“Associated Trio” of Eastern Partnership. IPN debate

In the meeting of the foreign affairs ministers of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia held in Kiev a month ago, there was signed a document titled “Memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the European integration”. This can be considered of great importance because it points to new prominent accents in the behavior and ambitions of these three countries, related to the European integration. At the same time, in the Republic of Moldova, both the stage of preparing this document and the post-launch stage were shrouded in unjustified silence that is typical rather of ordinary events. The key elements of this memorandum, its novelty compared with the previous periods and the atmosphere of “quietness, “modesty” and “lack of real or calculated interests” were clarified by experts invited to IPN’s public debate Associated Trio” of Eastern Partnership: necessity, obstacles and challenges for Moldova”.

Dionis Cenușa, a political scientist, researcher at the Institute of Political Science at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, said the Eastern Partnership is an important aspect of the European neighborhood policy. It is a dimension that localizes the EU’s attention on Eastern Europe, namely on six countries from the Eastern neighborhood of the EU: Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and, respectively, in the case of South Caucasus, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The initiative was launched in 2009. “Besides the multilateral aspects that this initiative tends to implement, there are also aspects related to the relations of the EU with officials from the six countries and also with the participation of other players, such as civil society, local authorizes, the business community and other non-state players. Besides the multilateral relations that imply the six countries, there are also the bilateral relations that in the case of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are multilateral and developed based on the Association Agreements that are the most ambitious agreements signed by the EU with third countries,” stated Dionis Cenușa.

According to him, there was the necessity of implementing the “associated trio”. The idea has been discussed for a long period of time as there are differences existing between the EaP countries. “Only Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova implement the political Association Agreement that envisions also the liberalization of trade with the EU. Consequently, an apogee of the discussions held primarily behind the scenes, as to the necessity of doing more to reach that part of the Eastern Partnership where there is maximum interest in extending the European integration, was reached.

Victor Chirilă, executive director of the Foreign Policy Association, said the Memorandum is a very important document, but its launch wasn’t sufficiently prepared inside Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia and also inside the EU. “Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova want the Eastern Partnership, especially the political, economic integration process, to be relaunched so that it ultimately leads to their entry into the EU. The Association Agreements that these countries undertook to implement are not a final goal for them. This is the message addressed to the EU member states. The other EaP countries, such as Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Belarus, have other preoccupations than the European integration,” stated Victor Chirilă.

According to him, the disseminated message is an external consumption message addressed to the EU member state, but a suitable moment wasn’t chosen for this message. It should have been accompanied by solid arguments that would have enabled the Europeans to advance this idea. Regrettably, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, in terms of reforms, cannot provide the EU with the necessary arguments for promoting the idea at the current stage. The success of this statement of intent depends on what will happen in the near future in the three states. In Moldova, there are particular hopes now, but these are only hopes. The denouement after July 11 is expected”,” said Victor Chirilă, noting that a much more ambitious relationship that would reflect the instruments of dialogue with the EU and not only is wanted. The trilateral dialog is also present within GUAM of which the three countries form part. “To my mind, the Memorandum represents the death certificate of GUAM” in the previous form and its rebirth by this Memorandum”.

Ion Tăbârță, political analyst, expert in international relations, said the Memorandum is rather a statement of intent. A particular context or political view is needed inside these countries. Given the geopolitical aspect of the statement, iota is evident the Russian Federation leads a very aggressive struggle in the post-Soviet states and these three countries that were considered the most European ones, now face Russia’s tendency to restore geopolitics. “In all the three countries, besides the domestic political situation, difficulties are witnessed in implementing the Association Agreement and this is due to both objective and subjective reasons. That’s why the statement of the three states comes with a geopolitical message in an attempt to together cope with those threats coming from the Russian Federation and to further disseminate the message that they want to  continue on the path of European integration and their European agenda didn’t disappear,” stated Ion Tăbârță.

He noted that this is seen from the first points of the document, which speak about the European desideratum, the sovereign right. “The states say that they decide their path, not foreign countries. They also speak about the importance of the European course, instruments and mechanisms. We cannot yet say that these states have a consolidated mechanism. This can exist in the future, if the three states have ambitious, pro-European, reformist Governments able to implement the commitments undertaken by the Associations Agreements. It will be very hard to reach that moment. There is now a limit in all the three states, less in Georgia, where the implementation of the Association Agreement was stopped, primarily in the justice sector reform and the fight against corruption,” noted Ion Tăbârță.

The public debate “Associated Trio” of Eastern Partnership: necessity, obstacles and challenges for Moldova” is the 188th installment of the project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is implemented by IPN with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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