EU leaders tried on Wednesday (December 15th) in Brussels to salvage their partnership with Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus in the face of Moscow’s growing grip on the region. “It is not because another actor advances his pawns that we should give up, pleaded a European diplomatic source before the holding of this sixth summit of the Eastern Partnership, created in 2009. On the contrary, we have to show that the EU continues to get involved, because if we manage to modernize the economic and political structure of these countries, this will also change their relations with Russia. “
The meeting was held in a particularly tense context, as these countries are not only hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, but also shaken by multiple political crises. In Belarus, President Lukashenko is engaged in fierce repression to stay in power; in Ukraine, Russian troops are threatening the borders; in Armenia and Azerbaijan, tensions remain high after the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the deployment of Russian peacekeeping troops; Moldova, meanwhile, has been engaged in a standoff with Moscow over gas, while Georgia has been rocked by protests since the contested parliamentary elections in October 2020.
Faced with these difficulties, the EU denounced the pressure on gas prices, the instrumentalization of exiles by Belarus on the borders with Poland, and adopted sanctions, but “It represents nothing for Vladimir Poutine, who deals only with the Americans for the foundations of security in Europe”, deplores a European minister.
Foster stability and cooperation
However, “The partnership with Europe makes sense more than ever”, we plead at the Elysee Palace, refuting any “European impotence”. In all these crises, “The EU has acted and been effective”, insists the same source. “What is remarkable and very impressive is to see that these countries, precisely, have a demand for Europe. “
The summit aimed to reaffirm and strengthen the commitment between the EU and the five countries present (Belarus boycotted the meeting after the sanctions adopted against it), in order to promote stability and cooperation in the region. A regional economic investment plan endowed with 2.3 billion euros, and able to mobilize up to 17 billion euros of public and private investments, has been programmed to relaunch the partnership. “Its distribution will depend on the reforms requested and the viability of the projects presented”, said a senior European official.
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At Eastern Partnership summit, EU tries to counteract growing Moscow influence