Friday

27th Jan 2023

EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length

  • Ukraine's Poroshenko boxed in by Dutch action (Photo: president.gov.ua)

The EU aims to dilute the enlargement hopes of former Soviet states at a summit next week. It also aims to lend weight to Azerbaijan's view of a conflict with Armenia.

EU states plan to "acknowledge the European aspirations and European choice of the partners concerned," according to a draft summit declaration, seen by EUobserver.

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

  • Nagorno-Karabakh - just another post-Soviet conflict? (Photo: nkrmil.am)

But they plan to tell Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine that their association treaties will not lead to membership, major financial assistance, the right to work in the EU, or military support "in [the] context" of a Dutch agreement.

The EU and the Netherlands agreed to put the brakes on the association project in December 2016 after Dutch people voted No to the Ukraine treaty in a referendum.

That referendum was non-binding, but an EU diplomat said it has ended up governing foreign policy.

"The Dutch, backed by Germans and the French, refused to put into the Eastern Partnership declaration even the wording from the association agreements on recognising Eastern Partnership countries as 'European'," the diplomat said.

Their attitude has angered Kiev.

"What Ukraine ultimately wants is a simple message: 'Once you're ready - you're in'. Our task would be to get ready," Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, an aide to Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, said in EUobserver in the run-up to the summit.

A compromise formula, "recognising" some Eastern Partnership countries' "European aspirations" might be inserted into the final text, the EU diplomat said.

Conflict zone

The twice-yearly Eastern Partnership summit takes place in Brussels next Friday (24 November).

The draft declaration said EU overtures toward the east were "not directed against anyone", but the EU's offer, four years ago, of an association treaty to Ukraine set off a revolution that led to Russia's subsequent invasion.

The EU summit comes amid regular exchange of fire, including artillery, between Ukraine and Russia-controlled forces in east Ukraine.

It also comes amid frequent fire between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces in Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The draft declaration leant toward Azerbaijan's view of the conflict.

It said: "The European Union remains committed in its support to the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of all its partners."

This lumped together Nagorno-Karabakh with Russia's conflicts in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

It depicted Nagorno-Karabakh as an artificial occupation by Armenia, while dropping previous references to Armenian people's right to self-determination.

Eastern Partners

Azerbaijan's leader, Ilham Aliyev, who sells oil and gas to the EU, had not confirmed by this weekend if he would attend the summit.

Alexander Lukashenka, the autocratic Belarusian leader, had also not confirmed what would be his first visit to the EU capital.

The draft declaration said the EU 28 and the six other leaders "recommit themselves to strengthening democracy, rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms".

It said these were "at the heart of the Eastern Partnership", even though Aliyev and Lukashenka are notorious human rights abusers.

The Aliyev regime is also known for corruption and for a recent purge of gay men.

But the draft declaration contained only boiler plate statements on corruption and made no mention of LGBTI rights.

Belarus has the least developed EU relations out of the group, with the two sides in talks on little more than a visa facilitation deal.

Armenia step

The summit is to see a step forward in EU-Armenia relations after Armenia leapt backward three years ago.

Armenia had been due to sign an association treaty with the EU along with Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, but refused to do so under Russian pressure.

Friday's meeting is to see the EU sign a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with Armenia - a stripped-down version of the original treaty.

It will also plant a small seed by establishing an Eastern Partnership European School.

The secondary-level school, in Tbilisi, is to promote, among other things, "better understanding of the European Union".

Feature

Armenia-Azerbaijan war: line of contact

"Frontline coffee is the best coffee in the world", an Armenian soldier told EUobserver, with morale a key asset in the conflict.

Opinion

Eastern partners, eastern problems

The EU must hold out the olive branch of possible membership in the distant future - but the current domestic problems in the ex-Soviet states, let alone their links to Russia make more than that difficult.

Opinion

The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik

If, as the EU claims, the Eastern Partnership summit is not a format for conflict resolution, where else will the security issues that hold the region back be resolved?

Tusk: Poland risks harming EU appeal

EU Council president said anti-democratic 'interventions' in Poland and the US could harm Western soft power in its contest with Russia.

Latest News

  1. Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'
  2. Red tape border logjam for EU's 1.3m 'frontier workers'
  3. Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency
  4. Greek government in no-confidence vote over spying scandal
  5. The legal battle for justice against Kremlin's 'untouchables'
  6. UAE's fossil-fuelled high-tech mirage of a green future
  7. MEP harassment case sheds light on flimsy support for victims
  8. Big Agri's EU lobbying playbook on 'hunger' and a 'refugee crisis'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  2. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  3. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  4. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  2. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  3. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  5. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  6. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us