Which countries make up Ukraine

Three neighboring countries in the Eastern Partnership: Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus

The EU's Eastern Partnership policy, launched in 2009, affects six former Soviet republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Eastern Partnership was established to support political, social and economic reform efforts in these countries to strengthen democratization, good governance, energy security, environmental protection and economic and social development. With the exception of Belarus, all of these countries are represented in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.

Ukraine

The dramatic events that have taken place in Ukraine since November 2013 began as a pro-European protest against the decision of then-President Viktor Yanukovych not to sign the association agreement with the EU initialed in March 2012. This movement eventually led to a change of government and, in October 2014, to a parliamentary election that brought pro-European forces and pro-reform parties to power.

Following the Euromaidan movement, Russia illegally annexed Crimea in March 2014, and an armed conflict flared up in eastern Ukraine, fueled by Russian-backed separatists. According to the United Nations, over 13,000 people (including at least 3,350 civilians) have been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict and by February 2020 [1]. This includes the 298 people who traveled on Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014 and crashed in a separatist-controlled area. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the number of civilian casualties has been falling since 2017 [2].

Despite the Minsk agreements brokered in 2015 and the establishment of negotiating rounds such as the trilateral contact group (OSCE, Russia and Ukraine) and the Normandy format (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France), the sustainability of the ceasefire is being called into question by regular fighting . The EU has made the lifting of its economic sanctions against Russia conditional on full compliance by Moscow with the Minsk agreements. The sanctions have been extended repeatedly since then and are still in force.

On June 11, 2017, the visa requirement for travel to the EU of up to 90 days for Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports was lifted, as Ukraine fulfilled the requirements of the action plan on visa liberalization. This short-term visa-free regulation is intended to facilitate contacts between people and strengthen business, social and cultural ties between the EU and Ukraine.

The Association Agreement, which had been provisionally and partially applied since November 1, 2014, entered into force on September 1, 2017. One of the cornerstones of the agreement, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), has been in full force since January 1, 2016.

The Association Agreement opens up new economic opportunities for both the EU and Ukraine. The EU consolidated its position as Ukraine's main trading partner. In 2019, bilateral trade was worth € 43.3 billion and 40% of Ukraine's total trade was with the EU.

In the presidential election in April 2019, President Poroshenko was defeated by the political newcomer Volodymyr Zelenskyi. President Zelenskyi dissolved parliament and called an early election in July 2019. In this parliamentary election, his party “Servant of the People” won a landslide victory and won an absolute majority of 254 (out of a total of 424) seats. As a result, members of this party held the post of President of Parliament (Dmytro Razumkov) and Prime Minister (Olexy Honcharuk). Despite a solid parliamentary majority, President Zelenskyi carried out a comprehensive government reshuffle in March 2020 (Denys Schmyhal took over the post of prime minister). There have also been changes in leadership at some important institutions due to layoffs or resignations.

Since 2014, in addition to political support, the EU and its financial institutions have mobilized over EUR 15 billion in loans and grants to support the reform process in Ukraine. These include EU transfer payments under the European Neighborhood Instrument (EUR 1.365 billion), the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (EUR 116 million) and the Advisory Mission of the European Union on Civil Security Sector Reform in Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine, EUR 116 million) . EUR) as well as very large loans from the European Investment Bank and investments from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (each over EUR 4 billion) and the European Investment Plan for Third Countries, a key EU initiative to reduce financial risks with the help of the EU Guarantee Fund (EUR 1.5 billion) and through the combination of loan and grant funds within the framework of the Neighborhood Investment Platform.

