EU Commissioner: Russia breaches Helsinki Principles by exerting pressure on EaP countries

Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy said on Wednesday that the Customs Union membership of the Eastern Partnership countries is not compatible with EU’s Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).


“This is not because of ideological differences; this is not about a clash of economic blocs, or a zero-sum game,” Štefan Füle explained. “This is due to legal impossibilities: for instance, you cannot at the same time lower your customs tariffs as per the DCFTA and increase them as a result of the Customs Union membership.”


Ukraine is expected to sign the Association Agreement, which includes the DCFTA, at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. Moldova, Georgia and probably Armenia will initial such agreements with the European Union.


According to Mr. Füle, independent studies show that a DCFTA will bring “substantial benefits” such as “enormous transformative benefits through legal approximation, regulatory convergence, and market liberalization.” He said that exports to the European market could double over time and boost the GDP up to 12%.


“But in order to implement these, our partners must enjoy full sovereignty over their own trade policies, which members of the Customs Union will not,” the Commissioner emphasized.


He suggests that the only possibility to cooperate with the Customs Union is participating as observers in this structure.


The EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy said that the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union has to respect the sovereign decision of the Eastern Partnership countries.


“Any threats from Russia linked to the possible signing of agreements with the European Union are unacceptable,” Štefan Füle said.


He added that the threats can be possible misuses of energy pricing, artificial trade obstacles, as it is currently the case for Moldova, Russia banning wine imports, military cooperation and security guarantees, as experts suggest in the Armenian case and instrumentalisation of protracted conflicts.


“Such actions clearly breach the principles to which all European states have subscribed,” the EU Commissioner said. “In the Helsinki Principles of the OSCE we have committed to respect each country's "right freely to define and conduct as it wishes its relations with other States in accordance with international law". The European Union will support and stand by those who are subject to undue pressures.”