Thursday

27th Feb 2020

EU unlikely to expand into post-Soviet east in next decade

  • The Eastern Partnership was launched at a summit in Prague in 2009, but what is its ultimate goal? (Photo: eu2009.cz)

Poland and Sweden have in a joint strategy paper indicated the EU is unlikely to invite any of its post-Soviet neighbours to join the bloc in the next 10 years.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski and Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt set out their vision for the EU's future relations with neighbouring countries in a letter on 6 October to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele.

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 letter noted that Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine could one day become EU members, unlike countries in north Africa and the Middle East. "Some [countries bordering the EU] are European and thus enjoy special status in accordance with the treaties, others will remain neighbours of Europe," it said.

But the four-page-letter nowhere said the EU should give the group 'an enlargement perspective.' It instead set out an everything-but-enlargement vision in which the six gradually adopt the EU rulebook, the acquis communautaire, move toward free trade and visa-free travel and take part in more EU projects, including police, military and migration-related schemes.

To this end, it called for a "well-prepared and substantial" summit between EU leaders and the six countries in Budapest on 26 May.

It also recommended that the EU split in two its European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), a €1.7 billion a year budget line, currently used to fund projects in all 16 of its neighbourhood policy countries.

Around €600 million a year would go to the eastern group, on top of a €90 million a year special allocation for the six under the EU's Eastern Partnership policy.

"The development of relations with the two sets of neighbours has followed increasingly differentiated tracks. Given the differences between the two groups of countries, this is a logical development," the letter said. "We should take into consideration dividing the ENPI into two separate financial instruments, one for the east and one for the south, in mid-term perspective."

Mr Sikorski and Mr Bildt wrote to Brussels in response to a questionnaire sent out in July by Mr Fuele to all 27 EU capitals and 16 neighbouring states.

The questionnaire asked among other things how the governments see EU relations developing in the period up to 2020. "The big question behind all this is - what is the endgame? If out of this process we get some mandate to specify our endgame it could be very good," an EU official said.

EUobserver understands that the letter sent in by Ukrainian foreign minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko said boldly that Kiev's goal is EU accession and that this can be achieved by 2020. It criticised the existing European Neighbourhood Policy, saying EU-Ukraine relations in recent years have progressed "not because of, but despite" it.

"It is very clear that the eastern countries want to have a clear membership perspective. Some are pressing to get it more quickly, the others also want it, but are not begging for it," an EU diplomatic contact familiar with the response letters of some of the neighbouring states, said. "Even with Belarus, for us it is clear that they are in principle interested."

The omission of any wording on accession in the Polish-Swedish text is significant because Warsaw and Paris are the main architects of the EU's current policy toward post-Soviet countries. Some diplomats from enlargement-friendly Poland had in the past dared to hope the Polish EU presidency would broker an enlargement promise for Kiev in late 2011.

Most of the other big players in the EU are openly hostile to further expansion, leaving aside the special case of the western Balkans. "For us, it is not on the table," a French diplomat said. The German response to the Fuele questionnaire also said nothing on enlargement.

EU foreign ministers will in Luxembourg on Monday chew over the responses which have come in so far. The EU 27 and EU neighbouring 16 foreign ministers plan to hold a meeting on future relations in February. Ms Ashton and Mr Fuele will then issue a communication on reform of the European Neighbourhood Policy in the run-up to the Budapest summit.

EU set for new Libya naval mission

Foreign ministers reached a political agreement to create a new EU naval force to replace Operation Sophia. It aims to enforce an UN arms embargo on Libya and operate in area where migrants do not take boats.

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. WHO on coronavirus in Europe: 'be prepared'
  2. Frontex hits activist pair with €24,000 legal bill
  3. Turkish jets keep violating Greek airspace
  4. 'Fragmented' Slovakia goes to polls amid corruption woes
  5. EU development policy needs a fresh start
  6. EU critical of China on Swedish dissident publisher
  7. NGOs urge EU to tackle meat consumption 'problem'
  8. Coronavirus: voices from a quarantined Italian town

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us