Eastern partnership for Belarus but not for dictatorship

A proposal of the European Commission on participation in the Eastern Partnership initiative is available for Belarus, but a country must meet European standards to become its member. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, said in Brussels on December 3.

As Ms Ferrero-Waldner said, on December 2, ambassadors of six countries, including Belarus, met with representatives of the European Commission in Brussels. According to her, the Belarusian authorities understand how much they should do to become a full member of the Neighbourhood Policy and of the new project in its frames – the Eastern Partnership.

The European Commission proposed the Eastern Partnership program to six former Soviet states – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. In particular, they are offered association agreement and creation of a new economic zone that must become a base for development of the common inner market. The mentioned states should agree with all EU legal acts and admit all verdicts of the European Court.

The Eastern Partnership initiative is aimed at significant expansion of a package of possible offers to the six former Soviet countries. Visa-free travel and free trade network are also among the goals of the initiative.

The Eastern Partnership initiative is expected to be approved at the summit of the EU heads of state on December 11. It is planned to hold an Eastern Partnership Summit to launch the project in June 2009. Follow-up meetings of EU and Eastern Partnership officials are to take place.

The current formula of the Eastern Partnership is “27 + 5(6)”. Full participation of Belarus is open to question. A decision on Belarus will be taken in spring and will depend on democratic progress in the country.