Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What future for EU enlargements?

The EU Commission proposed on Wednesday an Eastern Partnership with six former soviet countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus. The initiative as such would be launch in the first half of 2009, during the EU Czech presidency. The Partnership is likely to intensify the dialogue between EU and those countries on targeted domains, as social and economic development and better governance.
Each of these countries are facing serious system problems: Armenia and Azerbaijan are facing a long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh; Georgia is having extremely tense relations with Russia - culminating this August with an armed conflict with the trouble situation from Ossetia; Ukraine is facing a permanent political instability; Moldova is catched between a dangerous delay of solving the Transdniestr issue and a deep economic and political crisis, with a communist regime at Chisinau; Belarus is a non-democratic under the rule of Lukashenko. Even, at least in the case of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, a strong wish to became EU full members was expressed, it is doubtful these countries will be able to solve in a near future the huge system problems they are facing.
The EU Neighbourhood Policy is another useful tool, in EU's opinion, in order to establish a certain permanent, institutional relations with countries of interest for the European Union, but it cannot be considered a clear guarantee of the membership for the countries included - quite diverse, from Israel, North African countries or former Soviet countries. Ukraine already expressed its reluctance against being included in the ENP, as a way to keep Kiev indefinitely on the waiting line.
For the moment, EU is trying to find ways for speeding the reforms in Western Balkans and Turkey, countries included in the institutional mechanism for the accession. But, even in this case, a final date is not set as long as each of these countries are facing serious delays in meeting the EU accession criteria. In fact, the EU is working on many files in the same time in a very changing environment - the global crisis, the security threats, the energy issue, the enlargement, the relations with its neighbours, the Irish "no" vote for the Lisbon Treaty, the delay in the unification process in Cyprus - theoretically interconnected, but very difficult, by now, to be put in a coherent narrative.

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