EU Reaches out to Former Soviet States

In the last hours before the Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit begins in Riga, the EU accepted to “acknowledge the European aspirations” of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. The formulation was in the declaration published after the previous summit in Vilnius in 2013, but was not included in previous versions of the final declaration to be issued on Friday (22 May).

“Summit participants acknowledge the European aspirations and European choice of the partners concerned, as stated in the Association agreements,” states the document seen by EUobserver, referring to the political and trade agreements signed by the three countries.

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova insisted on obtaining stronger wording and the discussion over this paragraph threatened to jeopardise a positive outcome for the summit. The 28 ambassadors to the EU settled the issue on Wednesday “so there would be no discussion in Riga,” an EU diplomat told EUobserver.

Sweden and Lithuania pushed for the declaration to “welcome” the three countries’ “European aspirations” but other EU states stuck to the looser word “acknowledge”. This wording remains far from outlining a membership perspective, but will let summit participants boast of a successful meeting.

The UK, a traditional ally of eastern countries on this matter, did not push for more favourable wording because it did not want the talks to drag into the summit, the diplomat said. Meanwhile, Germany, one the most reluctant countries out of concern for Russia’s reactions, gave in for the same reason – it wanted the discussion to be closed before the summit.

The EU also agreed to send a positive signal on visas.

The summit declaration will “warmly welcome the progress made by Georgia and Ukraine” in implementing measures required by the EU to grant the two countries a visa free regime. In a previous version of the declaration, the EU only said it “look[ed] forward to completion by Ukraine and Georgia of the implementation” of measures in areas such as the fight against corruption or drug and human trafficking.

Ukraine and Georgia wanted the summit to decide in favour of a liberalisation of their visa regime in 2016, but the EU is first waiting for a report due in autumn on progress in the areas by the two countries. However the new wording should ensure a smooth summit on Thursday evening and Friday morning.

“The only question now is whether Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will come up with a separate statement” to reiterate their demands on membership and visas, the EU diplomat told this website.

 After his arrival in Riga, Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko said the declaration was “a significantly improved” text, suggesting there would be no separate statement.

Source: euobserver.com

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