Second Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw: a success for whom?
On September 29th and 30th there took place in Warsaw the second Eastern Partnership Summit, the aim of which was to reinvigorate a partnership sometimes considered not attractive enough by the countries concerned. The outcome could hardly be considered a success, and the situation in Belarus gave fresh grounds for concern.
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) forms part of the European Neighbourhood Policy which was overhauled in May 2011 in order to “to build and consolidate healthy democracies, pursue sustainable economic growth and manage cross-border links”. The EaP is particularly directed towards the six countries situated on the Eastern margin of the EU: Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Following the Union for the Mediterranean promoted by France in the second half of 2008 for the ten Southern EU neighbours, the EaP was launched in Prague in May 2009 under the leadership of Poland whose historical relationships with previous communist countries, especially Ukraine, were badly hit when Poland joined the EU in 2004.
The main aim of the EaP is to tighten and accelerate “the relationship between the EU and the Eastern partners by deepening their political co-operation and economic integration” providing them with financial support from the EU (€1.9bn for 2010-2013, with a conditional supplement for 2012-2013) together with such bodies as European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank.
A noticeable characteristic of the EaP is that there is no prospect of EU accession for ‘partner countries’, a drawback that is regretted by the more hopeful of these Eastern countries. The Warsaw Summit retained his perspective: as Herman Van Rompuy diplomatically expressed it in his concluding remarks, “the EU acknowledges the European aspirations and European choice of some partners”.
The EaP includes a bilateral and a multilateral dimension. The bilateral dimension is characterised by ‘association agreements’ between individual countries and the EU, covering four domains: 1. political dialogue and foreign and security policy; 2. justice, freedom and security – mainly step-by-step negotiations towards a visa-free regime (discussions in progress so far with Ukraine and Moldova), starting with visa facilitation and readmission agreements (as, so far, with Georgia); 3. economic and sectoral co-operation – mainly energy, transport infrastructure, and environment; 4. a so-called ‘Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement’ (DCFTA) which goes beyond a ‘normal’ FTA in that it seeks to harmonise trade-related legislation with EU standards and the acquis communautaire. A DCFTA can only be signed with a country already a member of the WTO (Belarus and Azerbaijan are not). The Warsaw Summit merely offered the prospect of opening negotiations with Georgia and Moldova towards a DCFTA by the end of the year, “if the conditions are in place”, and with Armenia at a still later stage. A DCFTA is supposed to be signed with Ukraine in December 2011. However, the EU made it conditional on the outcome of Ioulia Timoschenko’s trial. At the date of writing, she has been sentenced to seven years in jail, hardly an outcome the EU had hoped for.
The multilateral dimension of the EaP is marked by regular meetings at ministerial or expert levels to exchange experience and facilitate progress in relevant domains gathered in so-called ‘’multilateral platforms’ or “flagship initiatives”. In this context, the Joint Declaration of the Warsaw Summit stressed the role of civil society. It also welcomed the creation of the “Euronest Parliamentary Assembly” and that of the “Conference of Local and Regional Authorities” of the EaP assisted by the Committee of the Regions.
“The Eastern Partnership is based on a community of values and principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law” (Joint Declaration). This statement clearly does not apply to Belarus, that last dictatorship of Europe, whose membership at the Council of Europe has also been suspended. During the Summit, Belarus decided to quit the EaP altogether on the ground that it was discriminated against. Even after this outburst, a declaration on the situation in Belarus only received the support of EU member states. This was hardly a sign of true partnership and was a diplomatic slap in the face for the Polish organisers.
Altogether, except for the promise of future (conditional) negotiations towards visa liberalisation regimes or DCFTA, only for a few countries, the outcome of the summit is hardly a success ... and the EaP lost one member!
Hervé Pierre Guillot SJ
Jesuit European Office – OCIPE, Brussels