Beyond Vilnius: Keeping the Eastern Partnership on track

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Nov. 8, 2013, 2:12 p.m. | Op-ed — by Amanda Paul

Supporters of Ukraine's European integration rally during a demonstration in Kyiv.
© Kostyantyn Chernichkin

The countdown to the November Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit is well underway. Coming almost a decade after the EU launched its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and four years since the creation of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), the summit represents an important milestone, but its success is by no means certain.

The optimal outcome is to sign the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with Ukraine as well as initial agreements with Georgia and Moldova. However, the real challenge will come thereafter. Ukraine will need to start the process of implementation, which will be costly and difficult, while Moldova and Georgia – which are not due to sign until the autumn of 2014 – will face an uncomfortable ten months as Russia endeavours to coerce them into joining the Russian-led Customs Union (CU) instead. Meanwhile, the EU will be absorbed with internal cuisine: the on-going Eurozone crisis, European Parliament elections in May 2014, and the entry into office of a new EU leadership. Therefore, the commitment of the partners to continue on a difficult journey, which as yet has no final destination, and the EU’s ability to sufficiently support them both politically and economically, will be tested.

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