Saturday

11th Jul 2020

Lukewarm declaration to mark EU summit in Warsaw

  • Warsaw city centre. The summit is the jewel in the crown of the Polish EU presidency (Photo: metaphox)

Next week's EU summit in Warsaw will "acknowledge" the "European aspirations" of six post-Soviet countries. But British and French leaders are not coming. And many of the six nations are going backward politically.

The draft summit declaration, seen by EUobserver, says: "The participants of the Warsaw Summit acknowledge the European aspirations and the European choice of some partners and their commitment to build deep and sustainable democracy."

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It adds that the EU's so-called Eastern Partnership policy, designed to pull the countries closer to the West, should be "strengthened" and made more "visible" after it was launched in Prague two years ago.

It promises "additional resources" from the EU budget in 2012 and 2013 and the creation, one day, of an "economic area" like the EU's free-trade pact with Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

For their part, the six countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine - pledge to "emphasise the strategic importance" of the union's Nabucco pipeline scheme, designed to break Russia's monopoly on Caspian gas. And they welcome "the EU's strengthened role in conflict resolution" in the region "including through field presence".

EU countries approved the draft declaration on Tuesday (20 September). The six nations are to give their nod before the summit on 29 September.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to be the star guest. Nineteen other EU leaders have also said they will go, including all the former Russian-controlled EU members, the Benelux countries and the Nordic states. France is sending Prime Minister Francois Fillon and the UK is dispatching deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. Italy and Spain are still making up their minds.

The six non-EU countries are also sending leaders, except for Belarus, which is invited at foreign minister level because its president, Alexander Lukashenko, is a pariah.

The draft declaration has a special paragraph on Belarus that "calls for the immediate release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners" and voices "deep concern" about repression. But it promises to start talks on softer EU visa conditions "for the benefit of the population at large."

The biggest country in the group, Ukraine, has recently harmed EU relations by also putting opposition figures in jail. One EU diplomat said Merkel threatened not to go if former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to prison before the summit. Merkel's office denies this.

Meanwhile, Armenia and Azerbaijan's "commitment to build deep and sustainable democracy" is fiction.

Armenia jails protesters, tortures prisoners and harasses reporters. It has a lower GDP per capita than Angola but its MPs come to parliament in $100,000 Porsche Cayennes.

Oil-rich Azerbaijan is the de facto kingdom of the Alyiev clan. It has dozens of political prisoners. Two months after it pledged to support EU values at the 2009 partnership summit in Prague it jailed two bloggers for a video about a donkey making fun of its propaganda.

Despite the show of friendship in Warsaw, core EU countries France, Germany and the Netherlands have no appetite for further eastern expansion.

France systematically blocks calling the six nations "European states" in EU documents because it sounds too much like "EU member states." And the union's lukewarm statement on recognising "European aspirations" with no mention of EU membership is unlikely to inspire pro-EU feeling in the region.

"I don't think you're going to see Dasha in the market place in Odessa opening the newspapers the next day and saying 'Bloody hell Sasha. Look! They've acknowledged our aspirations'," an EU diplomat joked.

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