Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
On the 24th of November, the latest Eastern Partnership summit took place in Brussels. It would be difficult to describe a routine diplomatic process taking place within the framework of a not very successful project so that it would be interesting for the reader who is indifferent to the topic of international relations. But, as is often the case, Ukraine helped. The President Petro Poroshenko introduced a carnival element to the doleful meeting.
However, at first it is worth substantiating the thesis about the Eastern Partnership like one would about a not very successful project. I would even call it a complete failure, but not everyone agrees with this. Let’s pay attention to the facts that clearly demonstrate the considerable decrease in the ambitions of the European Union connected to the Eastern Partnership.
Firstly, Yerevan signed an agreement on comprehensive and expanded cooperation between Armenia and the EU. The document was prepared instead of the agreement on association (the signing of which Armenia refused in 2013, at the same Ukraine did). Back then hands [of the US – ed] were unable to grab on to Yerevan. All forces were thrown at Kiev’s Maidan. This gave Armenia time, and tied down the EU and US’ resources in Ukraine for a long time. As a result, when in June-September, 2015, they [US and EU – ed] tried to shake-up the “Armenian Maidan”, the venture failed because the pro-West mutineers weren’t supported by the people, who didn’t want to repeat the tragic way of Ukraine.
Two years passed, and Armenia signs the agreement, a principle part of which the European Union denied in 2013. Namely: the membership of Armenia in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) doesn’t prevent a partnership with the EU any more. Here it will be appropriate to remember how in 2013 the European Union ran around like a madman, proving that the theoretical accession of Ukraine to the Customs Union (which the EEU grew from) can’t be combined with the agreement on association in any way.
It appears that if the desire is very strong, then it is possible. Moreover, Brussels agreed to scrub from the agreement with Armenia the economic demands that led to the destruction of the Ukrainian economy. In 2013-2014 the European Union didn’t doubt in their ability to “digest” the 45-million (at that time) Ukraine and to enter into a political and economic confrontation with Russia. Four years passed, and the EU is obliged to make basic concessions to 3-million Armenia. Here is how, under the pressure of circumstances, the concept changed.
Secondly, the European Union, which for 23 years called Lukashenko “the last dictator in Europe” and imposed personal sanctions against the Belarusian President, members of his team, and the republic in general, suddenly imbued Lukashenko with unprecedented sympathy. To say that Lukashenko was invited to the summit of the Eastern Partnership like a groom to a wedding is to say nothing at all. But he didn’t go. And he didn’t even send the Prime Minister. Belarus was represented in Brussels by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei, which is an unprecedented humiliation for the EU. Brussels got used to the leaders of post-Soviet limitrophes being ready for anything just for the right to stay nearby or to take pictures of themselves. Lukashenko was persistently invited, nothing was demanded in return, but he didn’t come. He found for himself a more important affair.
And now about contrasts and the Ukrainian carnival. Actually, I already spoke a bit about the first part of the contrasts. How will Kiev now explain why there was a need to stage an armed coup, to destroy the country, to kill tens of thousands of people if Armenia concluded with the EU exactly the same agreement on better-for-itself terms. And after all, Yanukovych proposed to do exactly what Armenia successfully did — to take a break and to conduct negotiations with the EU over changing the text of the agreement and over compensation to Ukraine for losses in cases where the assumed liabilities cause serious damage to the economy.
Moreover, the position of Kiev at the end of 2013 was much better than the position of Yerevan. Yanukovych reached an agreement with Putin about a $15 billion loan, and managed to receive $3 billion from them. Besides this, Russia undertook the obligation to invest another $15 billion in the joint industrial and infrastructure projects localised at Ukrainian enterprises and territories. Armenia couldn’t even dream of such a financial and economic pillow.
How do Kiev politicians look now (who gave everything to the EU, and didn’t receive anything in return), against the background of Armenian politicians?
But they look even worse in front of Lukashenko, who was invited, but dismissed it. The Ukrainian President Poroshenko, on the contrary, until the last moment threatened to not go to Brussels if the provision on euro-prospect for Ukraine wasn’t introduced in the final declaration of the summit. Of course, the Europeans didn’t begin to change anything in the coordinated document, but Poroshenko arrived in Brussels indifferently.
The “achievements” of the Ukrainian leader didn’t end on this. On the eve of the summit the Head of the EU Delegation in Ukraine Hugh Mingarelli stated that in a few days the country will lose the opportunity to receive €600 million of EU help because it hasn’t satisfied the conditions. A couple of days passed and Poroshenko, without denying that this money was already lost by Kiev because of its own sluggishness, informed his fellow citizens that he reached an agreement with the EU on three new tranches for 2018-2019. According to him, the EU will sound this information in the same way and will name the sum. Ukrainian journalists quickly estimated: if these three tranches appear to be 600 million each, then in two years it will be nearly €2 billion.
The European Union indeed made a statement without delay. Instead of sounding the sum of “gifts” for Kiev, it declared that any help will be provided only after Brussels ensures that the demanded reforms have already been carried out, and that the obligations assumed by Kiev are fulfilled. In the present realities, this means never.
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