Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

Republic of Moldova and the future of Eastern Partnership: Warsaw summit perspectives

European Union and geopolitical proximity

Stability and prosperity enjoyed by the EU for half a century cannot be separated from its relations with different entities and regions of the globe, especially relations with the bordering area. European Neighborhood Policy, launched in 2004, was the first EU policy which established a common framework of EU relations with southern neighbors (north-eastern Mediterranean) and in east (the post-Soviet space), which, according to European Council decisions in Copenhagen 2002, will not join the Union in the foreseeable future.

The first years of implementation of the new policy emphasized the difficulties of simultaneously programming in the same framework relations with Palestine and Ukraine or Morocco and Belarus, and the European Union member states have reconfirmed their different interests for different geographical areas. Attempts of France, traditionally interested in the Mediterranean, to unilaterally approach to north-African states and the Levant has led, after intervention of Germany, to the establishment in summer of 2008, of the Union for Mediterranean, a body comprising the EU 27 and states of EU southern neighborhood. Poland, on the other hand, managed to obtain Swedish support, when the two EU members proposed, on 26 May 2008, establishing an Eastern partnership within the Neighborhood Policy. The events in Georgia, August 2008, hastened project promotion and reformulation, and on 7 May 2009 Eastern Partnership is officially launched within the first high-level summit in Prague. As a matter of fact, by creating the Eastern Partnership and the Union for Mediterranean, EU is separating neighbors within neighborhood policy, without clearly stating which one of them is a priority.

Commission communication of December 2008 Eastern Partnership, which was the basis for the new project, starts from the premise that „European Union has a vital interest in ensuring stability, improving governance and economic development at its Eastern borders”, and the Eastern Partnership has to strengthen further relations between EU and its eastern neighbors. Overall objectives of Eastern Partnership are political association and economic integration between European Union and Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus by establishing new bilateral commitments and a new institutionalized framework of multilateral cooperation on four thematic platforms: democracy, good governance and stability; economic integration and convergence with EU policies; energy security and human contacts[1]. Financial support of Partnership shall be ensured by increasing actual financial package of the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument with additional funds in total amount of 350 million dollars, which is added to planned resources for 2010-2013, whereas total amount of resources designed to new „eastern initiatives” is 600 million euro[2].

Eastern Partnership perspectives in a difficult conjuncture

Eastern Partnership meant a project with great geopolitical valences for European Union and was enthusiastically received in six post-Soviet countries, and in conclusions of the second meeting of ministers of foreign affairs within Eastern Partnership, held on 13 December 2010 in Brussels, one mentions strategic importance of Partnership in strengthening relations between EU and partner countries[3].

However, after more than two years after the launch of this cooperation framework, when technical negotiations have replaced promising political speeches, the necessity of deep project discussions becomes more and more obvious. EU Presidency of Poland, one of the first community members interested in the success of Eastern Partnership, and the summit that Poland will host in Warsaw, can open this perspective. Since May 2011, Poland has reconfirmed its interest in the success of structural reforms in the six states included in the Partnership, by proposal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Radoslaw Sikorski to create ”the group of friends” of Eastern Partnership, formed by states like USA, Canada, Japan and Norway. Russia, which officially criticized the new EU program because it creates new driving lines in Europe and targeted ex-Soviet states, will have to choose between Moscow and Brussels[4]was also invited to join this group[5]. Also Radoslaw Sikorski declared, a few days earlier, to be in favor of increasing financial assistance for eastern neighbors in the next financial year of the European Union[6].In the program of Polish Presidency, a special chapter is dedicated to opening European Union to the rest of the world, especially by strengthening relations with the neighbors. In relation with Eastern Partnership countries, European Union will aim at completion or substantial progress in negotiations with Ukraine and Republic of Moldova on Association Agreements and creation of deep and comprehensive free trade area; progress in liberalizing visa regime and; deepening sectorial cooperation[7]. Eastern Partnership Summit, is mentioned in the document, will bring additional cooperation objectives between European Union and its eastern neighbors, possible thanks to a row of ministerial specialized meetings to come. Also, the European Union will develop cooperation with eastern partners in common foreign and security policy[8]. However, the Foreign Policy Committee of European Parliament, on 30 May 2011, gave a favorable opinion to adoption, at the plenary session of Parliament in September, of a recommendation for the Commission and Council targeting the award of accession perspective in the Association Agreement that will be signed with the Republic of Moldova[9].

All these initiatives comply with euro integration efforts of partnership states, as least in case of Ukraine and Moldova, the only ones that have currently advanced in accomplishment of Eastern Partnership provisions and, as a consequence, negotiate political association, economic integration and visa liberalization with the European Union. Also, some of these initiatives can be found in Chisinau ”non-paper” on reformation of Eastern Partnership, sent in May 2011 to European officials, containing such proposals as: the certainty of accession; clear priorities, on areas of regional development to energy security; more cooperation; sustainable partnership[10].

But beyond these efforts, actually perfectly legitimate, there is a strong “anti-east current” within European socio-political environment, as well as a European and international conjuncture not favorable at all to some big EU commitments in the post-Soviet space. Even Joint Communication of the Commission and High EU Representative for Foreign Affairs, A new response to a changing neighborhood, of 25 May 2001, does not represent a quality change of attitude towards eastern neighbors[11].

First of all, European chancelleries are concerned with European fiscal consolidation, when the crisis of sovereign debts in Euro zone threaten the existence of Economic and Monetary Union and raise fears of a European chronic economic contraction. The German taxpayer/voter, after supporting infrastructure modernization in Hungary, will be hard to convince that on a medium and long term it would be good to financially support as well Moldovan agriculture. Second of all, although 2011 was intended to be the year of Eastern Partnership, it is still the year of Mediterranean neighbors of the European Union, after Arab revolutions has profoundly destabilized the region. Thus, it will be difficult for Poland and ex-Soviet states to argue the eastern priority while France is fully engaged in Libya, and African immigrants cause restriction of movement within the Schengen areas. Finally, many European states would not want to complicate the dialog with Russia by a sudden increase of commitments in post-Soviet space, once the dialog with it is still under pressure because of the U.S. antimissile shield installed in Eastern Europe.

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