Thursday

23rd Jan 2020

EU assigns funds and staff to 'Eastern Partnership'

  • Georgian refugee girl - the Eastern Partnership will try to build new bridges between the EU 27 and six post-Soviet states (Photo: mid.ru)

With EU leaders putting €600 million in the pot for the Eastern Partnership, the European Commission is mulling over how to assign personnel to run the new project.

"The means are there for this to start up, that's the most important thing," Czech EU presidency foreign minister Karl Schwarzenberg said in Brussels on Friday (20 March), after EU leaders approved the policy at a meeting dominated by multi-billion euro plans on the economy.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or join as a group

The Eastern Partnership is to build closer political and trade relations with six former-Soviet countries of "strategic importance" - Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.

Last-minute debate covered whether to invite authoritarian Belarus President Lukashenko to a special Eastern Partnership summit on 7 May, whether to hold the summit in Prague or Brussels and whether to insert a clear reference to visa-free travel.

"[The invitation] will depend on the behaviour of Mr Lukashenko and the Belarus government in the coming weeks," Mr Schwarzenberg said.

The invitation might be made at a lower political level if Belarus in April recognises disputed Georgia territories South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, so as not to jeopardise the summit attendance of Georgia leader Mikhail Saakashvili, a Dutch diplomat told EUobserver.

The summit venue will also be decided later, amid an organisational clash with an EU jobs summit the same day. A reference to "visa liberalisation" as a long-term goal went into the official declaration on the initiative.

EU leaders on Friday did not discuss a Polish proposal to appoint a "special co-ordinator" to run the policy, re-iterated by Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski at a think-tank event on Thursday.

Earlier discussions floated former Swedish prime minister Goran Persson or former UK premier Tony Blair as possibilities. "Blair was considered too senior. But we wanted the kind of person who could call Sarkozy or Merkel and ask for an extra €300 million if needed," a Ukraine diplomat said, referring to the French and German leaders.

The European Commission and most member states are hostile to the idea. "We want the commission to own the project on the EU side," a Swedish diplomat said. "We don't want an external structure that would try to influence the implementer."

Part of the Eastern Partnership work - organising summits every two years and foreign ministers meetings every year - is to be farmed out to the Council, the Brussels-based EU member states' secretariat.

Commission's baby

But the other "95 percent" - eight multilateral meetings a year in Brussels at deputy minister level, as well as bilateral talks on Association Agreements, free trade zones and visa regimes - will be handled by the European Commission.

The commission is keen to appoint an internal Eastern Partnership supremo, who will be empowered to negotiate with participating countries and international financial institutions, and to create a new team of officials working exclusively on the scheme.

For the time being, the deputy chief of the external relations department, Frenchman Hugues Mingarelli, and two directors from the commission's existing "Neighbourhood Policy" and "Black Sea Synergy" units are in charge of preparatory work.

The external relations "DG" will run the project in future, but it will pull in high-ranking officials from the energy, economy, justice and education departments to chair the eight yearly "thematic platforms."

"Inside the European Commission we will restructure the unit," external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said. "There will be more funding and staff on this file."

EU warned on 'vigilance' after Davos spy fail

European counter-intelligence services need to "seriously raise the level of vigilance" on Russian spies, UK activist Bill Browder has said after news of a botched operation at Davos.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Nuclear arms race threat after EU rebukes Iran

EU powers have triggered a process that could bring the world back to 2006, when sanctions and threats were all that stood in the way of a Middle East nuclear arms race.

Analysis

No Libya truce in Moscow: time for EU step in

While the European Union was too divided to help resolve Libya's civil war, Russia filled the gap. It managed to get the fighting parties to Moscow, but without result.

EU should be 'part of the game' on Iran, Michel says

EU Council president Charles Michel urged Iran to stick to the nuclear arms deal and said the EU should play a stronger role in the Middle East, ahead of travelling to Turkey and Egypt on Saturday.

News in Brief

  1. UK watchdog unveils online child-privacy standards
  2. Alleged 'bully' nominated for EESC presidency
  3. Greens/EFA fail to agree on accepting Catalan MEPs
  4. MEPs approve over 55 gas projects for EU funding
  5. Italy deputy PM Di Maio quits as Five Star party leader
  6. EU investment bank to keep pressure on Turkey over gas
  7. 'Rare' migrant boat from Belgium to UK sinks
  8. First annual rule of law report expected this year, Reynders said

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Opinion

'A game of roulette' - life as a journalist now in Turkey

Turkey has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the world. The authorities seem to equate journalism with terrorism: everyone has the right to express themselves, but, in their eyes, legitimate journalism is a threat to security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU warned on 'vigilance' after Davos spy fail
  2. What's Libya's impact on EU foreign policy?
  3. EU commission 'lacks ambition' on future conference
  4. Will US privacy-lite hollow out GDPR?
  5. Senior Polish member at EU body faces Belgian abuse probe
  6. Why isn't Germany helping gay rights in Hungary, Poland?
  7. US retiree, scammed by former EU official, awaits justice
  8. Vienna-Brussels night train returns amid EU green talk

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us