Andrius Kubilius. Opening Statement in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

Opening Statement in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly in Chisinau,  20 February, 2023

Andrius Kubilius

Member of the European Parliament,

Co-President of Euronest PA

Congratulations to  all the members of Euronest Parliamentary Assembly and thanks to our hosts from Moldova. This is unique session, since it’s the  first session of Euronest,  held  during the war.

The war brings tectonic changes and geopolitical earthquakes in the whole EaP region and the whole European continent.

The first question, which we need to answer – why Putin started the war?

Somebody is calling that this is a traditional neoimperial or colonial war.

I would stress, that  this is the war of collapsing autocracy against inevitable spread of democracy to the eastern part of European continent. I would like to call it “Kremlin regime survival war”.

Kremlin waged the war not to allow democracy to spread into Russia. For Kremlin regime to survive in Russia the biggest threat is success of democratic Ukraine and other EaP countries, because that can inspire Russian people to demand the same development in Russia.

Ukraine success (and of  other EaP countries) can be built in the same way as success of Central Europe was created in 1990-ies through integration towards EU.  This is the only way how the success of countries in post Soviet area can be created. For Putin regime Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia  integration towards EU is the biggest danger for  survival of his regime.  That is the reason why he started the war against Ukraine success.

Russia will lose this war. With the Western assistance, they will be defeated in Ukraine.  It’s needed not only for Ukraine, it’s needed for the whole democratic world, and especially for democratic Europe. And such a defeat will bring collapse of autocracy in Russia, and it will open the doors for transformation back to democracy in Russia.

It’s a crucially important historical moment, which will change the whole geopolitical landscape of European continent. We, my generation, we have seen how Berlin Wall collapsed, now we are coming to the moment of the same historical significance when Kremlin wall of authoritarian, aggressive regime will collapse.

And that historical change depends exceptionally on Ukraine.

Because transformation of Russia will happen, first of all,  if Russian people will get rid of the dream to restore Empire. In order to achieve that, there are three most important things which we all together need to realize: 1) Russia military defeat in Ukraine; 2) international tribunal for Putin; and 3) NATO membership for Ukraine: Russians need to understand that Ukraine is gone from their sphere of influence.

From another side, for such transformation to happen Russian people need to believe that they can have normal life in Russia itself. And for that to happen, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia   integration towards EU will play most important strategic role, because that is how Ukraine  and  other EaP countries success will be created and how example and inspiration for Russian people will created.

Transformation of Russia is the only way for sustainable peace to be created on European continent. That is why European integration is the only way towards sustainable peace, and that is why integration of EaP countries towards EU is needed not only for the countries of EaP themselves, but strategically is very much needed also for EU itself. That is also what on  EU side  we still need to understand properly. And that is why Eastern Partnership policy is one of the most important geopolitical policies of EU, and   why Euronest PA is such an important event.

Also it is so crucially important that we have this Assembly here in Chisniau. Not just because  we have session in the neighborhood of Ukraine, but mostly because Moldova brings a clear and very important evidence that if the people in EaP region has a possibility to make a free choice, they are choosing European direction. Despite all the Kremlin efforts to resist such a choice with all Kremlin hybrid influence weapons. I would like to congratulate President Maja Sandu and all the leadership of Moldova for a great job bringing Moldova on European road.

Moldova brings clear evidence what would be the choice of Belarus people if they would have possibility to make a free choice, which Lukashenko have stolen from them. The same with Russian people and that is why Kremlin dreams how to destroy such a choice of Moldova people. But they will not succeed.

Autocracy in Russia will loose: both military in Ukraine and geopolitically against European integration of EaP countries.

For that to happen there is a need of consolidated political will on EU side and the whole Western world side. We need to deliver weapons to Ukraine and we need to deliver integration, with an ambitious integration agenda for Trio countries and with accession negotiations for Ukraine and Moldova to be started during this year.

With “military Ramstein” we, the West,  have shown the way how to consolidate our political will in order to deliver weapons. In order to deliver integration, we need to create “Integration Ramstein” .

We need to deliver integration in such a way, that EaP countries, first of all Moldova and Ukraine, and I hope Georgia, would become members of EU before 2029 and would participate in regular elections towards European Parliament.

