A school in Tbilisi and tensions over Karabakh: the Eastern partnership summit in Brussels

Angela Merkel arrives for the EU Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in Brussels, Belgium, 24 November 2017.

A school in Tbilisi and tensions over Karabakh: the Eastern partnership summit in Brussels


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The leaders of the European Union and the six Eastern Partnership countries have started their summit in Brussels, but tensions are mentioned about the final wording of the common declaration, the New Europe could consult in it current state.

Initially, it was agreed that there would be no mention of the situation in the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is under Armenian control. Now, both the Armenian and the Azeri leaders want specific, but conflicting, statements included in the document.

The leaders will also announce the creation on a specific Eastern Partnership European School, which will be established , most likely in Tbilisi.

This will be done:

…taking into consideration the activities of EU Member States, to provide high quality education to pupils from Partner Countries, increase their educational and employment opportunities, promote cooperation, multi-cultural understanding, tolerance, fundańental values, a better understanding of the European Union and its engagement in the region, as well as enhance language skills. A network of partner countries’universities will focus on excellence in teaching.

The final text will also apparently fail to mention the war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014.

The summit’s main event will likely be the signing of an enhanced EU partnership deal with Armenia. That pact, however, omits free trade and is less ambitious than the Association Agreements secured by Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Beginning of October, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament passed a resolution with recommendations for the Eastern Partnership, setting up a trust fund for Eastern partners and reward reforms by offering them customs unions.

There is today a clear division among the six states invited to form the Eastern Partnership in 2009: Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are hammering on the EU’s door, seeking refuge from the Russian bear; Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus are more ambivalent, just as Brussels is cooler toward them, not least over human rights.

After the initial enthusiasm, the partnership fell apart rapidly in the past two years, under pressure from Russia, and mostly in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

Also, after more than two years of Western sanctions on Russia, some the European Union are also pushing for a softer stance toward Moscow and growing impatient with what they see as sluggish progress in modernising the economy and fighting corruption in Ukraine.

With Western taxpayers wary of the cost of EU expansion, especially of letting in debt-laden Ukraine with its 45 million people, other leaders are keener to ease economically toxic tensions with Putin and deflate what Germany’s Angela Merkel called “false expectations” of EU membership.

The European Union launched the Eastern Partnership project in May 2009 in an effort to support democratic and market economy reforms in six countries in eastern Europe and the southern Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The programme offers the six participating countries closer economic integration with the European Union, provided they meet certain conditions. They can, over time, sign wide-ranging trade agreements which aim to give companies from participating states easier access to business in the EU.

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