” for these six states. As Polish media reports, Italy was among such countries citing the fact that the use of this term would make it possible for those countries to more actively apply for EU membership. However, most EU countries accept the 'European' definition.

The summit went over the problems of greater integration and no commitments were taken by the EU concerning incorporation of the six eastern countries into the EU. The French Prime Minister in particular mentioned that his country is against any distinct plan on the possible entry of Ukraine and Georgia into the EU. The general consensus seems to be that the EU does not want further enlargement in the near future. Many believe that incorporating Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 was a hasty decision. Due to this, it is likely that the EU dreams of countries such as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in particular will not come true in the near future.

Georgian President Saakashvili, who addressed the summit in Warsaw, however highlighted that coming closer to the EU is a vitally important issue for Georgia. As Georgia withdrew from the CIS because of Russian aggression against it, the country needs find a new home, and Georgia believes that home is in Europe.

A separate issue concerned Belarus. This country was represented by the ambassador of Belarus to Poland, whereas other Eastern Partnership nations where represented by heads of state. It seemed logical then that the Belarusian party did not receive many invitations for talks due to the lower rank of their representative. However, this caused irritation amongst the Belarus delegation and it presumably received instructions from Minsk to leave Warsaw. Despite this, Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarus leader, thanked those countries which had supported Belarus. Saakashvili in particular mentioned that there is no Eastern Partnership program without Belarus. Overall, the Georgian leadership appears satisfied with the results of the Warsaw summit despite the fact that it highlighted just how far the country needs to go.