Wednesday

22nd Feb 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 countries split on Ukraine treaty

A handful of EU countries want to sign a treaty with Ukraine in autumn despite its erosion of democratic standards. But others disagree.

Poland: UK no longer a leading EU country

Britain has lost its place in the club of leading EU nations over its plan to hold a referendum on EU membership, the Polish foreign minister has said.

Focus

No political fuel for Poland's far-right

Why is Poland one of the few European countries where far-right parties are almost non-existent? Low immigration and an economy in relatively good shape could be part of the answer.

Opinion

Moldova's new crisis - an opportunity?

A fatal hunting accident has exposed the fault lines in Moldovan politics, but the crisis could be an opportunity to put pro-EU reforms on a more solid footing.

News in Brief

  1. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree
  2. Dozens drown off Libyan coast
  3. EU ministers approve anti-tax avoidance directive
  4. Poland rejects EU criticism of court changes
  5. German nationalist leader met with Putin allies in Moscow
  6. German housing market overheated, says Bundesbank
  7. France invites three EU leaders for Versailles summit in March
  8. Greece agrees on new bailout reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  2. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  3. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  4. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  8. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  9. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  10. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  11. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  12. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"

Latest News

  1. Should Europeans spend more on defence?
  2. Dieselgate: EU disappointed with VW's treatment of customers
  3. French police raid Le Pen's party office
  4. The Armenia-Azerbaijan war: A refugee's story
  5. Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock
  6. Internal EU report exposes Libya turmoil
  7. EU commissioner condemns 'delay' in post-Dieselgate reform
  8. Sweden fights back as foreign leaders make up bad news