Yesterday, we liveblogged the European Commission’s “Debate on the Future of Europe” event in Warsaw, Poland. It was a townhall-style debate with EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Vice-President Viviane Reding. They answered questions from a Polish audience on the economic crisis and, more generally, the future of Europe. We’ll put the video of the event online soon, but in the meantime you can read our liveblog of the event.

Polish MEP Róża Thun was also at the event, and she had a few words to say about Europe’s eastern neighbours:

Sometimes it is said [the Polish] are ambassadors of the countries east of the border who want to acceed to the European Union. We will be a better ambassador if we are an important country in the EU, cooperating constructively. If we stay out of the European mainstream then it will not be of any help to our neighbours. [However], it is not only a question of membership… Ukraine should continue to be in our orbit of interest, but it is not ‘To be or not to be’ in the EU. It would be entirely false if we positioned things like this.

But if EU membership is a distant prospect for countries like Ukraine, how can we keep them “in our orbit of interest”? Another of our commenters, Nikolai, argued that Ukraine needs to see “definite steps” or it may start to look eastwards:

The key to the Eastern Partnership is Ukraine… Should [definite steps towards closer EU-Ukraine relations] fail to materialize… the EU will lose its geopolitical battle due to its sensibilities over the Ukrainian opposition being subjected to judicial opaqueness and eventual incarceration.

We took Nikolai’s comment to Lithuanian MEP Justas Vincas Paleckis, part of the  Social Democrats and a member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. Is Nikolai right to call Ukraine the “key” to the Eastern Partnership?

We also had a comment from Victor, suggesting there should be a phased or “staged” membership option available for countries like Ukraine, granting some of the benefits of membership without giving them full access to the club:

Change is possible, but only if the European Union recognises the special needs of countries like Ukraine, Belarus and the Caucasus and builds a system of perhaps staged membership that encourages and enables countries like ours to understand and embrace the fundamentals of European values and European standards as a prerequisite for full membership.

How would Paleckis respond?

The European Union is currently negotiating wide-ranging “Association Agreements” with Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova, which could potentially be steps towards the sort of “staged membership” that Victor would like to see.

Just before the event in Warsaw yesterday, President Barroso spoke with Polish TV and expressed his hopes that the Association Agreement with Ukraine could be signed by the time of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November. Similarly, Georgia also wants their Association Agreement to be concluded in time for Vilnius, and Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement, has suggested that the upcoming summit will be a “game changer”.

The Commission wants to use the prospect of greater trade ties with the EU to encourage the Eastern Partnership countries to make progress in terms of democracy and human rights. To get an idea of the progress made so far, we’ve put together an infographic, setting out some of the facts and figures around Europe’s Eastern Partnership.


IMAGE CREDITS: Creative Commons by-sa 2.0 / Christine Westerback

41 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think? Should the EU sign wide-reaching "Association Agreements" with Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova? Or have these countries still got further to go in terms of democratic reforms? How can the EU keep its eastern neighbours within its 'orbit of interest'? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we'll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

  1. avatar
    George Chalkias

    EU need to accept now as members all West Balkans-Turkey-Georgia-Moldova-Ukraine, and need to start negotiations with Armenia-Azerbaijan and others. Also EU need immediately federalization.

  2. avatar
    Goran Burazer

    yes, but further expansion is reality in 10-20 years timeframe for Balkans and more than 20 years for East European countries.

  3. avatar
    Danijel Knezevic

    It will be a long time before EU takes in anybody more, it’s just in no financial shape to take more members, especially underdeveloped poor countries.

  4. avatar
    Surkhan Latifov

    There are different specific problems of these countries. Wehen signed an agreement that must be taken into account.

  5. avatar
    Elkhan Jafarov

    I don’t think that EU should seriously consider any new member in current economical situation. I my opinion now EU must try to eliminate internal economical and regulation problems of existing EU members, unify or at least synchronize internal rules. Regarding East Partnership I don’t think that any of pretending to membership country will able to respond to all EU standards in 10 years. At the same time, EU must continue to work with these countries in order to assist in acceleration of integration policies.
    I wish to see EU as a strong union, but now it looks more as a bubble.
    Elkhan (Azerbaijan)

  6. avatar
    Andrea Tuswald

    some of you may havent yet realised that the EUs motivation for this is all but niceness. if we want those countries to make progress, then they should keep as distant from EU as they can.

