Neighbourhood and Eastern Partnership (II):



 

In our Newsflash October-November 2011 (http://www.aebr.eu/files/publications/AEBR_Newsflash__21_-_October-November_2011.pdf), we informed about the call for more funding of projects on democracy and human rights by regional and local authorities (inauguration of CORLEAP) and the future ENP approach, which seems to be more decentralized, with more (democratic) conditionality and diversification. A main target is to establish a free trade area between the EU and the countries in the Eastern Partnership (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). A more complicated case is Belarus.

 

The Eastern Partnership summit on 29-30 September in Warsaw gave a political push to the talks on association agreement and a free trade area with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, focusing on three major rules: joint ownership, conditionality and differentiation. Improving people-to-people contacts between the EU and the six Eastern countries is one of the main priorities of the Eastern Partnership initiative launched in May 2009.

 

Together with other European associations, particularly the CPMR, we have shown our opinion on the new focus of the European and Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), as proposed by the European Commission. In general we welcome the new outlined ENI and its particular stress on CBC programmes with the neighbourhood countries and with the Russian Federation. The growing interest in CBC showed by these countries should receive the highest support from the EU, as CBC has proven to be a very suitable way to promote sustainable and long-lasting integration processes in border areas. It also seems to us very appropriate to establish as a framework the promotion of economic and social development at the external borders of the EU, but we would like to see more clear possibilities for border regions between the neighbourhood countries (and Russia), even for cross-border territories not directly bordering the EU. There are some sensitive border areas and also some very promising scenarios that really need concrete and sustained support, while guaranteeing national co-financing in the long-term. The increase in the proposed budget to be allocated for ENI is also very much welcome, particularly in the current context of financial difficulties.

 

On the other hand, we understand the need to ensure security at the borders through more efficient mechanisms, though without losing the CBC perspective. The new provisions seem to facilitate more effective and faster implementation of the programmes, with a stronger people-to-people focus. It seems appropriate to have common implementation procedures for the whole ENI as well, but we miss a concrete new regulation for territorial cooperation within this instrument. In fact, if the neighbourhood instrument is to follow Interreg-like procedures, there should be a specific regulation for that in order to avoid unnecessary delays and misunderstandings.

 

Many events have been organized in this framework. Just to mention some of them that seem especially interesting to us, the second Annual Forum on Cross-Border Cooperation in a Wider Europe took place in Kaliningrad and Elblag (PL) on 17th and 18th November, organized by the Polish Presidency and the Institute for Stability and Development (ISD), with a very interesting declaration regarding the need to provide a higher political priority and more financial resources to promote CBC in the European Neighbourhood (http://www.borderdialogues.eu/events).

 

It is also worth to mention the strong input given to CBC at the external borders of the EU by the Finnish Government. In this sense, a set of documents have been published in 2011, and we would like to draw your attention on the following. You can also order hard copies of these documents in the AEBR central office:

 

The Finnish Ministry organized the seminar “The Warsaw Process: the future of the EU External Border Cooperation” in Helsinki on 15th and 16th December. Dr. Anaïs Marin, expert who collaborates with the AEBR Task Force on External Borders, represented the AEBR Secretary General in this Seminar. You can find her presentation and some other relevant documents under http://www.aebr.eu/en/events/events_detail.php?event_id=124.

 

Below you will find some updated information in a country-per-country basis:

 

Ukraine: the EU and Ukraine declared their readiness to conclude an agreement on a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA) by the end of 2011, during the expected EU-Ukraine summit on 19th December, but there were several issues to resolve:

  • The protection of geographical indications and names of goods (such as champagne, cognac or cahors wine).
  • The liberalisation of transport services, including solving the opposition of Poland and Hungary.
  • Export duties: there is a general agreement on the full liberalisation of trade in agricultural products, with the exception of sunflower seeds, animal skins and ferrous metals.
  • Energy cooperation: the EU and Ukraine have yet to go further in the technical agreement reached on a special early warning and dispute settlement mechanism in this regard.
  • Finding a middle ground on access to the automotive markets.

 

Trade relations between the EU and Ukraine are highly asymmetric, but Ukraine has enjoyed preferential access to the EU markets thanks to the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) granted to the country in 1993. Furthermore, on-going negotiations have been negatively affected by the political controversies that surrounded the trial against the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

 

During the Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw, the Commission asked Ukraine (and Moldova) for more progress in the implementation of visa liberalisation and in fighting organised crime. Ukraine was also told to implement further reforms in document security, asylum, fight against trafficking in human beings and anti-discrimination.

 

The EU-Ukraine summit on 19th December in Kyiv concluded without a clear agreement due to the EU’s strong concern about the treatment of political opponents. This process is still quite open.

 

Moldova: the Commission asked to conclude legislative work in areas such as data protection, the fight against corruption and anti-discrimination. At the beginning of 2011, a DCFTA was expected to be launched with Moldova and Georgia, while Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus were unlikely to reach this stage any time soon.

 

Georgia: the EU Council decided on 12th September to prolong the mandates of the EU monitoring mission by one year (until 14th September 2012). The objective of the mission is to contribute to stability in Georgia and the surrounding region. On 17th November the European Parliament adopted a resolution to start negotiations of a free trade agreement, including recommendations to the EU institutions to recognise Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinnvali/South Osetia as occupied territories, and for the EU to recognise Georgia as a European state. The EU should also intensify its talks with Russia to “ensure that it fulfils unconditionally” the conditions of the August 2008 ceasefire. The Parliament recognised Georgian progress in democratic reform, but authorities still have to enter more extensively in a constructive political dialogue with opposition forces. On 5th December, the Commission announced that negotiations towards a DCFTA would be initiated between the EU and Georgia in early 2012.

 

Armenia: on 20th September the Commission announced the opening of negotiations with Armenia and Azerbaijan on the facilitation of procedures for issuing short-stay visas and on the readmission of irregular migrants. These agreements will be based on reciprocity. On 28th November, the Commission adopted a package (€ 24 million) to support public sector and governance in Armenia. These funds will be available for the broadening of e-governance and to improve the transparency and performance of the public sector. The idea is also to help the country to achieve regulatory convergence with international laws and standards in the field of trade. The EU and Armenia are still negotiating the terms of a future association agreement.

 

Belarus: it was supposed to be invited to the September summit of the Eastern Partnership in Warsaw, despite repressions against the political opposition following post-election protests in December 2010. Finally, the Belarus delegation decided to boycott this meeting (decline of the invitation to the summit) and the reaction of the Polish presidency was to ask for three non-negotiable conditions for Belarus participation in cooperation and European financial aid: the release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners, the introduction of a dialogue between the regime and the opposition, and legislative elections in accordance with international standards. EU foreign ministers decided on 10th October that current sanctions will be prolonged for another year.

 

Kaliningrad: on 1st December, the European Parliament adopted at first reading a proposal for regulation to include Kaliningrad regional and some Polish districts in the zone to be considered part of the EU’s border zone, in order to facilitate border crossing. 


Russian Federation Government Decision of 72h-hour visa-free regime for foreign citizens staying in Russia in order to travel on ferries, authorized for passenger transport, as well as our proposal to introduce a similar regime for the citizens Russian Federation residing in European states.

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