On 2nd and 3rd of October, 2013, a panel of authorities gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss the Migration and Mobility Policy towards Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. With the substantial share of speeches being politically charged, the speakers gave rough, but inclusive ideas about the current state of play in EU-EaP dialogue. “Beyond the EU” offers the digest of key points made on the EP internal hearing and juxtaposes them.
The main topic on the agenda was the EU mission’s assessment of the visa liberalization action plan in the run-up to the Vilnius summit. As Georgia strongly believes in its “advanced position”, country’s expectations for Vilnius Summit were claimed to be high. Still, the Head of the EU mission in Georgia, Philip Dimitrov, advised Georgians not to await miracles. Would it be correct to expect that the EU will grant awards for the successful accomplishments or, rather, punish for non-compliance?
If conditions are met from both sides, Vilnius summit will result in signing of the Association Agreement with Ukraine and its initialization with Georgia and Moldova. But the MEPs expressed EU’s concerns about the socio-political situation in Georgia where the secretary-general of the United National Movement, Vano Merabishvili (the former Prime Minister of Georgia) is imprisoned. The same disapproval was voiced towards the Ukraine and Yulia Tymoshenko case: “Ukraine cannot get by without freedom”, – MEP Saryusz-Wolski stated. Against this background, EaP countries were advised not to be EUphoric about the Vilnius Summit as “realism is always important”.
Yet neither does there seem to be a serious ground for pessimism. At least not for Ukraine, which was claimed by MEP E.Brok to be “in the spotlight”. The Fortress Europe is not in the EU’s interests, though the EU representatives sent a clear message that a way towards the visa free regime between the EU and the EaP is a “merit based process” that cannot be mechanically accelerated. In other words, the EU will take its time and act according to the principle “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow” (MEP J.Saryusz-Wolski quoted Mark Twain in jest).
So, the EU seems to have time, but do EaP countries have it? Armenia, for example, decided that it would not wait for the EU to pay attention to its concerns. “Countries have to make their own minds. Some people think that it is better to go into another direction”,– MEP E.Brok argued with reference to the decision of Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan to opt for the Customs Union with Russia. Also, this expression referred to Georgia’s Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who did not rule out the Eurasian Union as an option, though keeping the pro-EU stance.
In his turn, T.Poghosyan, a representative of the Armenian leading opposition party, maintained that the society in Armenia was “not happy” with the President’s statement. He expressed the belief that Armenia would come back to the Euro-track. Similarly, the former Minister of Euro-Atlantic integration of Georgia, G.Baramidze, who currently holds the post of the Vice-Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, expressed his hope that the political will in Georgia would be firmly directed westwards. This direction was claimed to be desired no matter what the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections in Georgia might be.
To follow up with the statement of T.Poghosyan: is that only the president of Armenia whom the Armenian society should hold accountable for the “anti-EU” decision or maybe also the EU itself? In fact, the EU’s inaction towards the matters of Armenian concern, such as opening borders with Turkey or conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, cannot be discounted. The same is true for Georgia that sees the EU as a guarantor of its territorial integrity. The latter one has been violated several times by Russians who are still occupying 20% of its territory. But the European reality is that “the EU cannot promise the security, because we cannot deliver it”, – stated MEP J.E.Saryusz-Wolski and went on with an avowal: “signing the agreement with a half-democracy is a self-defeat! Signing something that cannot be delivered is a self-assassination!” Therefore, the “correct approach” suggested by the MEPs to the EaP governments is to undertake the reforms for their own sake rather than for their considerations on the prospects of EU integration (E.Brok, MEP).
Does it mean that the whole decision-making power is in the hands of the EaP governments, and neither Brussels nor Kremlin is deciding for us? If yes, “Open Sesame” then! But the Fortress Europe does not seem to open. “Sesame” is still closed.
E.Brok affirmed that Russia was putting pressure on the EaP countries and expressed the urge for the EU to “move quickly to overrun the Big Brother neighbour”. Russia was thus represented in Orwell’s terms, but at the same time the will of working closer with this influential state was outlined. The excitement went as far as stating that “if we succeed in the EaP, Russia will be the next one to change”.
Call it “the clash of civilizations” (A.Severin, MEP ) or “the beginning of the better future” (H. Nemyria, a Ukrainian representative), one thing is obvious: the Vilnius Summit is going to be a decisive point in EaP-EU relations.
For the video streaming of the EP hearing on Migration and Mobility with Eastern Partnership please follow the links below: