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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Eastern Partnership: time will tell

3 June, 2008 - 00:00

An interesting initiative recently emerged here in Brussels, which may be very advantageous to Kyiv and its future bid for membership in the European Union.

The Polish government, together with its Swedish colleagues, has submitted a proposal called the Eastern Partnership. Initially, a short draft of the document was discussed by the European Commission, and later the proposal was presented by Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Radoslaw Sikorski at a recent meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

The goal of this initiative is to strengthen the European proposal to our eastern neighbors. This offer goes beyond the current European Neighborhood Policy. On the one hand, it strengthens bilateral cooperation and on the other, it supports the horizontal links among the countries to which it is addressed. The Eastern Partnership will embrace Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Belarus. Russia will also have access to some projects. However, as certain people have noted, there should be no doubt that the new offer is mainly intended for Ukraine and Moldova, both of which are prospective members of the EU.

Cooperation can touch on migration and visa questions (the so-called Road Map concerning the visa-waiver regime), consolidation of the free trade zone, support for reforms to correspond with EU standards, accords like the Advanced Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation, which are linked to progress in implementing reforms, the flexible division of EU aid, and last but not least, intensification of contacts among people.

The Eastern Partnership does not envisage the creation of any new institutions or financial instruments. Instead, it will use the mechanisms that have already been tried and test, for example, the office of special coordinator. At later stages, meetings of ministers with representatives of interested EU-member countries will be part of the modus operandi.

Because of the newness of the proposal, it is too early to give a full assessment of its chances of being approved or its future impact on the so-called Eastern dimension of the common policy in the sphere of the Common Foreign & Security Policy (CFSP), let alone the process of the future enlargement.

Some features will be known by the end of the next EU summit. If the proposal is reflected in the summit conclusions, then one can expect it will be continued.

For the time being, it is very good that such an initiative has been introduced. It is good that it was discussed earlier and that it is not just a Polish proposal. Before, we were often taken unawares by some ideas that were instantly doomed to failure. Everything can be different in the case of the Eastern Partnership. Although this proposal is not a revolutionary one, it is not super ambitious, it is a real one. It takes into account the restrictions of today’s EU, enlargement fatigue, and the conflicting interests of the member countries. It is oriented on a project whose fundamental principles are differentiation and voluntary participation. From the point of view of EU mechanics, the proposal has everything that it needs to be implemented. However, its success will depend to a large extent on its content and attractiveness to the prospective members.

In general, this is a good start. But, as usual, time will tell.

P.S. The proposal also contains the excellent idea of reaching out to Belarus. The EU still has no clue about how to tackle this problem. In this respect, the Eastern Partnership can have an essential advantage.

Marek SIWIEC, Vice-President of the European Parliament, special to The Day