BREXIT and its influences on the Eastern Partnership: our LDAs have their say
How Brexit can influence policies of the Eastern Partnership countries? Which effects could it cause? The LDAs of the EaP express their opinion on the issue.
After the Brexit the British tabloid “The Sun” wanted to eliminate the UK from the EU’s map as soon as possible that in this rush included Belarus as a part of the Union. It was the fastest accession process in the whole EU’s history. Of course, it was made by mistake and the picture was soon deleted. However, this story illustrates an interesting question: will the Brexit have any effect on the EU’s relations with the Eastern Partnership countries? Whether it is logical to expect closer cooperation with the EaP countries after the EU-UK divorce or on the contrary the Brexit will put on hold the EU’s activities in eastern dimension?
The analysis of the official documents and statements shows that the EU officials have no intentions to change EU-EaP relations after the Brexit. Following the meeting of informal Ministerial dialogue of the Eastern partnership countries in July 2016 the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbouring Policy Johannes Hahn said that the outcomes of the British referendum “will not affect our close cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries”.
In the new EU Global Security Strategy, which was issued after the Brexit, the EU reaffirmed it wiliness to further develop relations with the countries wishing for closer cooperation with the Union. The same was said about the enlargement process. The High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini said that the Brexit will not have any effect on the enlargement process. In particular, she stated that “my message today was very clear: our determination to proceed with the enlargement process is there and it is very important to reaffirm it now”, “we are going to continue”.
The EU officials warmly welcomed the entrance into force of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with Georgia and Moldova. Federica Mogherini considers that “with the full entry into force of our Association Agreement with Georgia, the EU-Georgia relationship becomes both broader and deeper, to the benefit of us all”. She also stated that “the EU is looking forward to further strengthening its cooperation with a country”, which will continue working on the democratic reforms. Commenting on the entering into force of the DCFTA with Moldova, the High Representative of the EU stated “I look forward to closer ties between the EU and the Republic of Moldova as a result of this Agreement entering fully into force”.
However, despite these official statements there is a concern among EaP courtiers that after the Brexit the EU will be more concerned about its internal issues than about the promotion of good neighbourhood. In particular, Ukrainian Vice-Prime Minister for European Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze stated “We respect the British citizens' decision, but Ukraine feels sorry for these events. To my mind this will weaken the EU and it will have to concentrate on its own problems."
These concerns cannot be considered groundless. Now the EU will be lead by the German-French coalition. However, Germany is quite cautious in dealing with the EaP. So, although on 9 March 2016 the European Commission proposed to allow visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Georgian citizens holding a biometric passports, in June 2016 Germany supported by France and Italy said ‘No’ to visa deal with Georgia. Germany as a captain of the EU is more concerned about the advocating the credibility of the EU’s project as such, the current migration crisis and euro crisis. France, which faced two terroristic attacks within last 9 months, will focus its foreign policy on other parts of the world – Syria and Iran.
To summarize, the EU-EaP relations will definitely remain on the EU’s agenda and in the EU’s official statements. However, it is too optimistic to expect that the Brexit will put spirit into this initiative. The EU’s relations with the eastern neighbours remain in the context of the revised ENP and the new EU Global Security Strategy – they will be mentioned and talked about, but the ball will be left on the EaP countries’ field, meaning that the further movement will depend on the ‘progress made by the partner countries’.
In Georgia there were several opinions: some positive, some negative. Such a country, as the UK is, decided to leave the EU, threatening the stability of the EU itself, or at least causing some difficulties. While striving to become member of the EU, Georgians were surprised by seeing the UK situation becoming uncontrolled and the policy starting to change.
EU will get stronger with its members, whether or not UK will still be in. Georgian President believes that it is important to actively monitor the process and all consequences of a British referendum, that will obviously affect the policy of the closest partners.
Nino Khukhua, Delegate of LDA Georgia
It is not a secret that the UK referendum on EU membership was more than just a referendum and the referendum has already profoundly affected the world’s political landscape and first of all will have effects on Britain itself crucially. After the referendum the prime-minister of Scotland made a statement about the withdrawal process initiation that is legally permitted, the leader of one of the dominant parties of the Southern Ireland mentioned the possibility of withdrawal. Thus, The Great Britain can be under the threat of fragmentation.
It is widely spoken that Brexit will affect EU financially but one positive thing can be mentioned that UK membership to EU was destructive and EU will have more perspective policy focusing on the support of EaP countries from which Armenia can benefit as for instance UK was completely against EAP project and prohibited some funded projects.
Any country and Union even too strong will collapse if doesn’t face adequately the challenges.
Lusine Aleksandryan, Delegate of LDA Armenia
For Ukraine it is a negative point, I guess, as it allows pro-Putin configured people tell others that the European Union is a bad thing, because such a country like Great Britain came out of it!
The government is trying to respond to it, to convince people that this is an additional chance for Ukraine to join the EU “vacant place”. But we understand that it is “not equivalent exchange”. The United Kingdom is self-sufficient country. And Ukraine is committed to the EU only and it needs help of countries which stand on their feet.
As a result, BREXIT:
1) reinforces the view of pro-Russian people in Ukraine, that the European Union cannot be a strong association of countries that are together as a united family, to help raise the economy of all of its member countries, because the United Kingdom did not want this union enhance. Their argument is: “joining the EU, Ukraine permanently loses the ability to repair relations with Russia, and it is necessary to do so if there is a trend towards the disintegration of the European Union”;
2) increases the doubts of people who have not yet decided their position, whether Ukraine should join the EU or in future to be a reliable EU association member, as far as he is able to protect the integrity of Ukraine and its economy, if one of the strongest EU member states left the union.
People who support the association wants Ukraine to become an EU member and have about this firm position today are not the majority in Ukraine. Basically they are young people whose efforts made to have equal opportunities and access to education and employment in an open competitive environment.
Now, the focus and the support we need to provide exactly to those citizens of Ukraine, who are willing to go forward, no matter what, and lead the whole society.
Anzhelika Pylipenko, Delegate of the LDA of the Dnipropetrovsk Region