  7. avatar
    Matt Dovey

    whats does the rest of the eu get if these countries join the eu

  8. avatar
    Spyros Tsakos

    When it is time yes but not now. There is a need to overcome our current problems so as EU to be ready to face this new challenge.

  9. avatar
    Mr.Srdjan Vasiljevic

    All the countries that you mentioned are economically underdeveloped and it is known that the EU does not want to support poor countries, which is a natural thing. The logical conclusion is that the EU should help these countries to strengthen the economic but the process should not take 10 or 20 years, there is no time for economically troubled Europe so much. The people in these countries matures quickly after starting the economy. All this is not an interest in someone and it can be seen clearly. Europe must change the rules of the game as time is running out for both parties but the interests they shared.

  10. avatar
    Stefan Björkencrona

    Absolutely. Especially as some people in the old member states has forgotten what EU is about. United Europe for Peace.

    • avatar

      The EU is about eliminating national democracy.

      It was never about peace. Stop the lies and propaganda.

      The EU is to destroy first our democracy, then our prosperity (which they do with the bankers tool called ‘Euro’).

    • avatar
      Paul X

      “Especially as some people in the old member states has forgotten what EU is about. United Europe for Peace”

      Wrong, some people in the old member states know exactly what the EU (EEC) was supposed to be about …trade

      The EU has caused more friction between countries and more unrest for the people who it continues to ignore in its relentless quest to impose one set of values on a disparate group of countries

  11. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Through trade, that is a great medium in our days, include them in various EU projects, just like Norway and Switzerland are participating. There are of course certain democratic or structural obstacles in these countries, but bit by bit and with the growing European influence they will be smoothed out.. Start with some projects that they are eligible to join and participate.. That will kick-start reforms and keep them motivated to proceed further… If you add a bit of competition between them, as it will be a matter of prestige to come closer to the EU, then they will be motivated to work… If you exclude them, nothing will change in these countries.. Open the doors a little bit and keep waving that carrot!!! they will definitely work harder to meet the standards and join eventually!!

  12. avatar
    Catalin Vasile

    With true Democracy, keeping free of the corporations influence over the European Comission and making it clear to Russia that E.U. will not tolerate it’s bolshevic blackmail!!!

  13. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    Currently Latvia has tabled the idea of a “common economic space” with the EaP nations.


    What is wrong with the existing European Economic Area?

    If Association Agreements, DCFTAs and Visa-free travel are all on the table – which they are with the EaP nations – and are all at various stages of progression, which is Latvia tabling a mirror organisation to the EEA instead of offering the EaP nations membership of the EEA.

    As long as the EU intends to try an hug the EaP nations at arms length through creating “them” and “us” mirror entities that do the same thing, rather than allowing entry into certain long-established EU clubs (and has any EaP nation applied to join the EU? – No) such as the EEA if – and only if – they make the grade, then Russia will always feel there is a reasonable chance of pulling nations like Ukraine back again.

    Perhaps the EU should concentrate on dangling attractive carrots (and not vague references to Article 49 EU accession) within existing EU entities – rather than creating parallel ones that reinforce the “them” and “us” mentality?

    There must be some long-standing EU clubs – such as the EEA – that the EaP nations can be offered membership of when they met the grade to feel “included” – no doubt that will further annoy Ukraine’s neighbour to the North-East.

  14. avatar
    Ivs Iustitia

    EU has to reach the Whole Europe, from Vladivostok to Lisbon, from North Cape to Nicosia, but this won’t never happen unless we decide to dismantle OTAN/NATO

    • avatar
      Limbidis Adrian

      What the hell !?

  15. avatar

    Azerbaijan ??………. why!!!!!
    Oh yes i forgot : they have oil and gas :)

    WELKOM in EU

    @José Manuel Barroso, why not take and China on EU membership?

    • avatar
      Elkhan Jafarov

      interesting, you have questions only about Azerbaijan and no issues with other countries…. why!!!

      Oh yes, they have perfect economy growth, low unemployment, advanced technology, education, and so on…

  16. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    No, no, no, no, no! I’m sick and tired of Northern Europeans having to pay countries with nothing other to offer than allegedly ‘GREAT FOOD’ to become civilized and law-abiding and respectful and fair.

  17. avatar
    Paul X

    Countries should only be allowed to join the EU if they can bring something to the table……..and I don’t mean a begging bowl

  18. avatar

    Countries like Poland, Czech Republic and Lithuania for example, when they joined the EU, they were as poor and unstable as Belarus and Ukraine are today . So what’s the problem with EU now coming up with so many different laws and strict rules to give even less chance for those countries to get closer to European brothers. If EU doesn’t agree with Ukraine and if it loses Ukraine it will just shit!!!!! I love Ukraine .

