“We want to support our Eastern neighbours proportionally to the efforts and the reforms these countries have already made and will make in their path towards European integration. The EU should also activate warning signals whenever the backsliding of democracy happens”, argue Sandra Kalniete MEP and Radosław Sikorski MEP, following the presentation of the EU Eastern Partnership strategy post 2020.
For Kalniete, EPP Group Vice-Chair for Foreign Affairs, the strategy should accelerate the implementation of the Association and Trade Agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova and, where possible, seek to broaden cooperation with these countries. “We should never forget that Ukrainians have proven that they are ready to pay with their lives for the European future of their country. Ukraine has made substantial efforts to keep up with the pace of the necessary reforms, despite the ongoing war and the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia”, the MEP states.
Sikorski, who initiated the EU Eastern Partnership when he was the Polish Foreign Minister, recalled that back in 2008, when Poland and Sweden proposed this policy, they were inspired by two processes: the Union for the Mediterranean aimed at stabilising the EU’s Southern neighbourhood and the Visegrad Group, meant for preparing its members for potential EU membership. “Since that time, we spent 10 billion euro for the projects, signed trade agreements and introduced visa-free travel with three out of the six countries of the Partnership. 80.000 youngsters benefited from the Erasmus+ programme. However, recent developments within both the EU and its neighbouring countries will allow a strong focus on strengthening democracy”, the MEP argues.
“Therefore, I strongly believe that in the years to come, the EU should continue to insist on a tailor made approach within the Eastern Partnership countries, offering more to those who do more, and less to those who do less in bringing their democracies up to European standards”, Sikorski insists.
Sikorski also proposes concrete examples of incentives the EU could offer to these countries. “The creation of a roaming free zone between the EU and Eastern Partnership countries, support to diversify the economies by increasing loans given to SMEs in local currencies, help with the development of the infrastructure - like the construction or renovation of old roads, bridges, railways or airports - should be among the concrete measures the EU puts on the table”, the MEP further states.
“The EU should also initiate a forum of democratic allies and actors - like the US, Canada, Japan, the IMF and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - to analyse and counteract the negative influence of third powers in the region", he concludes.
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 187 Members from all EU Member States