East looks west, EU’s Eastern Partnership beckons

By Volodymyr Stretovychis

At a Summit meeting on March 19-20, the European Council officially approved the establishment of the Eastern Partnership (EaP.) It will embrace six countries of Eastern Europe: Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, and Moldova. The Summit of the Eastern Partnership will be held on May 7, 2009, in Prague. This Summit must originate this EU initiative.The Eastern Partnership is a response to the desire of the EU’s Eastern neighbors to draw near to the European Union. The project anticipates realisation of programmes formerly available only to official candidates for the EU, as well as their financial and institutional provisions. The question for consideration is about signing the Association Agreements. It includes agreements on the free trade zone with the EU and partnering countries; carrying-out programs of improving administrative competency of partnering countries; promoting social and economic development of partnering countries; visa facilitation with the final goal of implementing visa-free travel for all partnering countries. In planning stages are drafts for diversification of energy supply sources, development of regional markets for electro energy, and the development of the Southern energy corridor. Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Armenia are the EU’s main partners in the Eastern Partnership. It has been suggested that Russia and Turkey could be involved in the project’s individual programs. This would promote the Euro integration of Russia and development of her relations with the EU. The involvement of Russia and Turkey will contribute to solving energy security, conflict management between countries, protection of the global environment, and fighting illegal migration.

The EU’s leaders said they believe that the Eastern Partnership will help the EU’s Eastern neighbors deepen commitments to reforms and encourage them to draw closer to the EU. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council about the Eastern Partnership as of December 3, 2008, anticipates that differential approach to every partnering country is crucial. Success depends on progress of internal reforms and improvement of relations with the EU. This partnership will allow each EaP participant to actively and independently move towards the deepening of European integration. Ukraine has begun the negotiation process with the EU for association, free trade zones, visa free regimes, and joining the Energy Community. For Ukraine, the Eastern Partnership is an opportunity to secure the prospect of integration into the EU with new regulatory frames. Ukraine has all the chances to become a leading country in the Eastern Partnership and secure the role of regional leader under the aegis of the EU.

The government of Ukraine supports this project. According to the Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, the Eastern Partnership provides Ukraine with one more opportunity for European integration. Ukraine is interested in implementing European programs with regards to increasing institutional ability for Euro integration, and to strong social economic projects in Crimea and in old industrial districts, such as Donbas; and support of particular branches of economics, such as the agricultural sector. However, the Eastern Partnership doesn’t provide the prospect of membership, whereon Ukraine used to insist. At the same time, according to European Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner: “We have demonstrated to Ukraine our readiness to do more, if she does more.” The way for Ukraine to become a prospective member of the European Union is a successful accomplishment of the work at hand, reforming all spheres of life sustaining activity with the help from the Eastern Partnership. There’s a link also to the Eastern Partnership and Christian Democrats of Eastern Europe. According to Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a Member of the European Parliament and Vice President of the European People’s Party, the EPP, the Eastern Partnership will assist in securing stability on the threshold of the EU. The EPP supports widening partnership relations with the Eastern European partners of the EU. According to Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, the President of the European Commission, the EU’s goal is to form a more stable region in the East that shares European values, and has a joint and dynamic market.

Christian democrats in the young democracies of Eastern Europe have the same interest. In October 2008, the leaders of Christian-Democratic Parties of Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova, and Ukraine signed the Memorandum on collaboration and established the Eastern European Bureau in Kyiv. One idea of the new consolidation was a desire to assist in the Euro integration of their seven countries, particularly based upon the experience of Latvia and Estonia. We express solidarity with the EU position that the countries of the region have joint problems and tasks, the solving of which requires joint efforts of our countries and cooperation with the EU. Support is for small and medium enterprises, development of energy, transportation and environmental spheres, and modernization of systems protecting borders by European standards.

The participation of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia in the EaP gives a new impulse to the vision of Christian Democrats regarding cooperation and places new tasks before them regarding practical assistance to realization of EaP programs in their countries.


Author: Volodymyr Stretovychis a Member of Parliament in Ukraine and chai - rman of the Eastern European Bureau of Christian-Democratic Parties