Well dear readers, who of you have heard of Euronest?
Thought not – I’ll save you the trouble. It is a parliamentary assembly that has been formed as a negotiation centre as part of the European Partnership between the EU and the 6 nations of the EaP. Those nations are Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus (who I believe are currently suspended), Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
It has been around for a few years, 2008 to be exact……on paper at least.
Anyway Borys Tarasiuk has just been voted co-President of Euronest. A reasonable decision by all concerned considering Mr Tarasiuk is already responsible for Ukrainian EU integration and represents the biggest land mass and biggest population of the 6 countries in the group.
Now you do start to wonder just how many lines of communication are needed, how many entities, how many committees and how many meetings are needed as these nations slowly trudge along the EaP path towards Association Agreements. Just enough to make your head spin and ensure nobody is sure what anybody else is doing? Something to keep the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind spinning? It seems so.
Now Association Agreements are built upon significant movement towards EU parity over rule of law, democracy and human rights, however there is an additional note relating to “approximation” and “institution building” leading towards free trade.
It is therefore not possible to have the Association Agreement without the Deep and Comprehensive free Trade Agreement that Ukraine and the EU are 90% of the way through negotiating. We have had statements has I have previously written here, that the Association Agreement negotiations will be completed by the end of the year ready for examination by the EU sovereign member states prior to signing and ratification…..or amendment.
An integral part of the Association Agreement is Visa-free travel. This is a subject currently being negotiated seemingly both separately, as part of the Association Agreement and now as part of the Euronest function as well.
As far as it is possible to glean from the Euronest remit, it very much copies the remit of those involved in the already very advanced Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine. Those Ukrainian/EU negotiations involving the newly elected Euronest co-President, Mr Tarasiuk.
The EU is therefore involved in 6 bilateral sets of negotiations relating to 6 separate Association Agreements, 6 free trade agreements and 6 sets of negotiations of Visa-free travel and now will be entertaining a 7th group set of negotiations despite the fact no group agreements can be made as each nation moves at its own pace and has its own positions, interests and needs.
In effect each nation will individually meet the criteria in their own time and individually achieve their Association, free trade and visa-free travel agreements with the EU. What use therefore is Euronest? You would think none. You would think with all these meetings, negotiations and agreements several times a year per nation, there would be enough hot air generated to melt the polar ice caps.
However, despite the fact I am no fan of talking shops for the sake of talking, I do see a benefit, particularly to the Euronest nations, in group liaison in a recognised body. Strength in numbers over particular negotiation issues is an obvious point. if there is a common issue then it serves the purpose of all involved to deal with it in the same place at the same time and in a way that a uniformal agreement can be accepted.
It is also a mechanism that encourages all concerned to try and keep up (with the exception of Belarus it seems). Moldova is a head of Ukraine in some areas, Georgia in others and Ukraine ahead of both in yet more. There is much to be learned from each others experiences in areas where they have taken the lead and this is best aired in an open and multilateral (Euronest) environment.
In short is keep momentum going and identifies the positives and negatives of any policy taken by those aspiring towards Association Agreements. When one of these nations eventually gets Association Agreement in place and successfully completes the EaP, the others will be quite clear on how they achieved it.
The question is really whether once these nations achieve their goal, will they remain active in Euronest to assist the others in getting there as well, as and when they can without treading too heavily on some quite sensitive sovereign issues that must be bilaterally dealt with by the EU and them alone.