Azerbaijani Politics 15 may — 12:52

Many open questions remain between Baku and EU (Brussels results)

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BY ZAUR RASULZADEH

In Brussels, they summed up the ten years of the Eastern Partnership, an initiative designed to bring six post-Soviet countries closer to the European Union. And not everything went the way apparently envisaged by the EU officials. The heads of the foreign ministries of the European Union and the Eastern Partnership countries lowered the status of the jubilee declaration on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the partnership, as the delegation of Azerbaijan expressed dissatisfaction with the text of the document, which did not contain a paragraph on the country's territorial integrity.

At the first plenary meeting 'Achievements and challenges on the way to achieving concrete results for citizens,' Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov stated that the draft declaration was not sufficient for Azerbaijan. As a result, the document was signed by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, who was presiding, and not, as planned, by all participants of the ministerial meeting.

The EU still cautiously avoids the issue of prospects for the Eastern Partnership countries. Apparently, so they would not have excessive expectations. However, the text of the declaration does not even mention the 'European aspirations' of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. And this is despite the fact that such wording is present in the association agreements of these countries with the EU.

As European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn noted at the event, the EU does not consider declarations to be such important documents. In his opinion, the EaP countries should remember the concrete achievements of the partnership, and not about what will happen in the future. At the same time, Hahn pointed out that the unused potential of association agreements exceeds 75 per cent and advised Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova 'to focus on this (potential - Ed), and not to ask again for something more.'

In spite of everything, politicians and political scientists of some EaP member countries believe that the implementation of the program is quite effective and suits everyone. So, commenting for Azeri Daily on the Brussels jubilee meeting, the executive director of the Moldovan Independent Press Association, Petru Macovei said that the Eastern Partnership, as a tool for EU support of its eastern neighbours, fully justifies itself and those countries that wanted to use this tool continue to use it this day too.

However, the future of the program Macovei still sees in its reform.

Petru Macovei

We need a differentiated approach to our six countries,' he is convinced. 'The EU should act according to the principle 'the better the results of cooperation, the greater the support from the EU,' including financial support.'

'The EU, of course, must take into account our European aspirations, as well as the interests of other participants in the program. The fact that Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova expressed their dissatisfaction with the final resolution of the EaP testifies that the EU must take into account the expectations of all countries included in this program,' he said.

Jerzy Konechowski, a Polish political analyst from the University of Katowice, does not doubt the effectiveness of the Eastern Partnership mechanism.

'These agreements protect the geographical indication of the EaP countries with Europe. Growth of tourism and exchange opportunities, especially for young people (for example, the Erasmus+ program, the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum), are other benefits of the EaP and close relations with our eastern neighbours. The European Union also supports independent media in EaP countries, since the availability of objective and free media is crucial for democracy. This, in turn, contributes to stability in countries neighbouring the EU. The Eastern Partnership is a joint initiative of the European Union and six partner countries. It was not imposed on them, the states themselves choose how closely they cooperate with the EU. The EU does not impose on partners either a reform program or a value system. On the contrary, the partner countries themselves decide that they want to bring their level to EU standards. In addition, EU exports to six partner countries almost doubled, an increase from 16.3 billion euros in 2004 to 50 billion euros in 2018. So I think the EAP has good prospects,' said the Polish political analyst.

Political scientist Andrey Yakubin

However, Ukrainian political analyst Alexey Yakubin speaks of the EaP achievements in quite a critical way. He believes that the EU is not ready to provide comprehensive plus categories to Ukraine and other countries.

'First, the Europeans ignored the issue of the Eastern Partnership countries joining the EU. This is not mentioned in the text of the resolution following the summit, or even in oral statements. Moreover, on the eve of the summit, Angela Merkel said that the Eastern Partnership is not aimed at expanding the EU and should not give false hope to the members of the partnership. Therefore, the EU cannot yet create such a mechanism, where they eat one's cake and have it. And while the EU does not give guarantees to the EaP countries of a European perspective, none of the initiatives will give the desired effect,' he noted.

Not everything satisfies Azerbaijan too. By encouraging Armenia, the European Union thus provokes another occupation of foreign territories. How so, that in assessing similar territorial conflicts, aggression of one state against another state is strongly condemned, and when it comes to the Karabakh issue, occupation is financially encouraged? Double standards are back in action.

There are many questions regarding the draft agreement between Baku and Brussels. The Eastern Partnership, in the framework of which, in essence, a new modernised partnership between Azerbaijan and the EU will be built, only multiplies them. In any case, it is not worth expecting that after the signing of this agreement, the European Union will change its position on Karabakh.

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