Sun 10 May 2009
EU Press Release 6 May, 2009 : The first Eastern Partnership summit in Prague on 7 May will gather leaders from the EU Member States, EU institutions and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to launch this new framework of reinforced bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
EU Monitor 8 May: In addition to the highest representatives of the Czech Presidency and the European Commission, the summit is attended by representatives of Egypt, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Observers from the USA, the Russian Federation, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
"The Southern Corridor should not be a one-way road to transport energy feedstock from the Caspian region to Europe", declared President of the European Council Mirek Topolánek, "but a two-way highway for the exchange of goods, investments, knowledge and people – a modern Silk Road of sorts". According to Mirek Topolánek, such a corridor could be ushered in by the Nabucco Gas Pipeline, for instance.
Background and here
The Eastern Partnership, as proposed by the European Commission in December 2008 and endorsed by the European Council in March this year, will complete the EU’s foreign policy towards Eastern Europe and South Caucasus through the development of a specific Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Successive enlargements of the EU brought these countries closer to the EU and led to increased political ties. The EU’s and these countries’ energy security are interlinked while the EU has a growing responsibility to the partners to help them address the socio-economic challenges they face. The Eastern Partnership will be developed in parallel with bilateral cooperation between the EU and third countries, including the EU’s Strategic Partnership with Russia. New Association Agreements (for those partners that have made sufficient progress towards democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and principles of market economy, sustainable development and good governance);
Gains for partner countries
* Better economic integration with the EU (with the objective of establishing deep and comprehensive Free Trade Areas), as well as free trade among the partners themselves, with a longer term goal to develop a Neighbourhood Economic Community;
* increased mobility through visa facilitation and readmission agreements (with gradual steps towards full visa liberalisation)
* strengthened energy security cooperation
* improved administrative capacity of partner countries through jointly decided Comprehensive Institution-Building Programmes, financed by the EU;
* specific programmes addressing economic and social development in the partner countries. additional financial support …the total for the implementation of the policyamounts to €600 million.
By means of platforms: * Democracy, good governance and stability, * Economic integration and convergence with EU policies, * Energy security and * Contacts between people.Common challenges can be addressed through seminars to improve understanding of EU legislation and standards, sharing of experience, and where appropriate, development of joint activities.
Five flagship initiatives: * border management programme,* integration of electricity markets, energy efficiency and renewables, * an SME facility, * Southern corridor and response to disasters
Fine words – what is reality?
EUObserver 7 may, 2009 Last minute tweaks to the Eastern Partnership summit declaration reveal EU unease over enlargement and immigration, as well as the complexities of old conflicts on the union's eastern frontier.
An earlier Czech EU presidency text of 29 April referred to the 27 EU states plus Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia as "European countries." It also spoke of "visa-liberalisation." The latest document, rubber-stamped by EU diplomats in Brussels on Wednesday (6 May), renamed the six as "Eastern European Partners" and "partner countries." It added that the visa move is a "long-term goal."
Germany and the Netherlands forced the changes, concerned that "European countries" sounds too pro-enlargement. The new language on visas is a far cry from pre-April Czech proposals, which spoke of "visa-free" travel. The tweaks might look unimportant but have serious implications. Polish and Ukrainian officials fear the new country nomenclature dampens Ukraine's dreams of getting an "EU perspective" in the next two years.
The visa wording may see just a privileged few, such as diplomats or businessmen, one day freely enter the EU, while ordinary people struggle to, say, meet a friend in Madrid or try to build a better life in London.
3 protagonists of EU expansion in the Mediterranean area – much less so in Eastern Europe: Solana, Benita Ferrero Waldner, David Milliband in Prague.
Meanwhile, Georgia and Azerbaijan failed to push in a clause that the 33 countries should respect each other's "territorial integrity." The latest wording speaks of obeying the "principles and norms of international law" - a loose phrase that could see Belarus recognise Georgia rebels in South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, entrenching Russia's military occupation of Georgia.
"Moscow is quite negative about the Eastern Partnership. But frankly, that's a Russian problem."
42% of Ukrainians want to integrate with Russia, compared to 34 % with the EU.