This is the way to sustainable peace on all the European continent. Collapse of Kremlin walls will remove the most important destabilizing factor, factor of aggression and oppression  for all the EaP region, not only for Ukraine and Moldova, but also for Belarus, and  for the whole South Caucasus.

But all the changes in EaP region, all the geopolitical changes on European continent starts with Ukraine victory.

That is why Long live Moldova and Slava Ukrainy!


Andrius Kubilius. Can Ukraine join the European Union this year?

Ukraine is fighting a brutal war. A war started by a madman who is scared that Ukraine, having chosen and defended its European integration course back on the Maidan in 2014, can become a successful, European state. And that would be the greatest danger for the Kremlin because the example of Ukrainian democracy might infect ordinary Russians.

The Ukrainians are successfully fighting and effectively defending their European choice. They are also defending the European Union as a whole, the wider EU community of European values.

It is, therefore, quite clear that Ukraine has a blood-earned right to belong to this community. After all, Ukraine not only manages to defend itself and the whole of Europe from the mad post-imperial beast but also, it seems, with the help of Western sanctions, manages to break the spine of this beast.

The world will be a different place after this war. It will be a different Ukraine, it will be a different European Union. Even Russia will be different.

Today, the question is not whether Ukraine can become a member of the European Union but how to resolve the question of Ukraine’s membership in the quickest possible way.

According to information, today, President Zelensky of Ukraine signed a formal request to the leaders of the European Union for Ukraine to be granted membership of the European Union.

The Slovak and Romanian prime ministers immediately announced that Ukraine must become a member of the EU without delay through a special fast-track procedure. The European Parliament is ready tomorrow to recommend to the EU institutions to grant Ukraine candidate status for EU membership.

The question is whether it is possible to devise such a special procedure so that Ukraine can become a member of the EU this year?

Lithuania, for example, took almost ten years to complete this process. Lithuania applied for membership in December 1995, started negotiations in October 1999, concluded the negotiations in December 2002, signed the accession treaty in April 2003, and became a member of the EU on 1 May 2004.

However, other specific experiences in the EU suggest that a country that has not been a member of the European Union before can become a member of the EU in less than a year.

And that experience is that of former East Germany becoming a member of the European Union. After the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, East Germany subsequently merged with West Germany and became a member of the European Union. There were no lengthy negotiations on East Germany’s adaptation and preparation for membership, or on the succession of the acquis, or on any other similar, sometimes lengthy, procedures, such as those that awaited us later. East Germany simply took over the entire legal framework of West Germany, then learned how to implement it as a member of the EU, and received long-term financial support from West Germany for the modernisation of its economy, which took quite a long time even after the reunification. However, East Germany went through all this long modernisation journey already as part of a united Germany and at the same time as a member of the European Union.

This whole process of East Germany’s rapid integration was made possible by a special procedure laid down in the conclusions of the European Council of 28 April 1990, which stated that East Germany’s integration into the EU would take place in parallel with its merger with West Germany, that the EU undertook to ensure that East Germany’s integration would take place smoothly and harmoniously. Furthermore, that full integration would be accompanied by entry into force of the legal agreement on a merger. As you know, the formal entry into force of such a treaty took place on 3 November 1990, and from that date, the former East German territory also became EU territory. Thus, East Germany was integrated into the European Union in less than a year.

During that year, the European Parliament set up a special temporary committee in February 1990 to discuss East German integration. It issued a special report in July 1990. It agreed that integration should go hand in hand with reunification and that exemptions for East Germany should be avoided. Accordingly, special observer status was provided for East German representatives, which lasted until the next European Parliament elections in 1994.

At the same time, it was foreseen that the East German Länder would receive €3 billion of EU structural funds for three years after integration, but also that the merged German government would commit itself to provide the large amounts of money needed to modernise the East German economy, at the cost of €110 billion each year to Germany. The EU’s budget for the East German economy was worth 110 billion German marks. This led not only to the rapid legal but also to the economic integration of East Germany.

This rapid integration of East Germany was, of course, the result of special circumstances: the Soviet Union was disintegrating, Germany was merging, and the other major Western powers wanted Germany, which had become the largest European power, to be integrated and constrained by its European obligations, and to avoid any problems of domination. But, above all, Europe had a clear political will to do so. That is why East Germany integrated under a special procedure.

