Security and stability in the EU's Eastern Neighbourhood: prospects and challenges

27 November 2009

Konstantin Yelisieiev, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ukraine, said the Berlin wall has fallen, but the ‘visa wall’ remains, dividing the EU from other European countries, including Ukraine.

The prospect of EU membership stimulates reform, and Kyiv hoped Ukraine would join the EU. If this does not happen, he feared it signified an embargo on EU enlargement, which would mark the end of promoting European values and peace and stability in the region. The European ideal cannot survive without Ukraine.

Asim Mollazade, Chairman of the Democratic Reforms Party, Azerbaijani Parliament, said his country was a secular Muslim state with a very open approach to all religions. It embraces European values but as a rich country does not need either EU or NATO membership and is pursuing its “new silk road” policy to link East and West. In addition its energy resources will help Europe diversify its energy supplies, so it is not faced with a single provider (Russia).

Arman Kirakossian, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Armenia, said his country is pursuing reforms arising from the EU’s Eastern Partnership agreement; negotiating an EU Association Agreement and an EU-Armenia FTA.

In pursuit of regional peace and stability and good neighbourly relations, Yerevan is optimistic that a settlement can be reached with Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, particularly in the context of the Eastern Partnership; and Armenian-Turkish relations have improved since the ‘football diplomacy’ last autumn and diplomatic relations been established.

Zoltan Martinusz, Director of the Eastern Europe Unit, European Council, said the EU could apply the lessons it learned from working with Western Balkan countries to its Eastern Neighbourhood: both regions retain the legacies of the past, have been badly hit by the economic crisis and their international partners  are the US, Russia and Turkey.

Although there is no prospect of EU membership, these countries should not take an “all or nothing” attitude to the EU; and negotiating a visa-free regime depends on their introducing legal reforms and wiping out corruption.

Dirk Deverill, Defence Plan Director, US Mission to NATO, said today the Alliance addresses security threats through partnership and bilateral relations, working with the EU, the OSCE, and the United Nations, and is improving relations with Russia.

As well as NATO members, the Alliance works with partnership countries (like Azerbaijan) to combat weapons of mass destruction or chemical attacks. The world has changed since NATO was established in 1949, so “Every nation must choose how to respond to a world which is more connected.”

Bruno Coppieters, Professor of Political Sciences, Free University of Brussels (VUB), discussed whether EU support to regional integration efforts in the Eastern Neighbourhood would help achieve stability, in relation to the ‘frozen conflicts’ such as Nagorno-Karabakh. This can be difficult when the conflict is about sovereignty and when one of the parties is not a sovereign state. These entities are in a legal limbo, and there is no agreement on whether UN Charter constraints on the use of force have to be applied to them.