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Eastern Partnership Summit: a step into the EU?
High expectations are part of the deal of the fifth summit of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) approaching. After all, recent developments in the EU give the impression that Georgia might get yet another step closer to entering the union they have strived to be a part of for so long.

On the 24th of November, representatives of the six EaP states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) will meet representatives of the EU member states and institutions to discuss the future of their relations.

Leading up to this meeting, a number of events have triggered high hopes that these relations may in fact become substantially stronger. First, Swedish and Polish foreign ministers congratulated Georgia on great advances in reforms and modernization of the country, calling for a new impulse in the relations within the EaP. A similar conclusion was reached by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security, in a report she recently published on the implementation of reforms in Georgia. “Today’s report demonstrates clear progress in Georgia's reform agenda”, she says, linking such progress to an apparent strengthening of democracy and the rule of law in Georgia.
The European Parliament in Brussels © European Parliament audiovisual

Following this positive assertion, the European Parliament’s committee for foreign affairs (AFET) drew up a resolution that envisages increased cooperation with partner countries of the EaP, which demonstrated especial effort in shaping up to European standards. According to AFET, Georgia demonstrated such great progress with reforms and a strong will to align with EU policies, that cooperation should be strengthened. AFET thus suggested to integrate Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine into the customs, energy and digital union of the EU as well as the Schengen area. It formulated a number of concrete recommendations for the summit, such as the establishment of a trust fund of the three countries and an “Eastern Partnership Plus” model that should further enhance the success already achieved. Because of this, the fifth EaP summit is increasingly seen to be holding the potential of a major break-through in the EaP relations. The resolution was approved by the parliament with 519 votes against 114, and 47 abstentions.

The steps suggested by the resolution are supposed to serve as appreciation and motivation for further efforts at the same time. At the same time, not solely the Eastern partners are called upon to act. The parliament called upon the EU to maintain political pressure on Russia, which is involved in conflicts and provocations in each of the three countries.

Georgia has expressed interest in joining the European Union for quite some time already and oriented its policies strongly to this purpose. Despite the many positive expectations now directed at the fifth EaP summit, more critical voices have also been heard.
The European Parliament in Brussels © European Parliament audiovisual

Georgian political analyst Ana Andguladze of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) in Tbilisi published a paper examining these expectations for the think tank European Policy Centre (EPC). She reminds Georgians to maintain reasonable hopes and choose a pragmatic approach. Current policies and overarching notions of the European Union, she argues, tend to be very inward-oriented, presently occupied with many urging topics of internal importance. On this basis she fears that high expectations of break-through negotiations may be disappointed. She suggests four measures for a more pragmatic and steady approach where it intensifies cooperation in all areas and addresses its own democratic flaws at the very same time:

  1. A new economic area between Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, which was mentioned in the EU's global strategy and should be followed up on. Such an initiative would first require a comprehensive study, considerable efforts and political commitment from both sides. Establishing a high-level dialogue among the DCFTA countries within the EaP could be a first step.
  2. Security and resilience. Stability in the region is directly linked to the protracted conflicts and the EaP region requires a more comprehensive approach from the EU when it comes to strengthening the resilience of these states.
  3. Defeating Russian propaganda. It is important that the EU, alongside the Georgian government, maintains a high level of public support within Georgian society. Russian propaganda and hybrid warfare not only present a threat to Georgia, but to the whole EaP region. While the EU has taken steps to adjust to the Russian threat, such as becoming more proactive in communicating the benefits of the EaP, and more reflective on the possible reaction of Russia to certain policies, more needs to be done.
  4. More creative economic support. As the implementation of the Association Agreement requires substantial efforts and resources, the EU should also consider new ways to increase its support and the flexibility of its financial instruments covering the Eastern neighborhood. For example, offering additional finance to support energy independence or offering gradual access to the Single European Payments Area (SEPA) could further enhance trade and investment.

You can find the full essay "From Riga to Brussels: Georgia's hopes for Eastern Partnership" by Ana Andguladze for the European Policy Centre here (PDF, external link):

From Riga to Brussels: Georgia's hopes for Eastern Partnership

By Ana Andguladze

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