“The Eastern Partnership is as important as the Union for the Mediterranean” (Angela Merkel)
Deutsche Welle 7 May, 2009: The Mediterranean Union's inaugural summit last July represented a milestone in bringing the heads of state of Israel and its Middle East adversaries together in Paris, but the French EU initiative had already lost steam by the start of the Czech Republic's presidency in January 2009.
Now with less than two months left of Prague's beleaguered EU Presidency, the 27 nation bloc's priorities have shifted northwards and eastwards geographically. The Russia-Georgia war last August over the breakaway province of South Ossetia further underscored the EU's need to "engage more deeply with its eastern neighbors to stabilize the region.
Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov, expressed warnings to the EU not to encroach on the Soviet backyard (e.g. Belarus). But maybe he is pleased, because after the meeting he may eye the Ukraine returning to the Russian sheepfold, the EU prioritizing the Euromediterranean Union higher then the Ukraine.
The partnership offers carrots to encourage political and economic reforms, but it is not a stepping stone to eventual EU membership, says DGAP's (German Council on Foreign Relations) Meister, who characterizes the EP as an alternative to joining the EU. "It brings the six (CIS) states closer to the value system of the EU and offers them something like a customs union, but maybe not what they really want - the perspective of EU membership down the road," he said. Ukraine is eager to join the EU club, but the bloc is suffering from enlargement fatigue and the Lisbon Treaty, that is supposed to streamline decision-making, still hangs in the balance.
Back to realities
“I think this is really offensive to everybody who has participated," Czech Prime Minister Topolanek told reporters, painstakingly reading out the names of all the heads and government who had attended.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi were among the no-shows.
However many analysts pointed out that the project's European funding of 600 million euros up to 2013 was relatively modest compared to the risks of political and economic instability in the six partner countries.
Some of the wind has been taken out of the sails of the Eastern Partnership. EU leaders were keen to stress that the new rapprochement with the ex-Soviet states would not lead to new members of the EU club.
France, Germany and others feel that the bloc already has enough on its plate by offering possible membership to Balkan states, and are keen to avoid heightened levels of illegal immigration and crime, being scared of popular domestic backlash against immigration from the East. What they can hope for is free trade and easy visa regimes, though with strict conditions attached and on a slow and gradual basis.
Several European leaders including Angela Merkel decided to skip a dinner hosted by EU´s enfant terrible, Vaclav Klaus, who is unwilling to sign the Lisbon Treaty. However, Javier Solana and José
Barroso did turn up. Pres. Klaus will probably in the end be forced to sign the Lisbon Treaty.
Bruno Waterfield, The Telegraph may 7, 2009 The EU will end up destabilising the region further.
This is very interesting: The EU is afraid of immigration from the East – and guarantees practically unhindered immigration from the South! While all 27 heads of state and government were present at the initiation of the Union for the Mediterranean, just1 western leader was present at the initiation of the Eastern Partnership!! It seems that Muslims are welcome in any quantity, whereas East Europeans, who can work and provide for themselves, are to be excluded. Because they are members of a creed to be eradicated: Christianity? In my latest post, I reported the EU establishing a recruiting office in Mali to get 56 mio Africans to Europe by 2050. Now another recruiting office has been established in Cap Verde. Why are African workers so much more preferred than East Europeans?
The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) under Russian leadership will welcome a Ukraine without an EU perspective.
Global Research: The lack of European interest for the Eastern Partnership – especially its small investments - could force e.g. Ukraine to make a U-turn, if Russia is willing to allure it back into the sheepfold, using its $ 385 billion USD it has accumulated in gold and foreign currency reserves – as it is doing in the CSTO states (Manas Base in Kyrgyzstan). From Moscow's viewpoint, the Ukraine is probably the most geopolitically important country in the near abroad. It is not surprising that bringing Ukraine back into the Russian sphere of influence ranks high in the Kremlin's to-do list. Even if Viktor Yushchenko's successor is not pro-Russian, the Kremlin would certainly be willing to seduce a more pragmatic leader so that Ukraine enters Russian-sponsored organizations, the Union State of Russia, EurAsEC, and the CSTO.
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