IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The Eastern Partnership Roadmap to the Vilnius Summit: An open road from Vilnius to Riga
EaP Civil society Forum members, EU official, think tank, media and government representatives from the EaP and EU countries gathered yesterday at the Eastern Partnership Roadmap event organised by the Secretariat of the Steering Committee of the Civil Society Forum to discuss the six country status reports ahead of the Vilnius Summit.
The Vilnius Summit, which should mark the launch of a new phase of European integration for all the eastern neighbours of the EU, for Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, there is the prospect of initialling or signature of Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Agreements with the EU. For Azerbaijan, there should also be the signing of visa facilitation and readmission agreements. In the case of Armenia, the substantive progress made in finalising negotiations on the content of an Association Agreement and DCFTA with the EU must be built upon to renew its integration prospects, and engagement with all sectors of society with a view to sustainable democratic development and closer European integration should be a renewed priority in EU relations with Belarus.
In the months leading up to the summit, the partner countries have been subjected to the negative diplomatic offensive from the Russian Federation – from imposition of trade embargos to calls for them to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. In the case of Armenia, despite the successful conclusion of negotiations with the EU on a DCFTA agreement, on 3 September 2013 President Serzh Sargsyan overturned expectations when he agreed to join the Customs Union. The EU’s active diplomacy towards Ukraine has been a welcome contrast to the negative diplomacy from Moscow, with its threats of cutting Ukraine off from Russian markets, but with the exception of Moldova and Georgia the conditions are not in place in the partner countries for realisation of the ambitions of the Association Agreement. There is far from an open and participatory policymaking process – which will be essential to democratic development and European integration. The European Union also has to make greater efforts towards open government and a firmer commitment across all EU institutions to respect for free and fair elections and promotion of deep democracy in the partner countries.
‘The Civil Society Forum’s status reports on implementation of the Eastern Partnership roadmap to the Vilnius Summit indicates the need for both EU and partner country governments to communicate more openly and improve engagement of the public and all stakeholders – from business to civil society – in policymaking to strengthen the effectiveness, accountability and sustainability of policy outcomes’.
‘To achieve sustainable democratic development, EU and partner countries must promote deep democracy, respect free and fair elections, and embrace more inclusive policymaking’, reports overview states.
EaP Country Reports available for download: