EU’s Commissioner: There were lots of things missing on the democratic side in Belarus

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, said Belarus couldn’t join the Eastern Partnership without democratic reforms.

The Eastern Partnership is an offer that the European Union gives to the six Eastern countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus (on certain conditions).

In an interview to RFE/RL, Benita Ferrero-Waldner explained the difference between the European Neighbourhood Policy, offered by the European Union in 2003, and the Eastern Partnership that was started last year. According to her, the Eastern Partnership is a sort of upgrade of the EU’s relationship with the post-Soviet countries.

“The Eastern Partnership is an offer that we give to the six Eastern countries. At the moment, Belarus is not yet there because, indeed, there were lots of things missing on the democratic side. But for the other countries, in principle, the offer is there. But only when, really, all the things will have been done that we need to see — like free media access, free assembly. There are many, many things that still are missing. Then we will be ready to go for the next step. The next step would indeed be the possibility for each and every one of these countries to have an Association Agreement with the European Union,” the EU’s commissioner told.

Ms Ferrero-Waldner adds that those who already are members of the World Trade Organization, could have a Free Trade Agreement. She also mentioned possible visa facilitation and memorandum of understanding on energy among the advantages of the programme.

Speaking about financing of the Eastern Partnership, the commissioner noted:

“I have offered — and this is an offer that now the member states will have to accept — from the year 2010 to the year 2013, additionally to what we already have, 350 million euro[s] for all the six countries in order to be able to finance other additional projects.”

Ms Ferrero-Waldner emphasised that the Eastern Partnership projects would be successful not only due to relations between the European Union and the eastern countries, but also due to cooperation between all the post-Soviet countries.