24th Oct 2016

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity