Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

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 18 year's of archives. 30 days 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."

Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem

Romania will move its embassy to Jerusalem, its prime minister has said, shattering the EU line on the Arab-Israeli conflict while the country holds the EU rotating presidency.

Name row on new EU sanctions exposes deeper rift

EU officials have voiced scepticism on proposed new human rights sanctions, amid a "nasty" debate to what extent Russia ought to be named and shamed in the title of the new measures.

Hopeless Gaza Strip ripe for Islamic State, says UN head

Fears are mounting that more extreme militants, possibly linked to the Islamic State, will gain a foothold in the Gaza Strip as trapped youth lose all sense of hope in a conflict that is on the verge of boiling over.

Investigation

Leaked document sheds light on Turkey's 'controlled coup'

More than two years after the failed putsch, evidence is trickling out to support what the EU initially suspected - that Erdogan knew what was going to happen and let it go ahead as a pretext to create one-man rule.

News in Brief

  1. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  2. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  3. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  4. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  5. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  6. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm
  7. May admits 'not sufficient support' for third Brexit vote
  8. Orban vows more EU 'information campaigns'

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  2. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  3. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  4. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  5. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  6. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  7. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  8. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us