The Brief: The Eastern Partnership homecoming

Today’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit is the first to be held in Brussels.  EaP was born under the 2009 Czech Presidency, as a response to the Union of the Mediterranean launched moths before under the French Presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy. Since then, all summits have taken place in Eastern European capitals: Prague, Warsaw, Vilnius and Riga.

It makes sense that countries from Central and Eastern Europe leverage their relations with their neighbours outside the EU. But there is also a perception that those summits have been instrumentalised for internal needs, at the expense of the European interest.

A short opinion article cannot analyse all the pros and cons, but the fact is that the EuroMaidan revolution took place as a direct result of the Vilnius summit. Obtaining an undeclared war as a result of an EaP summit is certainly not what the EU has in mind.

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are not terribly excited by the Mediterranean Union, and neither are the Western countries about the EaP. For the first time, quite rightly, the EaP summit is taking place in Brussels, although normally it could be held in Tallinn, under the current Estonian Presidency.

And you could hardly say that the six EaP countries are a team. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have signed Association agreements and DCFTAs with the EU, while Belarus and Armenia are members of the Eurasian economic union, and Azerbaijan, a country rich in fossil fuels, doesn’t want (and doesn’t need) to be involved either way.

Of course, there are interesting details. Belarus, although labelled as “Europe’s last dictatorship”, didn’t recognise the annexation of Crimea by Russia. And Armenia turned to Russia for no other reason than fearing its neighbour Azerbaijan, with which it is technically at war over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.  Militarily speaking, Azerbaijan is much more powerful than Armenia.

It’s excellent news hearing that the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliev, drank coffee together today in the shiny Europa building, as the scene was described today by the Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov. He said: “it is much better when the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan drink coffee in the same room and lead a good dialogue than when their armies fight each other in Nagorno-Karabakh”.

And it makes sense that the EaP countries more interested in EU integration would in the future have their own format, dubbed EaP+ by the European Parliament.

The EaP format should be preserved, but it’s better if future summits are held in Brussels.


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Views are the author’s

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Today’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit is the first to be held in Brussels.  EaP was born under the 2009 Czech Presidency, as a response to the Union of the Mediterranean launched moths before under the French Presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy. Since then, all summits have taken place in Eastern European capitals: Prague, Warsaw, Vilnius and Riga.