Will the European Union Forgo the Eastern Partnership?

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Sergiu CEBAN The EU's integration interest towards less promising members such as Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, within the framework of the Eastern Partnership has noticeably weakened against the backdrop of internal problems. This forces the three post-Soviet states elites making active attempts to breathe new life into the project. The leader of the Socialists, Igor Dodon became one of last night’s newsmakers, who spoke out against supporting the government of Natalia Gavrilitsa in a rather categorical manner. Thus, as earlier noted, at least as part of the first attempt, the socialists do not intend, most likely, providing political support to the Cabinet of Maia Sandu’s Ministers, which does not seem to show any interest in pre-election cooperation with the PSRM. If the situation nevertheless follows the path of prolonging the political crisis and towards early parliamentary elections, then the only more or less functional instrument in the Moldovan authorities’ hands will remain international interaction. The current president is trying to use it with maximum effect, so this week went on a visit to Paris, the next European capital. It is worth noting that this Maia Sandu’s abroad trip coincided with sending a joint letter from the heads of the foreign ministries of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to the head of the EU diplomatic department Josep Borrell, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhei, as well as all foreign ministers of the member states ... In their address, Kiev, Chisinau and Tbilisi announced a common strategic vision for the further development of the Eastern Partnership, as well as a desire for deeper integration with European structures within the framework of this project. “Opening new cooperation horizons for partner states that are most of all interested and committed to the European development vector will contribute to their closer political, economic and sectoral rapprochement with the EU. The Eastern Partnership adapting to the new realities and needs of its member states is necessary to strengthen the transformational potential of this initiative and stability in the region, ” the letter says. According to some reports, Portugal, presiding over the European Union, is considering the possibility of holding the next Eastern Partnership summit in the very near future. Therefore, the three post-Soviet states, most active and committed to this idea began apparently, preparations for the event, expecting a change in the position, impulses and Brussels approaches towards Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. The goal is to bring the partnership out of a protracted crisis and make it more meaningful and promising. The reasons for three countries political elites’ alarm are not unfounded. The serious crisis that has covered the European Union, including Brexit and the pandemic, has seriously hit the European unity and solidarity. As a result, there is an ever-stronger understanding in the EU country that the notorious European integration will continue significantly slowing down. So, against this background, the Eastern Partnership may at least be temporarily written off "as scrap", since attracting new, far from promising candidates is unlikely to meet the eurozone’s strategic goals for the next decade. The stress test that the European Union underwent during 2020 clearly demonstrated that member states primarily activate "individual state instincts", and the Brussels structures are hardly able to effectively solve the pandemic level problems using collective methods. Only thanks to several key capitals’ efforts, primarily Berlin and Paris, it was possible stabilizing the overall situation and develop a specific model for combating the epidemic to prevent the all-Union crisis spread. Against this background, discussions on common space further development are being double re-actualized in Brussels. Among the most resonant ideas, the most controversial one is the concept of reaching a new level of political integration and EU transformation into a (con) federal project when sovereignty of its participants truncation. This approach causes serious phobias, especially among Eastern European members of the union, that have repeatedly lost their international legal personality and sovereignty over the period of their history. Meanwhile, despite the array of conceptual problems that force the European Union to more often focus on internal problems, its governing structures, one way or another, try to show foreign policy initiatives and build their international interaction from the position of rational and pragmatic interests. An example of this is the agreement between Brussels and Beijing on the main comprehensive agreement points on cooperation in the field of investment, as well as the intention to continue implementing energy projects. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are in no way worried about their already conditional sovereignty, so politicians of the three countries are, apparently, ready to continue sacrificing the rights of their states for the sake of closer rapprochement with the European Community. It is possible that the three capitals are counting on playing on internal contradictions between individual intra-European alliances in order to convince Brussels make the future of the Eastern Partnership project more meaningful and functional, including as one of the instruments of confrontation between the collective West and Russia. According to experts, an analysis of the emerging political situation on the European continent suggests that the European Union has to reconsider a lot both within itself and in relation to its foreign policy, including such project initiatives as the Eastern Partnership. The imminent "revision" causes post-Soviet elites’ wish to give the partnership a new sound; it anyway remains to find out in the near future how much this meets Brussels’ interests.