Thursday

19th Jan 2017

Germany and Poland join up on EU foreign policy

Germany and Poland, as well as the Czech republic and Sweden, have put forward joint ideas on how to handle post-Soviet countries, in what some diplomats are calling a "new axis" in EU foreign policy.

The four nations sent an unofficial paper on the so-called Eastern Partnership scheme to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on 15 January.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The text contains four proposals.

It says the EU should boost relations with individual countries covered by the scheme (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) if they excel in pro-democratic reforms.

It calls for steps to create a free trade area between the six states and the EU on the model of the European Free Trade Association with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

It says EU foreign ministers should regularly talk about Eastern Partnership developments in their monthly meetings.

It also calls for "more visibility" for the scheme by creating an "Eastern Partnership label" - a special EU logo to be displayed on projects, such as new roads, funded by the programme in the target countries.

Poland would like to go further.

Its foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, on Monday (18 February) said the EU should give a promise of future accession to the six countries at an Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November, just as it did to Western Balkan states at a summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 2003.

Lithuania also hopes to take the step, if not for the whole group-of-six, then at least for Moldova, its most pro-EU member, as a positive signal to the others.

But despite the gaps in ambition, Germany's signature on the January non-paper is a sign it has left the bloc of enlargement-sceptical EU countries.

It is also a sign that Chancellor Angela Merkel is less wary of confronting Russian interests.

Germany in the past sided with Belgium, France, the Netherlands and southern EU members in keeping post-Soviet states at arm's length.

"The Netherlands does not consider the Eastern Partnership a gateway to EU membership," a Dutch diplomat told EUobserver on Tuesday.

Describing the German position, an EU diplomat the same day told this website it is not against giving post-Soviet states an EU perspective, so long as this is done on a "differentiated, country-by-country basis" instead of the Thessaloniki model.

"Germany and Poland are very close to each other on this. Germany is also sympathetic to the Eastern Partnership countries. It sees merit in the Polish idea that the Union has to give eastern countries a certain perspective which incites them to move closer to the EU," the source said.

Another EU diplomat noted: "There is a new axis in EU policy toward the east - Germany-Poland-Sweden."

He added: "The German position is changing. They are playing a much more active role in the Eastern Partnership … They are trying to play a bridging role between its very energetic supporters and the sceptics."

For her part, Ashton is also keen for Vilnius to make a difference.

"There is a general ambition to give a new momentum to our relationships with eastern countries, for the Vilnius summit to be a kind of milestone," her spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, said.

She noted that progress depends on what happens in the post-Soviet states in the next nine months as much as it does on the internal EU debate, however.

"Look at Ukraine, there is an idea to sign an association agreement and a free trade pact in the margins of the summit. But in order for this to happen, Ukraine must fulfill clear benchmarks [on democratic reform]. The situation is the same with Georgia. If it wants to initial an association agreement, it must do what is necessary," she added.

EU criticises Trump's Israel embassy idea

EU foreign relations chief Mogherini has warned that if Trump moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem it could have “serious consequences”.

News in Brief

  1. Outgoing US vice-president warns Europe on Russia
  2. German far-right party calls for end to WWII guilt
  3. First Chinese freight train arrives in Europe
  4. Europe has no vision, says Italian minister
  5. Juncker has 'slight doubts' on his group's convention idea
  6. EU parliament spat changes nothing, says Juncker
  7. German elections likely on 24 September
  8. Maltese PM announces plan for Brexit summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey