‘No promises’ on EU membership for Eastern states at Riga summit
“We must not create false expectations,” Merkel said
when speaking in front of the Berlin parliament before leaving
for the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga on Thursday.
Bloc members have gathered in Latvia for a two-day summit to discuss EU membership for eastern European states, including Ukraine. The EU leaders are examining potential membership prospects for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, as well as the development of its Eastern Partnership program.
Merkel has set the stage for the summit by saying that the Eastern Partnership is not an “instrument of enlargement politics for the European Union and we must not make promises that we can’t fulfill.”
Moreover, European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker,
said upon his arrival in Riga that the membership issue won’t be
a focus. “They are not ready, we are not ready,” he said
In the latest development, a leaked draft resolution ahead of the summit revealed that the introduction of a visa-free regime with Ukraine will likely be postponed. This is bound to disappoint Kiev, which has been promoting the idea.
The Ukrainian government wanted “concrete assurances” and a roadmap for EU membership, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told the German daily, Die Welt.
But the text of the resolution cited by Radio Free Europe only
vaguely states that the participants “reaffirm the sovereign
right of each partner freely to choose the level of ambition and
the goals to which it aspires in its relations with the European
Union. It is for the EU and its sovereign [partners] to decide on
how they want to proceed in their relations.”
When commenting on Ukraine’s efforts to join the EU, European Council President, Donald Tusk, said: “They have their right to have a dream, but maybe not membership in the predictable future.”
French President Francois Hollande has listed Ukraine’s high
crime rate and migration as reasons for concern. “Europeans
are naturally wary because there were some issues in Ukraine that
we don’t have. Organized crime threatens our security; the same
is true about migration.”
Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko on Wednesday described the world as being fed up with Ukraine. “The world is getting tired of the Ukrainian issue … they’ve started swatting Ukraine away like a pesky fly.”
“It is interesting that in the last couple of weeks we definitely had a softening of the tone from the US towards Russia on this issue,” UK journalist and broadcaster Neil Clark told RT. “The Ukrainian government is rightly worried by this. That is why the rhetoric coming from Kiev has become more bellicose.”
The EU is adopting a “row back” attitude towards Ukraine, Clark added. “Now there is a kind of rollback, an awareness that this has gone as far as it can go, and the more realistic people in Europe quite clearly want an end of these sanctions on Russia because they are hurting the main European economies, such as Germany and France.”
— RT (@RT_com) 21 мая 2015
Another reason for the EU to avoid a closer relationship with
Ukraine is the cost. “There would be the whole expense of
getting Ukraine into NATO and into the EU. Ukraine is a basket
case economy. They have been dependent on Russian good will and
Russian loans – they are heavily indebted to Russia, and paying
back these loans,” Clark said. “They’ve created this
kind of Frankenstein’s monster and they are worried about where
it would lead now.”
In the meantime, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann adopted a stance similar to Merkel’s, urging his EU colleagues not to give their eastern European partners promises “we cannot keep,” TASS reported.
On Thursday, Belarus and Armenia had problems with signing the summit’s final document, Reuters reported. Both states reportedly refused to sign the first draft of the final resolution because it contained a phrase about Russia “illegally annexing” Crimea.
The summit members are to draw up a second draft where the EU
standpoint and the one of their eastern partners will be
presented separately, reports say. By the end of the day Latvian
President Andris Berzins stated that the final text had been
agreed upon. However, it has not yet been presented to the media.
Under their EU Association Agreements, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine must commit to political and social reforms intended to meet the economic and democratic norms of the EU bloc countries. It envisages a gradual deepening of economic and political ties, which includes a free trade zone.
The association agreement, ratified by both Ukraine and the EU in mid-September of 2014, has been at the heart of Ukraine’s year of turmoil. The opposition rallied people to flood Kiev’s Maidan Square soon after President Viktor Yanukovich chose to delay signing the final decision on economic integration with the EU, saying he needed time to weigh possible gains and losses.
— RT (@RT_com) February 5, 2015
Russia, which has a 2,300-kilometer (1,430-mile) scarcely restricted border with Ukraine – the longest land border in Europe – had been demanding to discuss the parameters of the EU trade deal in a trilateral format, fearing an influx of European goods could have negative consequences for the Russian economy. Brussels, however, had been staunchly against any outside party influencing the deal. Ukraine expects to implement the economic part of the association agreement by the end of 2015.
“I think that we need to somehow include Russia’s interests
into the association agreement between Ukraine and the European
Union, this agreement needs to be complemented by cooperation
with Russia,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Garcia-Margallo
said in March after meeting his Russian counterpart, Sergey
Lavrov, in Moscow.
Russia had warned Ukraine that it would lose a preferential trading position in its $2.5 trillion market if it integrated closer with the EU, including the loss of duty-free imports.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he regrets the proposed talks on the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement “have still not started.”