Saturday

4th Feb 2023

Values to form core of EU 'Eastern Partnership'

Promotion of human rights and rule of law in former Soviet states is to form the "core" of the EU's new Eastern Partnership policy, according to a draft EU summit declaration seen by EUobserver.

"Shared values including democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights will be at its core, as well as the principles of market economy, sustainable development and good governance," the text says.

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

"The Eastern Partnership should provide the foundation for new Association Agreements between the EU and those partners who have made sufficient progress towards the principles and values set out [above]."

EU leaders are set to formally adopt the document, which was drafted by the Czech EU presidency, at a summit in Brussels on Thursday (19 March) and Friday. The text could be changed at the last minute.

Apart from values, the declaration says the region is of "strategic importance" and the EU has an "interest in developing an increasingly close relationship with its Eastern partners, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine."

The inclusion of Belarus prompts the question whether values or geopolitics are paramount in the initiative.

EU diplomats agree that the country's authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, has done little to merit involvement in the policy at this stage. But the EU fears Russia will strengthen its grip on Minsk if it is left out.

The decision on whether or not to personally invite Mr Lukashenko to the Eastern Partnership [EP] launch summit in Prague on 7 May will be taken closer to the date.

"Everyone knows Lukashenko is not the right man in the right place. But as we develop this long-term project, Lukashenko will become less important," a Polish diplomat said.

"Even if no one from Belarus comes [to Prague], it doesn't mean they can't be included [in the Eastern Partnership]. The technical-level co-operation that has already begun with Belarus, the regional projects in the future, these are more important."

The other Eastern Partnership countries are no angels either. Armenian security forces are suspected of killing eight protesters during election violence last year, in which two policemen also died. In Ukraine, the going rate for a seat in parliament is €3 million.

Apart from the largely symbolic Association Agreements, the Eastern Partnership process envisages legal "approximation" and joint "institution building," leading to the creation of a new free-trade zone embracing the 27 EU states and the six partners.

Crucially, the policy would see visa-free travel to the EU for the 76 million people - 46 million of them in Ukraine - living in the region. Steps toward "visa liberalisation" are to be taken on "a long-term perspective and on a case-by-case basis."

The draft declaration rules out the idea of the Eastern Partnership as a back door to enlargement.

"Work under the Eastern Partnership will go ahead without prejudice to individual participating countries' aspirations for their future relationship with the European Union," it says.

Nuts and bolts

In terms of mechanics, EU leaders are to hold joint summits with Eastern Partnership country leaders once every two years. EU and Eastern Partnership foreign ministers are to meet once a year.

The draft declaration does not mention funding. But Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski on Monday said EU ministers have agreed to give the initiative a modest €600 million up to 2013.

It is unclear whether the €600 million will be new money, or whether €250 million of it will come from the existing EU neighbourhood policy budget and will be re-labelled as Eastern Partnership funds.

The draft declaration gives no nod to Russian sensitivities, unlike earlier proposals by the European Commission.

Russia is not mentioned in the Czech text at all. Commission drafts last year had said the Eastern Partnership should be "pursued in parallel" with EU-Russia relations, or even "complementary" to the Russia relationship.

Correction: the original story said Armenian security forces killed eight people during election protests last year. In fact, 10 people died, including two policemen. The perpetrators of the killings have not yet been identified

EU leaders to discuss response to economic crisis

EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to discuss the best ways to get out of the economic crisis. But despite calls to spend more to support the bloc's ailing economies, most of the attention is expected to be focused on the need for better regulation of the financial sector and on "fine-tuning" the existing European economic stimulus package.

Opinion

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us