Thus, the European Union can and knows how to create and implement special programmes for rapid integration when it has political will. The Ukrainian people have won the right to this special procedure with their own blood. And to the political will of the EU. And it, too, can be realised during this year. Of course, how and in what way Ukraine could rapidly adopt the EU acquis should be discussed separately. But it can be done if we want to.

As for the special and abundant financial support that will be needed to rebuild and modernise Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure, I wrote a little earlier: using the idea proposed by Mr Borel, the EU should create a “Free Ukraine Fund”, whose multi-billion euro funds could be borrowed on international markets on behalf of the EU, as has been done for the Next GenerationEU Fund, which is designed to deal with the consequences of the pandemic.

If Ukraine becomes an EU member by the end of this year, it could also apply for EU structural funds, which under EU rules would not exceed Ukraine’s 4% of GDP limit. So Ukraine, with a GDP of €155 billion, could qualify for regular support of around €6 billion from EU funds. This would cost each European (450 million inhabitants) around €14 per year.

This is roughly the price of 3 pints of beer in the Old Town of Brussels. Somehow we would manage!

Is it possible for Ukraine to become an EU member within a year? For some, this may seem like a naive dream. But dreams are there to make us strive to make them a reality. As the German example shows, big dreams have the potential to become big new realities.

It is up to all of us to make one more great dream a reality.

Photo: EPP Group in the European Parliament



In the light of current gas supply difficulties in the EU amidst Gazprom’s manipulation as well as Russian military build-up near the Ukrainian border, the ongoing Nord Stream 2 debates and recent gas supply disruptions in Moldova, Andrius Kubilius and Kateryna Musienko laid out a non-paper on what the EU should do to ensure energy security of Ukraine, Moldova and CEE.

The paper discusses current situation with Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and Moldova, pointing out that if no strategic input from the European Union side is made, after 2024 the region will face enormous difficulties in securing its gas supplies when the existing gas transit contract between of Gazprom and Ukraine will expire.

To avoid further supply shocks the EU should be ready for a no-transit through Ukraine scenario if Nord Stream 2 will become operational or in the case of expiration of the gas transit contract in the 2024 case. Such non-transit scenario threatens not only Ukraine’s energy and geopolitical security, but also undermines Europe’s energy architecture.

The paper concludes that in the turbulent times of Russian weaponization of gas, energy security in the region must not be considered in purely commercial terms. Authors point-out that the EU can and must help both countries and the region to ensure greater independence from Russian gas by modernizing already existing infrastructure with additional interconnections in between Ukraine – Slovakia – Poland. Conversely, Europe can benefit from access to Ukrainian storage facilities – the largest in the region and locate near the EU-UA border.




The Future of Eastern Partnership Policy

The EU needs to have a very clear and simple understanding of the strategic goals of its neighborhood policy: it is better for the EU to export stability into those regions, than to import instability from them. When discussing about strategic autonomy of the EU, first of all we need to understand that EU’s strategic autonomy starts with a strategic responsibility for development and stability in the EU’s neighborhood. Development and stability in EU neighborhood can be achieved only if there is a possibility for the region to integrate itself with the EU. Since 1990, there isn’t a single example of a post-communist and post-totalitarian country in EU’s neighborhood, which was able to create its stability and prosperity on its own, without an integration towards the EU.

Read more in: The Future of EAP Policy (Policy paper for Stockholm Center of Eastern Europe Studies) by Andrius Kubilius


Eastern Partnership ‘Beyond Westlessness’: A New Momentum For The European Integration

With a view to forthcoming Euronest Parliamentary Assembly meetings, Andrius Kubilius and Ramūnas Stanionis publish a paper on the future of the EU Eastern Partnership policy.

This paper argues that EU is losing fast a geopolitical edge in its Eastern Partnership initiative. The EU is losing advantage and does not have many political incentives to support reforms even in the most advanced countries of the Associated Trio. This kind of westlessness, on the other side, stalls the implementation of reforms by our Eastern partner countries distancing them further from a rapprochement with the EU. In return, the both sides rather choose to pursue a business as usual policy and pay a lip service to each other. However, the EU today more than ever is able to reverse this situation and to bring back the geopolitics to the Eastern Neighbourhood.

The paper sets out the ideas how the EU can overcome the westlessness in the longer-term policy towards its Eastern partners, and especially, towards the Association Trio countries of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. It elaborates in detail the proposals for the EU to build a New Momentum in the Eastern Partnership initiative and to employ ‘everything but institutions’ formula suggested by Mr Romano Prodi in 2002.

