One of the lingering questions left after Ukraine’s failure to sign its long-negotiated integration treaty with the EU at a November summit in Vilnius – setting off months of protests in Kiev – is whether more needs to be offered to former Soviet republics than the current “Eastern Partnership”, which promises “association” but not future membership with the EU.
A Swedish-led effort to restart that conversation will be discussed at Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers, according to a “restricted distribution” document handed out to all 28 capitals ahead of the gathering. According to the “non-paper” – which Brussels Blog has posted here – 12 countries have signed onto the Swedish initiative, most of them former Soviet-bloc EU members, but also the UK and Germany.
Among other things, the paper, titled “20 points on the Eastern Partnership post-Vilnius”, argues quick signatures of treaties with Georgia and Moldova, the only two remaining after Ukraine and Armenia reneged at the last minute.
Potentially most interesting is a suggestion in the paper of a “European package” that would go beyond the current Eastern Partnership deals – which in addition to “association agreements” includes free trade pacts – but still short of full EU membership:
Start exploring some sort of “European package” as a station beyond AA/DCFTA, focusing on mobility, student exchanges, more twinning projects and increased participation in EU community programs and agencies.
Offering former Soviet republics more hope at EU membership as long been a point pushed by the newer member states of eastern and central Europe, but resisted by many of the founding countries, like Italy and France. With UK and German backing, tough, it could gain momentum.