    • avatar
      John Smith

      European brothers, there is no such thing, I don’t see British, Germans, French, Swedish being brothers with Ukrainians or Bulgarians, or Romanians or Croats. Ukrainians are brothers with Russians not Western Europeans where they will be treated as though they are refugees from Afghanistan.

    • avatar
      John Smith

      And the reason why Poland, Czech Republic and Lithuania are doing so well nowadays are for the same reason why Greece was doing so well until recently LOANS LOANS and MORE LOANS. Unfortunately Loans are impossible to pay back especially when the amount you have to pay back is 100x the loan when you include the interest. The result is the same austerity, and a revert back to where you were before.

  19. avatar
    AKMA Khan

    I agree, sooner these three countries join EU is better! I hope these countries would complete EU requirements soon!

  20. avatar
    Andrzej Lassak

    What actually made a lot of difference in Poland in 70’s was allowing Poles to travel easier to West … When people saw how things are done in West there was no turning back from West direction in Poland … This was simply matter of time to break free from Russia sphere of influence …

    I suggest the same for Ukrainians and other Eastern neighbors … let Ukrainian inside EU … no matter the cost … and in 10-20 years support for in EU membership in Ukraine will be huge … There is no need for any other movements here.

    Note: From my personal experience I know that for Ukrainians there is no simple way to get into a EU. We (Polish) welcome Ukrainians and we need theme … but the law needs to make life simpler for theme, not harder ;)

  21. avatar

    I have aways wanted to see the EU take all these nations in but honestly I would rather see the EU as it is and the ex Yugoslav nation integrate further before taking in the east. Enlarge the Eurozone and let Romania and Bulgaria join the schengen area as well as improve on the monetary union.

    • avatar
      John Smith

      Unfortunately the EU is a failed experiment like Yugoslavia. Most countries in the EU don’t want to be in it, UK wants to leave, Greece wants to leave, Hungary wants to leave, Bulgaria (the people) wants to leave, France wants to downgrade its membership, Austria wants to leave the Eurozone, Belarus and Armenia want to be part of Russia, Georgia will have to be part of Russia if they ever want peace reconciliation and reunion with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the Ukraine is stuck in the middle sometimes they are with the EU and other times they lean towards Russia but they don’t feel like joining anytime soon. Turkey and Iceland froze their accession talks, not even FYROM wants to join.

  22. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Mais cedo esses três paises irão fazer parte da familia da Europa agora há esses paises terão que fazer as suas reformas Democraticas

  23. avatar
    catherine benning

    This cannot be serious! …. Why?

    We are in a crisis, we have poverty stricken Europeans trying desperately to make a living, and you want to bring a groups of peoples into our system who have no assets whatsoever? Additionally, their social structure and culture is so far removed from the way of life already set up in Europe they will add a further rift to our plans for growth and common living standards.

    I’m, for the first time, beginning to understand why so many British people and our government are wanting to free themselves from this EU treaty. The EU is hell bent on the demise of its people.

    The fall out of this mess will contaminate us all. Our food out health service, our schools, our housing.


    Economically it’s infested with corruption.


    Western banks have left.


    But the grinning T Blair is well in there lining his pockets with pay offs, as is our Monarch’s son, the child bride lover, Andrew. This involvement stinks to high heaven.

    Caspian sea with it’s oil and gas is the prime mover and shaker there. And the European tax payers will be robbed further in order to increase the top money makers pay offs further. The large yacht club wants an increase in footage.

    No, we don’t want this area as part of EU and we don’t need more dissent from our Western way of life.

  24. avatar
    Samuel Tandorf

    We need to start getting our own country right before we go East!

  25. avatar

    We should get association agreements ASAP, but these should go far beyond pure economic aspects. Corruption is one of the major issues in most of the eastern countries, so the legal – security & social system should be part of the deal.
    Specifically for Ukraine, they should be stimulated towards a federation of pretty independent regions with respect for the local minorities, since there are huge differences between the western and southeastern regions of the country. Crimea is the extreme example:
    > Russian Speaking Majority
    > Crimean Tatar minority, not very Russian liking.
    > Long term lease of part of the territory for the Russian Black Sea Fleet (Strategic importance for Russia).
    And last but not least, they effectively need massive investments, which without proper assisting measures might end up in a few peoples pockets . . .

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