The authors also propose to take into account the experience of the Berlin Process for the Western Balkans countries and to launch a similar architecture of the Association Trio Process to accelerate the European integration in the Eastern Partnership region. The establishment of an intermediate EU membership status for the EU Eastern partners will be contributing to incentivise the reform making in this process.

Finally, this paper coincides with recent statements made by European politicians and a debate that followed this discussion in Ukrainian media on whether Ukraine will not see its membership in the EU till 2040. The Authors of this paper see it as a wake-up call for a more thorough debate should the EU take its responsibility and come back geopolitically to the Eastern Partnership region.


Read the paper: Eastern Partnership ‘Beyond Westlessness’: A New Momentum For The European Integration

Читать на русском: «Восточное партнерство» после беззападности: новый импульс к европейской интеграции


Euronest Parliamentary Assembly Bureau Message to the Eastern Partnership Leaders

On the occasion of the Video Teleconference of the Leaders of the Eastern Partnership to be held on 18 June 2020, 

The Euronest PA Bureau addresses the following message to the Heads of State and Government, in accordance with Article 18 of the Rules of Procedure of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.



Statement on the EU assistance to Armenia

Statement by

Mr Andrius Kubilius, Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

Ms Gayane Abrahamyan, Head of Armenian Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

On the EU assistance for Armenia to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 crisis, protect democracy and continue reforms necessary to sustain the economic recovery

The Eastern Partnership region is part of Europe and remains as a geostrategic priority for the European Union. The EU has rapidly taken numerous measures to support the Eastern Partnership countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic consequences. Overall, the EU has secured in total more than EUR 3 billion for the whole EU neighbourhood, 962 million of which will be directed to the Eastern Partnership region, including Armenia.

As the Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly and the Head of Armenian Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, we would like to draw attention to the significant support the EU and its international partners are giving on the ground to assist Armenia with the implementation of reforms, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing its social and economic consequences.

Armenia has signed the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the EU (CEPA) in November 2017, which is growing into an enhanced and strategically reinforced partnership between Armenia and the EU. We hope this partnership will be supported by a comprehensive and enlarged strategic format Trio + with the inclusion of Armenia in the EU Trio Plus Strategy 2030, proposed by the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, while looking into  future of the Eastern Partnership initiative and sustaining its inclusivity. Meanwhile, recognizing the effective implementation of the Armenia-EU Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements, which are important preconditions for the opening of the Visa Liberalization Dialogue (VLD) as referred to in the CEPA, we believe that the next milestone to closer cooperation and increased mobility will be the launch of the VLD with the Republic of Armenia in the near future. 

We believe that the successful implementation of the comprehensive reforms by Armenia, in areas such as the rule of law, justice and fight against corruption, will create new incentives for an ambitious path towards European integration and the next steps to be taken by Armenia and the EU in the next decade. In this respect, we welcome Armenia’s commitment to implement reforms despite the challenging circumstances, including the implementation of CEPA and, in particular, the reforms of judiciary and the police, which the EU will continue to support while addressing the impact of COVID-19 crisis. We see a potential of upgrading this relationship even further together with a strategic communication of Armenia’s achievements.

The EU is a key reform partner and the largest donor in Armenia and it stands together with Armenia in a moment of crisis with strong solidarity and international cooperation. The EU increased its annual average assistance from EUR 40 million to EUR 65 million.

Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, the EU has been reacting fast to the COVID-19 outbreak in Armenia and has mobilised both regional and bilateral assistance packages. The EU’s support will be provided to strengthen Armenia’s health system, in cooperation with the World Health Organisation and to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis in collaboration with the International Financial Institutions.

The Rapid Response Mechanism has already ensured distribution of humanitarian aid packages to over 3000 vulnerable households, including the elderly people, people with disabilities and large families in Shirak, Tavush and Lori regions. Additionally, over 350 school-age children in isolated communities in the three focal regions will gain access to distance learning tools ensuring equal access to educational activities organised by their schools.

Additionally, the EU has committed to provide over EUR 92 million in grants of bilateral support specifically for Armenia, which includes retargeting and acceleration of already allocated funds and funds to be programmed in 2020. They will provide direct support and liquidity to the public and private sectors, including to the most vulnerable.

