Wednesday

20th Jan 2021

EU ministers look to salvage Georgia and Moldova pacts

  • Medieval map of Georgia: The Swedish paper warned to expect 'trade embargoes, restrictions against migrant workers, increased tension in protracted conflicts' (Photo: wikipedia creative commons)

The EU is considering hiring lobbyists to counter Russian “disinformation” and giving more money to Georgia and Moldova in reaction to the Ukraine crisis.

The ideas are put forward in two internal papers - seen by EUobserver - to be discussed by EU foreign ministers at a lunch in Brussels on Monday (10 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

They come after Ukraine, under Russian pressure, refused to sign an EU association and free trade pact in Lithuania last year, putting in doubt the viability of the EU policy for the region, the so-called Eastern Partnership (EaP).

One paper, entitled “20 points on the Eastern Partnership post-Vilnius,” was written by Sweden and signed by 12 other EU countries, including Germany, Poland, and the UK.

It calls for Georgia and Moldova to sign EU pacts by August, but has lower ambitions for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Ukraine itself.

Following Russia’s customs blockade on Ukraine last summer, it warns the EU should: “Raise preparedness in expectation of further external and internal threats or actions against front-runners, such as trade embargoes, restrictions against migrant workers, increased tension in protracted conflicts.”

It lays out plans for a PR campaign to “respond to disinformation … including through engagement of public diplomacy experts.”

It says there should be “a constant flow of EU high-level visits,” to Georgia and Moldova, with “specific activities … aimed at national minorities and remote regions.”

It adds that pro-EU countries should be rewarded by “prioritising additional EU funding.”

On Ukraine, it rules out sanctions for now, but keeps the option open if things get worse, saying the Union should: “Continue engagement with Ukraine on a broad political spectrum and adjust the EU policy in light of developments.”

It does not give up even on Belarus.

Mixing sport with politics, it notes the EU should, via “informal contacts” with Minsk, look to “using” its Ice Hockey World Championship this year to encourage “positive steps on political prisoners.”

The second paper, written by Poland, goes into detail on EU funding.

Looking at the 2014 to 2020 EU budget, it also says funds for Georgia and Moldova should be “relatively higher.”

It notes the extra EU aid should go on agriculture and rural development.

But it says EU money in repressive states should target civil society, students, and minority groups.

Poland echoes Sweden’s concern the EU is not visible enough. It calls for “an effective communication strategy to explain widely what the EU is doing and why” and “concrete projects under the EU flag.”

On Ukraine, it says there is little prospect of good news before presidential elections in 2015.

But it notes: “there exists a great pro-European potential in Ukrainian society … mainly visible among the younger generation and non-governmental circles, amongst representatives of SMEs, some regional authorities.”

It adds: “Those groups should get concrete actions and support from the European Union.”

Neither of the ideas papers mentions an EU enlargement perspective.

The omission comes despite EU neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele’s recent remarks that only a promise of future accession can change the region.

The two papers aside, the EU foreign service has declined to put a debate on Ukraine sanctions on Monday’s official agenda.

But an EU diplomat told this website ministers are likely to discuss enlargement and sanctions informally.

The contact added that some ministers will ring the alarm on worst case scenarios.

“There is a fear of escalation in Ukraine. This raises questions on migration - people who might want to come and take shelter in the EU. As responsible neighbours, we have to prepare for such a possibility,” the source said.

EU gives Ukraine enlargement hint

EU countries have for the first time since the Orange Revolution indicated that Ukraine might one day join the European Union.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit prompted finance exodus from UK to France
  2. Italian PM Conte wins confidence vote in Senate
  3. Borrell washes hands of EU's Venezuela policy
  4. Russia backs Greece in eastern Mediterranean dispute
  5. 'Ski-holiday' Switzerland reaches new infection high
  6. Germany extends lockdown, others expected to follow
  7. Barnier to be Brexit special adviser to von der Leyen
  8. EU commisioner to visit Bosnia's Lipa migrant camp

Opinion

The under-reported power struggle at the top of the OSCE

An internal power struggle has undermined the world's leading international security body since the summer. The OSCE is due to finally get new leaders in December but the unprecedented power vacuum has hit at a crunch time for hotspots worldwide.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. MEPs call to halt Russia pipeline over Navalny arrest
  2. EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer
  3. Portugal pushes to start delayed 'future EU' conference
  4. EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex
  5. Untapped potential of the single market could boost European recovery
  6. Biden's 'Age of Aquarius'? Mars and Venus will clash over China
  7. The new dimension of 'ever-closer union'
  8. What do new CDU chief's pro-Russia views mean for Europe?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us