The Summit in Riga not only left the existing problems unresolved, but also didn’t radically reject the goals of the Eastern Partnership.
On May 21-22 the Eastern Partnership Summit took place in Riga.
The Summit in Riga brought any surprises neither to Belarus nor to other countries-members of the Eastern Partnership. The relations between the EU and the Eastern Partnership are basically frozen at the existing level.
The EU isn’t ready to actively influence the Eastern Partnership countries and broaden the boundaries of its ambitions despite the geopolitical challenges. That is why the fate of the Eastern Partnership highly depends on the countries-members of the Eastern Partnership.
Andrei Yahorau, the Director of the Center for European Transformation, in the interview with the “EuroBelarus” Information Service summed up the results of the Summit in Riga and outlined the prospects of the initiative.
- The Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga brought no surprises. What are the results of the Forum for Belarus?
- The results of the Summit in Riga brought no unexpected results for Belarus. We had certain hopes about agreeing on simplification of the visa regime before the Summit, but it never happened; however, in the near future the agreement will still be signed. It also applies to the mobile partnership and simplification of travelling to the EU for certain categories of citizens.
We didn’t expect considerable political decisions re Belarus at the Summit in Riga, likewise decisions of major problems in relations between Belarus and the EU. Belarus’ representation at the Summit was predictable before its start; at least it was clear for me that Lukashenka would hardly go to Riga, while the most possible level of representation was Belarus’ Foreign Minister.
Summit in Riga for Belarus was a working Forum for resolving working issues. It is no surprise that Belarus didn’t support the Eastern Partnership declaration because of the phrase about Crimea. Belarus has signed the declaration with the wording about illegal annexation of Crimea; only reading the reference to the UN resolution about Ukraine’s territorial unity we can understand that Belarus is holding a different stance.
- Will the pretext about Crimea’s annexation somehow influence Belarus-Europe relations?
- There is no such pretext there! The declaration clearly and directly calls Crimea’s annexation illegal, also stating the fact of aggressive Russian politics against Ukraine. And in this sense Belarus shares the wording of the declaration.
The other thing is that the statement of facts refers to the UN Resolution on Ukraine’s territorial unity that Belarus, likewise Russia, voted for. A diplomatic compromise permitted to support the resolution of the Eastern Partnership on the one hand, and not to accuse Russia – on the other.
- The usual words that the Summit in Riga is characterized with are “Eastern Partnership has split”, “Eastern Partnership has died”. What is the future fate of the Eastern Partnership?
- There are no grounds to state the death of the Eastern Partnership, likewise talk about the significant worsening of Eastern Partnership’s development dynamics over the last years. The Summit in Riga didn’t resolve the existing problems, but also didn’t radically reject the goals of the Eastern Partnership of the former period. The initiative will be developing, though with difficulties that appear due to the change of the geopolitical context and internal difficulties in realization of the association agreements that have been signed. It is a new developing stage of the Eastern Partnership.
Eastern Partnership has acquired a form of bureaucratized formal initiative that has certain positive charges and goals connected with bigger rapprochement with Europe. However, the responsibility for such rapprochement lies at the countries-members of the Eastern Partnership, whereas the EU doesn’t go for developing its ambitions re the Eastern Partnership, doesn’t attach bigger geopolitical significance to it, doesn’t declare that the EU wants more active participation of countries-members of the Eastern Partnership to its sphere of transformation.
And that is what is the Eastern Partnership’s dilemma about: the initiative is becoming more and more bureaucratized and formal and has less political goals and tasks and less ambitiousness that should acquire bigger importance when faced with the existing challenges.
In situation when the EU was trying to distance itself from more ambitious goals since the very beginning, it is good that it doesn’t refuse from the former level of goals.
- How will the Summit in Riga affect pro-European moods among the countries-members of the Eastern Partnership?
- The Summit itself has almost no influence at the moods and inner political processes inside the Eastern Partnership countries. There will be no slump of pro-European moods just because the results of the Summit are predictable and non-tragic for the countries that signed the EU association agreement. The relations are frozen at the current level, which, of course, is not good, since it doesn’t enable to intensify the process of European integration. But it will hardly have negative influence, too.
- What’s next? How long can the status quo be preserved in the frozen state?
- Unfortunately, status quo can be preserved for quite long time unless active steps on the part of the third countries change the situation or unless movement in political processes at the level of the Eastern Partnership countries happens. It will be bad if the EaP countries themselves stop their movement towards closer relations with the EU, which is possible if in result of elections in Moldova or Ukraine not pro-European government comes to power. Such situation might seriously complicate the state of the Eastern Partnership and will leave the initiative meaningless. Or in result of Russia’s more aggressive politics pressure on the Eastern Partnership countries will increase, and the EU has nothing to oppose to it. The increasing aggression will lead to making the Eastern Partnership senseless and will prevent the countries from European integration. These are the main threats to the Eastern Partnership.
The EU isn’t ready to actively influence the Eastern Partnership countries and broaden the boundaries of its ambitions. That is why a lot depends on the countries-members of the Eastern Partnership; on how clearly will they fulfill their obligations taken in the frames of the EaP.
The biggest threats for the Eastern Partnership are hidden there.