We are glad to note that the EU is ready to explore further macro-financial assistance should this become necessary. In addition to that, through the cooperation with IFIs, the liquidity and access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises will be provided together with de-risking through guarantees. The EU bilateral investment portfolio in Armenia amounts to over 300 million euros and focuses on supporting the reform agenda, private sector development and infrastructure investment (blending) and more than EUR 1 billion have been invested in energy, agriculture and transport sectors in total in the form of blended loans and grants. The IMF has also increased the current programme for Armenia with the amount of USD 280 million of additional funding. It is expected that in 2020, USD 310 million will be disbursed to Armenia by the IMF to address the challenges linked with public finances.

We appreciate the progress made by Armenia in the area of justice reform. We welcome the EU strong commitment to help Armenia to develop the highest standards of judicial system. In particular, we note with satisfaction a very good cooperation within the justice policy dialogue, which led to the adoption of justice and anti-corruption strategies by Armenia in line with European standards in 2019. In 2020, the new budget support programme will help the reform implementation, especially in the area of integrity checks of judges.

In the coming months, we see huge challenges in managing of COVID-19 crisis, which might have adverse effects on the public and private sectors in Armenia. The pandemic crisis will have a heavy impact on the increase of unemployment and closure of businesses. This will result in higher costs on public finances not only to Armenia, but also to the whole Eastern Partnership region.

It will be the EU’s responsibility to continue supporting Armenia and those Eastern Partnership countries having chosen the path of European integration reforms. We should be looking into a longer-term support by the EU for economic recovery and reforms, and establish a detailed economic and investment plan in the same manner as it is proposed by the EU for the Western Balkans region in the autumn of 2020.

There is a saying that during the crisis you will know who your true friends are. The COVID-19 pandemic is exactly that sort of crisis, reconfirming that the EU is a true friend and partner to Armenia. We are convinced that this partnership has a bright future for both sides: for Armenia and for the EU.


On the EU assistance for Ukraine to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 crisis and continue reforms necessary to sustain the economic recovery

Statement by Mr Andrius KUBILIUS, Co-President of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, Member of the European Parliament

Mr Ivan KRULKO, Co-President of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, Member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

The Eastern Partnership region, and Ukraine in particular, belongs to Europe and remains as a geostrategic priority for the European Union. The EU has rapidly taken numerous measures to support the Eastern Partnership countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic consequences. Overall, the EU is securing in total more than 3 billion euros for the whole EU neighbourhood of which 962 million euros will be allocated for the Eastern Partnership region, including Ukraine.

As the Co-Presidents of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, we would like to welcome the support the EU and its international partners are giving on the ground billions of euros of support to assist Ukraine with reforms, halting the spread of the COVID-19 and addressing its social and economic consequences. 

The financial support is directed to provision of medical supplies and equipment, helping Ukrainian infrastructure investments and businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises, national and regional public institutions as well as civil society organisations. Part of this support is provided as a macro financial assistance, which will contribute to the stability of public finances and to the budget of Ukraine and it has important conditions linked with implementation of structural reforms in Ukraine to increase the economic resilience and growth.

On 13 April 2020, Ukraine has taken important measures and adopted a revised 2020 budget, which provides for a 2.5 billion euros coronavirus fund for immediate measures to counter the spread of COVID-19. However, this budget is not without challenges. Therefore, as the Covid-19 crisis will have a huge impact on Ukraine’s economy, the EU and its international partners must stay vigilant and ready to do whatever it takes to help Ukraine to recover fast from the global pandemics.

In this context, we welcome the first steps taken by the EU to use the macro financial assistance to support ten neighbouring partners in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. Within this envelope, the EU will be adopting for Ukraine a new macro financial programme of 1.2 billion euros as a part a geopolitical package for Eastern Partners, South Neighbourhood and Western Balkan countries to limit the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Next to these measures, the IMF agreed to increase the size of its recently negotiated three-year programme for Ukraine, of which around 3.2 billion euros would become available in 2020. Ukraine has also fulfilled the conditions for the remaining EU tranche of 500 million euros under existing macro financial assistance programme, the disbursement of which in 2020 will depend on prior actions with IMF.

In addition to that, the EU has mobilised an emergency support package for the Eastern Partnership region and has allocated for Ukraine more than 190 million euros to address COVID-19 crisis, including its socio-economic impact. The role of International Financial Institutions, such as European Investment Bank, EBRD, WB, KFW and others has become equally important in channelling the investments into Ukrainian economy, especially in supporting SMEs, DCFTA related, innovation or gender equality initiatives with toped-up investments of nearly 120 million euros.

