The conference held at the end of the two-day Eastern Partnership Summit has just been closed. The subjects raised at the meeting included the perspective of signing the Association Agreement by Ukraine and a special addition to the Summit’s declaration regarding Belarus. The final document ensures that the Eastern Partnership is grounded on shared values: “principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.”
The final declaration contains conformation that all participants of the EaP Summit fully acknowledged aspirations of some of the partner states. The document will be a base for a roadmap which would define the EaP’s objectives and actions until the second part of 2013 – the date of the next Summit. The Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine is to be signed by the end of 2011 (during the meeting in December), “provided sufficient progress has been made in fulfilling a number of remaining key recommendations.” Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk, answering the journalists’ questions at the conference, stated that local undermining democracy could cast a shadow over signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
There is a special addition to the core text of the declaration regarding Belarus, which includes the EU representatives’ serious concerns over human rights abuse. The EU member states are calling on Belarusian authorities to release immediately and rehabilitate all political prisoners, to end the repression of civil society and media, and to initiate a political dialogue with the opposition. This part was, however, signed only by the Union countries. The EU is prepared for aiding Belarus financially and deepening relations on condition of “respect by the Belarusian authorities for democracy.” President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said that everybody in the Union sees one goal: Belarusian state becoming a democratic partner.
Donald Tusk assured he knows that the aspiration of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia were not satisfied, for no clear statement regarding EU membership was made. He justified this situation on the grounds of lack of fulfilling recommendations, both by the European Union and partner countries.
Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban delivered a strong speech – he talked on the EU expansion, necessary for its success. Hungarian head of government highlighted that “Poland has a mission within the EU, and this mission is expanding the EU to the East.” He cautioned against repeating the mistakes made after the “huge enlargement” in 2004, when the societies of the Old Union were afraid of opening their borders to new members. Viktor Orban expressed his hope that in the future the Union would take into consideration the Balkan countries as candidates for joining the EU community.
The Eastern Partnership Summit did not present any final decisions. Admittedly, the date of signing the Association Agreement with Ukraine is set. Nevertheless, actual ending of this stage of negotiation with the EU depend on the verdict in Ukrainian former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s trial. The talks on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with Moldova and Georgia are to begin this year. The negotiations on visa liberalization in Moldova and Ukraine have been already started. Also a clear signal to Belarus has been sent – without democratization and a dialogue with opposition Brussels will provide no financial aid. Unfortunately, the EaP Summit was partly overshadowed by the Tymoshenko’s court case and Belarus’ withdrawal from participation in the Warsaw event. In conclusion, so to speak, the ball is in the partner countries’ court. Now, the pace of negotiations and actions towards signing agreements – which are further establishing the Eastern Partnership – are being determined by their authorities.