Latvia’s Foreign Minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs traveled to Moldova yesterday on a working visit to Chisinau. The Latvian FM met with, among others, the President of Moldova Nicolae Timofti, the Prime Minister of Moldova Iurie Leancă, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Natalia Gherman. High on the agenda was the discussion of the progression of reforms in Moldova, as well as the 2015 Eastern Partnership summit, which will be held in Riga. Latvia has been a major supporter of Moldovan development, and is contributing co-financing and financing to the judicial system of Moldova.
— MFA Moldova (@Diplomacy_RM) October 29, 2013
The Latvian Institute of International Affairs (LIIA) has released their take on the Baltic-EaP relationship, with their report “From the Vilnius Summit to the Riga Summit: Challenges and Opportunities of the Eastern Partnership”.
The report, penned by analysts Irina Kuzņecova, Diāna Potjomkina, and Mārtiņš Vargulis, analyses the progress of each of the EaP countries, and defines some recommendations for the EU’s future approach to the neighbourhood, and to Russia. The report also echoes Raik’s comments about being wary of the “now or never” approach to EaP cooperation:
“EU leaders in the context of the Eastern Partnership must avoid the “now-or-never” approach. The EU has to be open to further cooperation and even integration only if its counterpart fully understands and applies the norms and values of the EU. Instead of rushing toward an agreement, the EU should allow Ukrainians, Moldovans, Georgians and others to define their own pace of moving toward signing, which may well be after the Vilnius or even the Riga summits.”
Furthermore, LIIA argues, the EaP should not be pursued from a “one size fits all” perspective:
“The EU should also review the underlying principles of the Eastern Partnership and the ENP more broadly. Taking into account the extreme diversity of its partner states, it might also be feasible to diversify the EU’s offer, or at least the particular approaches. For instance, a provision of funding to municipalities may be a good strategy in a democratic or semi-democratic regime, but less so in a country where the local government is strictly subordinated to an authoritarian centrality.”
The visit of Edgars Rinkēvičs in Moldova comes together with a report from The Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), which analyses the crucial role of the Baltics in the Eastern Partnership. According to the report, entitled “Lithuania’s presidency gamble: The activeness of Vilnius is pushing the EU’s Eastern Partnership forward”, Lithuania has been in a strategic position to push the EaP agenda forward. The report, by FIIA analyst Kristi Raik, expands on the reasoning behind Lithuania’s policy focus areas, saying:
“A key goal of the Lithuanian presidency during the second half of 2013 has been to anchor the largest of the six Eastern partners, Ukraine, to the EU…The Lithuanian policy is driven by a sense of urgency; its mission is to pull Ukraine back from the brink of falling under Russia’s political and economic control. Failure to do so, it fears, would bolster imperialist and authoritarian tendencies in Russia.”
“Another closely related priority is energy security, notably the creation of a single EU energy market. As Lithuania’s plans to build a new nuclear power plant have run into difficulties, it has become all the more important to reduce dependence on Russian energy through European market integration and new electricity connections. This is linked to the goal of the Eastern Partnership to extend the EU’s energy market to neighbouring countries, which is of major interest to Ukraine and Moldova.”
Raik continues, defining the channels Lithuania has worked through in order to take pragmatic steps in realising its EaP goals:
“Lithuania has been working closely with the EU institutions, starting well before its presidency to plan a full calendar of Eastern Partnership events during the six months of its presidency, and a list of ‘deliverables’ ranging from the conclusion of association agreements to building closer ties between the EU and local civil society organisations.”
Raik also underscores the importance of Lithuania’s role as EU Council President, as it may set the tone for the other Baltic countries as they hold future presidencies–with Latvia being the next Baltic state to serve in the role, in 2015:
“It is too early to say whether Lithuania’s efforts to invigorate the Eastern Partnership will lead to a historic success or a bitter failure. Lithuania may be wrong in believing that the moment for signing the EU-Ukraine agreement is now or never. But it deserves credit for pushing the EU to take a more active role in the region. A mix of Lithuania’s activeness, the EU’s conditionality and Russian threats might push Ukraine to take domestic reforms more seriously. What Lithuania has proved is that a small and peripheral member state can shape the EU agenda. It has also proved that the country holding the Council presidency can still make a difference to the EU’s external relations…”