The European Parliament on November 15 endorsed a recommendation that the European Commission deepen the Eastern Partnership with the three members that have demonstrated the most commitment toward achieving progress — Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The resolution was adopted by a substantial majority of 519 votes to 114, with 47 abstentions, a parliament statement said.
According to the assembly, MEPs “want to reward reforms made by Eastern partners”, and one of the recommendations was for a trust fund for the three frontrunners in the region.
They also proposed an “EaP+” model for countries that have made substantial progress on EU-related reforms which could allow them to join the customs union, energy union, digital union or even the Schengen area.
“Accession to the customs union, energy union, digital union, the Schengen area and the gradual abolition of roaming charges provide a wide range of ways in which this Eastern Partnership can and should be developed further,” commented the parliament’s co-rapporteur Knut Fleckenstein. “The prerequisite for this is the implementation of reforms we agreed upon. The summit must not only talk about what has been achieved, but what needs to be done and where to do homework.”
Meanwhile, co-rapporteur Laima Andrikienė stressed that measures extended to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine “would “not [be] dedicated to oligarchs, but to ordinary people in fields such as energy savings, jobs, public service or reconstruction.”
The proposals are due to be discussed at the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on November 24.
In a remark particularly relevant for Moldova, the European Parliament welcomed the Commission’s proposals to provide the partners with macro-financial assistance (MFA) while insisting on strict and effective conditionality attached to the proposals, notably in terms of upholding the rule of law (including an independent judiciary and multi-party parliamentary system), ensuring good governance (including combating corruption effectively), and defending human rights and the freedom of the media. Moldova is expecting a €100mn MFA package from EU, which is critical for the financing of its budget.
Moldova’s deputy speaker Iurie Leanca, who attended the parliament meeting, expressed hopes that the recommendations would gain concrete support at the upcoming summit.
“It becomes once again obvious that Moldova’s development is linked to the West and that striving [to meet the targets set with the European Union] provides Moldova with better prospects for coming closer and joining the European Union,” Leanca said.
The European Parliament also recommended that the EC support the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership as a means of increasing multilateral confidence-building, notably in conflict-affected areas, and creating opportunities for regional cooperation, including through transnational civil society platforms, cooperation between local and regional authorities, and cross-border projects such as people-to-people programmes involving intercultural dialogue and the younger generation as factors for change.
The recommendation also stressed the need for “maintaining collective pressure on Russia to resolve the conflicts in Eastern Ukraine, the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Transnistria".
“Importantly, the European Parliament's report contains clear messages on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Eastern Partnership member states, including Georgia, the occupation of Georgia's two regions, and Russia's failure to fulfil its international obligations. The report also calls for enhancing the EU's role in peaceful resolution of conflicts,” commented Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili in a statement later on November 15.
Aside from the three countries singled out in the recommendation, Eastern Partnership countries also include Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.