Today in Brussels, held the first meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the "Eastern Partnership" (Euronest) — the program of cooperation between the European Union and a number of countries of the former Soviet Union. Parliamentarians from Belarus for the first meeting of the Euronest not invited — the EU has opposed their participation as a result of the brutal suppression of protests in Minsk after the presidential elections on 19 December 2010.
On the eve of Radio Liberty correspondent Robert Kolsan spoke with political analyst Thomas de Waal the Carnegie Foundation.
RL: Russia was not invited to participate in the Parliamentary Assembly of the "Eastern Partnership". As you consider whether or not the EU has reason to affect Azerbaijan and Belarus otherwise? Do they really lack of democracy?
Thomas de Waal: I believe that in the case of Belarus have been waiting too high, and that promise, as we see, have been violated. It is clear that both Belarus and Azerbaijan — a very repressive regimes. However, Azerbaijan has always clearly showed how it sees its relations with the EU — he does not see himself quite a European country, so there are expectations were lower. But Belarus is clearly a European country, it borders with the EU, and therefore expectations were higher. So I think that the punishment was appropriate after the Belarusian authorities rather brutally abandoned their previous commitments in the last year in December.
RL: Do you think that you need to do to the "Eastern Partnership" was really thorough project?
Thomas de WaalThe issue of the "Eastern Partnership" now is that the expansion of the EU, mostly ceased. Perhaps some of the Western Balkan countries — Croatia, Serbiya, perhaps — will be included in the EU, but then, I think the prospects diminish for other countries that are European, but they face much greater challenges to enter the EU. Turkey, for example, has serious difficulties to be adopted. If you look to the east, Ukraine, Moldova, the South Caucasus countries, it is unlikely that they would join the EU for at least the next 10, 15, 20 years. In this regard Neighbourhood Policy becomes much more important. How the EU can make an effort to attract them without giving them full membership? I believe that this is obviously a double-edged sword. These countries need to show a real interest in the EU and EU values. But the fact that Brussels has to do, I think, comes down to two things. One of them — the simplification of the visa regime, which, in my opinion, is just beginning to work. It was suggested by the Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, citizens of these countries can now get a visa much easier. That's one thing.
I think the more important idea of privileged access to the European single market. Trade policy can be more open to these countries. I think it's a good policy.
The problem is that the EU is distracted by other issues and does not have enough resources — time or money — for the "Eastern Partnership". Secondly, the EU can not be good to bring this policy. I think it's pretty good policy, but they do not convey it very well.
RL: You seem to be generally pessimistic attitude to the "Eastern Partnership".
De Waal: Not necessarily. I think that there are some countries … If we look at them separately, each case is different. I think there is a reason to keep them all "in a common basket" and then considered individually. But some countries are clearly not interested in the fact that they can offer the EU: Azerbaijan, Belarus — in their present condition — obvious examples. But if we look at Moldova, the EU incentives were very positive for the country. Moldova has the most pro-European government in the region, and he begins to make pro-European reforms as a result. Following it in the queue Georgia, which is much more divided on the issue. But I think that the EU could also potentially have a positive impact on Georgia. Ukraine is more problematic since the new government of President Viktor Yanukovych, but negotiations are continuing. Yes, there are three cases in which there are some mixed success, at least.
Euronest meeting will be devoted mainly to procedural matters and elect the governing bodies of the Assembly. In the program "Eastern Partnership" involving Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.