The EU package for Ukraine includes access to grants, loans and knowledge support to help small and medium-sized enterprises and small farms (96 million euros), support to civil society for vulnerable citizens, promotion of grants and a funding for the fight against the disinformation (22 million euros). It aims to strengthen the resilience of Ukraine’s regions (30 million euros) alongside with ongoing COVID-19 related humanitarian support on both sides of the line of contact.

The EU has pledged 22 million euros for the Health Sector and Emergency needs of Ukraine to be used in cooperation with WHO to provide medical devices, testing, gowns and other COVID-19 related equipment. In the eastern part of Ukraine, the EU is supplying sets of personal protective equipment for ambulance teams in Donetsk Oblast, provides a targeted support for businesses, including online stores for micro, small and medium sized enterprises from eastern Ukraine, webinar training for primary care doctors of the health care institutions in Luhansk Oblast. The multi-donor programme U-LEAD is ongoing to support the decentralisation process remotely, with more than 460 remote online-events with over 2600 participants from all oblasts of Ukraine. Moreover, approximately 1.8 million people in 344 municipalities in Ukraine were covered by an information campaign facilitated via EU energy efficiency programme. The EU COVID-19 response is now channelled through civil society to vulnerable families and elderly to help with deliveries of food and medicines in Rivne, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipro and other regions. The EUBAM mission will be installing new digital thermometers for instant fever detection to people crossing the border.

Despite many steps have been already taken by the EU and Ukraine itself, we see huge forthcoming challenges in managing of COVID-19 crisis, which will put a strain on public and private sector resources. This will be having a negative social and economic effect on the economy of Ukraine. Many people will be losing their jobs and businesses, so the public institutions will have to use social and economic means to address it, which will bring a huge cost on public finances not only to Ukraine, but also to a whole Eastern Partnership region. 

This will be the EU responsibility to continue supporting Ukraine and the other Eastern Partnership countries having chosen the path of European integration reforms. We should face these challenges together. We should look into a longer-term support by the EU for economic recovery in the region and establish a detailed economic and investment plan. We invite the European Commission to present this plan in the autumn of 2020 in the same manner as it is planning to do for the Western Balkans region.

This EU plan should include investment and European integration reforms support. The implementation of this plan should be in part conditional and use the additional allocations from the EU neighbourhood budget under the new Multiannual Financial Framework of the EU (2021-2027), EU macro financial assistance, loans and guarantees pooled in the investment platform designed by the EU in close cooperation with financial institutions. This plan should have a clear communication strategy and if necessary additional EU staff resources. The plan would be bringing not only a response to the crisis, but also an economic growth perspective to the countries ready to endorse the path of European integration.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemics, followed by the economic crisis is hitting us all as never before. The only way to overcome this huge unexpected challenge is the one of European solidarity. We remain confident the EU is doing a lot now and will be doing even more tomorrow to assist Ukraine and its people. We are in the same family of European solidarity and that makes all of us stronger!


Andrius Kubilius. The Commission’s Eastern Partnership strategy is disappointing

Distance should not be a criterion: Georgia is better prepared for EU membership than the frontrunners of the Western Balkans, writes Andrius Kubilius.

While the coronavirus dominates the public sphere, there are still ongoing issues despite the pandemic. These issues need to be discussed, although they may attract smaller audience at this trying time.

Recently, the European Commission produced a very important document with the aim of laying out the vision on the future of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy beyond 2020.

Before the pandemic, we, the supporters of the EaP in the European Parliament, as also Ukrainians, Georgians and Moldovans, were eagerly looking forward to this document. While awaiting this document we have discussed extensively, prepared and submitted strategic proposals, drafted the Trio Strategy – our vision for the future EaP. We were convinced, that the new European Commission, which voiced the ambition to be the “Geopolitical Commission” will live up to this ambition in drawing the guidelines for the long-term perspective of its Eastern policy, one of the most important geopolitical vectors for the EU.

