On 17 May the Polish city of Krakow hosts the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Eastern Partnership member states and of the Visegrad countries (V4) –Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The meeting is part of Poland’s V4 Presidency, and will also be attended by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle, as well as the foreign minister of Lithuania and the deputy foreign minister of Ireland – the two countries holding the EU Presidency in 2013.
The representatives will meet primarily to discuss the Eastern Partnership and its November summit in Vilnius, as well as a the situations of the individual partner countries and on the EaP’s future after the Vilnius meeting.
There are high hopes for the upcoming Vilnius summit, in particular the opportunity it presents for Ukraine to sign the proposed Association Agreement with the EU. The likelihood of signing the agreement remains uncertain as Ukraine must demonstrate visible progress in three areas of reform demanded by the EU. The association agreement was initialled more than a year ago, but its signature is conditional on these three key issues which include selective justice, shortcomings of the October elections, and the release from prison of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Initially, the Ukraine was given until May 2013 to adequately demonstrate its commitment to these reforms–however, with the deadline come and gone, incoming EU Presidency holder Lithuania has this week granted Ukraine extra time. According to the Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius, Ukraine now has six months to meet EU terms for signing the association agreement, saying:
“We will keep this pressure until the last moment … If they will be ready, we will be ready and we hope, we still believe, that it’s doable to sign the association agreement by the summit in Vilnius.We have plenty of time. We will be ready to catch up if they will be ready.”
This concession, however, was not supported by all EU members. In fact, not all members agreed to the three reforms demanded of Ukraine, with some countries willing to overlook the release of Tymoshenko, arguing that the Union should not lose Ukraine over the fate of one person. However, Germany has made it clear that an association agreement is entirely contingent on the release of Tymoshenko.