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LOOKING AHEAD
28.05.2009

May 24, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)

Grigory Tinsky

MIND THE DOORS CLOSING!

Eastern Partnership: integration on paper instead of a real rapprochement

Part 1: http://www.rpmonitor.ru/ru/detail_m.php?ID=14093

DEMAGOGY TO THE POINT OF NONSENSE

Now, let's try to analyze the second part of the Eastern Partnership program, focused on international cooperation. The essential content is even poorer here than in the first part. The tasks of multilateral partnership are formulated as follows:

"Promotion of multilateral partnership between Eastern partners themselves, serving to consolidation of regional connections; creation of a multilateral format enabling to raise not only issues related to the Black Sea and Baltic regions but also issues of land borders, and initiatives related to cooperation of Eastern partners in the framework of European Neighborhood Policy; expansion of the offer for Belarus that is not yet involved in any of the European initiatives".

Frankly speaking, I re-read this text in both languages but failed to grasp anything at least distantly reminding a reasonable program of action. The document is painfully familiar to a resolution of a CPSU Congress: demagogy to the point of nonsense.

The next chapter encompasses the spheres of cooperation. Those are five: 1) polity and security (involving: democracy, common values, law-governed state, foreign policy and security cooperation, civil service, municipal administration); b) borders (migration, a more flexible visa regime, trans-border infrastructure); economy and finance (implementation of economic reforms, economic integration of partners, abolition of trade barriers with the EU, development of transport and communication networks, energy, and tourism); environment (prevention of climate changes, development of environmental technologies and relevant education); society (trans-border cooperation; development of cooperation between NGOs; education programs; joint scientific research).

And that is all. The mountain has brought forth a mouse. Asia Times' columnist Spengler once wrote that the major mistake of Russians is their failure to admit that Americans are really so stupid as they look like. It seems that this remark can be addressed not only to Americans.

The above exercise in futility is seemingly not worth further discussion. However, the inauguration of the program was followed with the second round of the European debate on diversification of energy deliveries. This "informal" event involved also three states of Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan), as well as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Egypt, with US, Russia and Ukraine as observers. The objective was to impart a political impetus to the Southern Corridor program, in which the Nabucco pipeline, connecting Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan with Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, was supposed to serve as a "flagship project".

The organizers obviously hoped that in the framework of these talks, the invited gas exporting nations would acknowledge of their membership in the "corridor" and declare the amounts of gas they are ready to deliver to Europe in its framework. However, the declaration was signed by Egypt, Turkey, and Azerbaijan, but not by the Central Asia states. This means failure of the event, as the energy resources of the mentioned three nations are insufficient for filling the pipeline.

It is noteworthy that most of the European leaders neglected the Eastern Partnership summit. Polish mass media, annoyed with this fact, sarcastically suggest that all the European leaders would gladly arrive in Prague if the subject of the event was salvation of seals and whales but not Ukrainians and Georgians.

Gazeta Wyborcza correctly interpreted the absence of the leaders of France, Italy, Great Britain and Spain at the summit as a clear signal to the "Eastern partners" that further expansion of the EU is not any longer expected (expect probable integration of Croatia and Iceland). The paper characterized the Eastern partnership program as a "quasi Europe", reminding that the long-term goals of the program do not consider visa abolition.

 

AN ODD DIALOGUE WITH EASTERN PARTNERS

What do Eastern Partners themselves think about the project? Naturally, Georgia and Ukraine overestimate its significance, interpreting the program as a "step towards Europe". Armenian, Azeri, and Moldovan representatives were more reserved in interpretations, while the President of Belarus, as usual, displayed an original approach. "That is what we expected", he said.

Mr. Lukashenko (described in Polish press as a "dictator") added that his country sells over a half of its goods to the European Union, and therefore, it would be expedient to lift customs duties and tariffs and establish a free trade zone. He forgot to add that even in case the EU agreed to suspend the mentioned barriers, Belarus could not respond with similar measures, being a member of the CIS Customs Agreement. As the other half of Belarusian goods is delivered to Russia, and a large share of Belarusian exports to Europe includes Russian gas, the choice between the mentioned free zone and the CIS Customs Agreement is very problematic.

At the same time, Mr. Lukashenko expressed his attitude to the political aspects of partnership: "Why do we speak of democracy and human rights when we address oil and gas issues? Does the United States purchase oil and gas only from democratic nations? The time of the Belarusian oppositionist bawlers is gone, and Europe has understood that".

We may wonder whether the leader of Belarus had not read the documents of the European Partnership, or he is just mocking the EU counterpart. In any case, the political farce of EU-Belarusian partnership deal will be continued, and we'll have a possibility to amuse ourselves at this sight.

 

IT'S ESSENTIAL TO LEARN TO TAKE THE LEAD

In fact, the original ideological premise of the Eastern Partnership program was derived from the so-called Polish Orientalism that views nations, located to the east from the Bug River, as inferior to the Polish nation. The "Orientalist" approach denies these nations the right of being regarded as a part of the European civilization, treating them instead as enemies of the West. This homemade "Orientalism" has shaped the type of a Pole who confronts "Asiatic barbarians", associating Europe with culture, and Russia with savage brutality that has to be deterred.

This view makes an exception for Ukraine, which is viewed by an "Orientalist" Pole as an annexed colony. Though historically only a part of Western Ukraine was a part of Poland, this attitude encompasses the whole country. At present, the Polish interest to Ukraine is stimulated by the guidelines of the "greatest American Pole" Zbigniew Brzezinski, who wrote in his "Great Chessboard" that an independent democratic Poland cannot survive without an independent and democratic Ukraine.

The Eastern Partnership program is unlikely to be successful. Moreover, it can indirectly increase Russia's influence on the post-Soviet territory. This may happen, however, only in case the attempt of the European Union to impose "soft power" on Russia's traditional sphere of influence eventually inspires the self-proclaimed advocates of a strong state for the job they had to occupy themselves with after 1991: namely, political, economic, and cultural integration of ex-Soviet republics, in the form of an upgraded CIS or in a different shape. It is high time to take the lead.


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