However, after reading the document I was disappointed – there is no geopolitical ambition in this document. The usual watered-down phrases mean simply that the philosophy of kicking the can further down the road prevails. “No policy change, business as usual” – is the underlying concept of the Commission’s proposal. But that is not enough anymore, considering the geopolitical significance of the EaP region. It is not possible to consider the future of the EU EaP policy without delineating the geopolitically-based aggression of the Kremlin in this region and without clear geopolitical strategy of the EU towards the EaP region.

Our hopes ran high during the confirmation of the new Commission. During his hearings the incoming HR/VP Josep Borell firmly stated that the EU has a clear geopolitical objective – to assist in emerging of a belt of successful countries between the EU and Russia, and that such policy in a longer perspective would also help Russia to transform and to return to a democratic type development. However, our hopes did not materialise, at least for now, because there are no such objectives in the Commission’s document.

Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia can only succeed if the EU invests in their success. The EU should invest not only money, it should also invest policy-wise by formulating smart and effective EU strategy towards the EaP countries. Such strategy should define an ambitious perspective – if the EaP countries demonstrate progress in the European reforms, the EU also moves forward by availing new support mechanisms and instruments for them, and, in the final stages by opening the doors to full integration of these countries (not only of the Western Balkans).

Only such EU policy would help to retain the appetite for European reforms in these countries, indispensable for their success. If the EU continues to merely kick the can further down the road, we will witness a weakening pro-European motivation in the EaP region. Already now from the capitals of the EaP countries we can sometimes hear the words of disappointment and skepticism: “we will never be invited to the EU and NATO anyway”. When the virus of such skepticism will turn into pandemic in the EaP region it will be the end of any pro-European reforms. Only nice but empty statements will remain.

The EaP region finds itself in a politically difficult period. Not only the aggression of the Kremlin, but also political infighting and tensions in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova raise challenges to the European reforms in these countries. An ambitious EU vision defining new period of the EaP policy, with new instruments, with new “more for more” conditions would be a much-needed geopolitical tool to re-charge and consolidate political will for pro-European reforms in the EaP countries. If the EU misses the opportunity to propose such vision, we must not be surprised to witness increasing erosion of reform processes in the region. The underlying reason for this will be erroneous EU geopolitical stance, or, rather, lack of geopolitical ambition.

It would be sufficient to begin with evaluating the progress and preparedness for EU integration objectively and based on the same criteria for EaP and the Western Balkan countries. We are very satisfied that the EU leaders demonstrate geopolitical ambition vis-a-vis Western Balkans and repeatedly stress that this region must be integrated into EU as soon as possible, otherwise Russia will occupy the vacuum there (it is rather strange that the same line of thinking is not applied vis-a-vis the EaP region). We are pleased, that Albania and North Macedonia will finally be invited to start the EU accession negotiations.

But it is important to remind, that according to expert evaluations published in 2018, Georgia was better prepared for the EU Membership than the frontrunner of the Western Balkans. Hence, the preparedness of a country for the EU Membership is not a criterion defining difference of EU policy towards the EaP and the Western Balkans. It is also quite obvious, that if the EU will continue hesitate to propose an ambitious EaP strategy, the Kremlin will destabilize the EaP region much easier than it would in the Western Balkans.

Usually, in a face of crisis the EU consolidates and finds necessary solutions. The EU will overcome the health crisis. It overcame financial crisis in 2008 and migration crisis in 2015. Once facing a crisis, we usually are quick to understand that it is not enough do nothing, just to once again kick the can further down the road.

I would not want to predict that an ambitious EU EaP policy will be brought about only when the EaP region will be struck by a big geopolitical crisis (most probably coming from the Kremlin). This would unavoidably mean a geopolitical crisis also for the whole EU. It would be much wiser to avoid such crisis. But for that to become a reality, we need an ambitious EU EaP policy already now. It should not matter that the distance between Skopje or Tirana and Moscow is much bigger than the distance between Kyiv or Tbilisi and Moscow. This distance must not define ambitions of Brussels, otherwise it would only mean that the Kremlin continues to retain a strange “veto” on the decisions in the EU capital.

I still hope that we can help the “Geopolitical Commission” to return its geopolitical ambitions. We will be working towards that goal in the European Parliament, despite the pandemic. Of course, the pandemics should not be used as an opportunity to mask EU geopolitical weakness vis-à-vis Russia.

Andrius Kubilius is a Member of the European Parliament, Co-President of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, former Prime Minister of Lithuania.

The article was published in www.euractive.com on 24th March, 2020.