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Thursday, 10 March 2011 17:16

Sluggish Partnership

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On February 10th the European Parliament decided to organise the first session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly for March. Finally, after almost two years after the Eastern Partnership inauguration in Prague, the idea of a joint meeting of 120 deputies, half of whom come from the EP and from the six countries participating in the project may become a reality. The aim of the Euronest is to create a multilateral framework for dialogue that should bring the Eastern Partnership member states closer and try to "tear down" the growing Schengen Wall between them and the EU.

Nevertheless, the fact that it took two years to call the first session of the Euronest is more a sign of the EU's awkwardness in the East than a symbol of some spectacular breakthrough. Of course, it is to the EU's credit but it also still looks like the EU has problems carrying out some of the more ambitious external projects of a supranational community.

They may talk about the EU's chances of becoming an international superpower. But does it really have any such chances? Isn't the "Copenhagen syndrome", when during the climate conference the most important decisions were made without asking the EU representatives for input, in fact a complication after that "European dream"? I suppose that while the EU considers its role in the 21st century, the rest of the world has already entered this century's second decade. In the two forefront areas: climate change and the further expansion (or at least promotion) of democracy and human rights in its Eastern neighbourhood, the EU is suffering from a chronic inability to pursue its own interests effectively. But why?

From my Eastern perspective (and perhaps not only) it's mainly a case of the complicated (if not unfunctional) EU external service institutional frame, frequently lacking in European solidarity. It's also, let's say, related to some "psychological issues". To put it simply: for the Lukashenko–type post-soviet elites in power in some Easter European countries, the famous European soft power is just a sign of weakness. Conversely, for the younger, broadly pro-European generation the so-called "critical engagement" is felt to be more about criticism than engagement or understanding.

The shape of the planned Euronest session is probably one of the most visible examples of that "misunderstanding". This time it only applies to Belarus, but it might be taken as a model for consecutive EU-East incomprehensions. In the Belarusian case, as a result of Lukashenko's brutal post-election campaign, neither the regime's politicians, nor the representatives of democratic opposition and the civil society will be invited to the Euronest session. This is how the EU is "engaging critically" and while demonstrating "soft power" towards Lukashenko (he will not feel too offended at the lack of invitation to the Euronest session) they actually hurt Belarusian activists who will not have a chance to participate in the meeting.

Pro-European residents of Eastern Partnership countries generally share the opinion that integration with or at least rapprochement to the EU is the only way to achieve a modern, functional state and a real democracy. Unfortunately, they also have a common impression of fatigue and continuous excuses made by the EU.

Eastern Partnership is a great initiative and hopefully the overdue inaugural Euronest session and the Warsaw summit afterwards will make a good impact on the Eastern dimension of EU Neighbourhood policy. But still the tediousness which has prevailed until now should not only raise raise questions about the EU's ability to become a superpower, but more importantly its ability to act authoritatively in its closest surroundings and pursue its key interests and values.

Last modified on Friday, 11 March 2011 09:18
Ziemowit Jóźwik

Ziemowit Jóźwik is 23. Coming from Bieliny, a small village in the Holy Cross Mountains (Poland), he is now based in the more well known city of Krakow. Having written for Europe & Me since Issue 5 he will now take on the challenge of expanding our knowledge of the eastern borders of the European landscape. His blog will explore how European issues are understood 'under Eastern eyes.'

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