The EU is carefully monitoring progress in key areas against corruption, judicial reform, constitutional and electoral reforms, improving the business environment, energy efficiency and public administration reform, as part of a jointly agreed reform agenda. The third and final tranche of macro-financial assistance (MFA) of EUR 600 million was canceled on January 18, 2018 because Ukraine did not meet the agreed conditions. However, in July 2018 the EU agreed to a new MFA program worth EUR 1 billion [3]. The first tranche of this package (EUR 500 million) was disbursed in November 2018 after Ukraine fulfilled political commitments made with the EU. On June 10, 2020, the EU disbursed the second tranche of EUR 500 million under the fourth MFA program. With this issue, the total value of MFA transfer payments made by the EU to Ukraine since 2014 reached EUR 3.8 billion (out of the EUR 4.4 billion pledged), the largest amount of such aid ever given to a partner country alone . In addition, the EU also provided Ukraine with MFA loans of up to EUR 1.2 billion to help limit the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. On December 9, 2020, the EU offered to pay Ukraine EUR 600 million as part of its MFA program for COVID-19 emergency aid, although payment of the second tranche is conditional on Ukraine taking eight concrete measures in the areas of public finance management, the fight against corruption, the improvement of the framework conditions for companies and the responsible management of state-owned companies.

In autumn 2014, the Commission set up a special support group for Ukraine, made up of experts from the EU institutions and the Member States, who advise the Ukrainian authorities on the main reform areas and assist with coordination.

The EUAM Ukraine mission, deployed in December 2014, coordinates international support for the protection of the civilian population and, in addition to its operational activities, advises the Ukrainian government agencies on strategic issues, for example on training measures to establish reliable, accountable and efficient security services to strengthen the rule of law .

A. Position of the European Parliament

In the eighth legislative term (2014-2019), the European Parliament adopted 19 resolutions on Ukraine, including one on the implementation of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine in 2018. On February 11, 2021, the European Parliament adopted an important resolution on the implementation of the Association Agreement, in which the ongoing reform process and anti-corruption structures are an important focus.

In 2018, the European Parliament also awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Russia for protesting against the illegal occupation of Crimea by Russia. Oleh Sentsow was released from prison in September 2019 and received the award in Strasbourg in November of the same year.

B. Cooperation between Parliaments

The European Parliament is also currently running a major capacity-building program for the Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, as part of its democracy support activities in Ukraine. These efforts stem from the recommendations made in the framework of the needs-finding mission carried out by former President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, from September 2016 to February 2017.

The European Parliament is also responsible for steering a mediation process, the Jean Monnet Dialogue, in which the President of the Verkhovna Rada and the political group leaders meet to monitor the implementation of these recommendations.

The legal framework for the support and capacity building of the European Parliament is provided by a declaration of intent signed with the Verkhovna Rada on July 3, 2015 and renewed for the new parliamentary term, as well as the administrative cooperation agreement signed by the secretaries-general of the two legislative bodies in March 2016 has been.

The tenth meeting of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee took place in Strasbourg in December 2019, while the meeting was held by video conference on December 7, 2020. On both occasions the Committee reiterated its strong support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and took stock of ongoing reforms and the legislative plan and implementation of the Association Agreement. The Committee also reiterated that, alongside ambitious and credible judicial reform, an effective fight against corruption [4] is of paramount importance for the success of the entire reform process.

C. Election observation

The European Parliament is very active on election observation in Ukraine and sent election observation missions to the presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 2014 and 2015 and to the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019.

On September 18, 2016, the elections to the Russian Duma took place throughout Crimea, but were not observed by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). On March 18, 2018, the Russian presidential election also took place in Crimea, which was condemned by the EU and led to the imposition of new EU sanctions [5]. On November 11, 2018, “presidential and parliamentary elections” were held in parts of the two eastern oblasts of Ukraine. The EU did not recognize these elections and considered them to be contrary to the wording and spirit of the Minsk agreements.

Moldova

The EU and the Republic of Moldova signed an Association Agreement on June 27, 2014, which includes a deep and comprehensive free trade area and which came into force in July 2016. The agreement has strengthened Moldova's political and economic relations with the EU. It included a reform plan in areas essential to good governance and economic development, and strengthened cooperation in several areas. By signing the agreement, the Republic of Moldova committed to reform its internal policies on the basis of EU law and practice. The roadmap for the implementation of the Association Agreement is set out in the revised Association Agenda 2017-2019, which contains 13 main priorities and was evaluated by the Commission in November 2019. The validity of the timetable was extended in 2019 and it is currently being revised. In order to achieve this ambitious agenda, the country receives extensive support from the EU.

In April 2014, the Republic of Moldova became the first Eastern Partnership country to benefit from the visa-free regime. EU support was temporarily suspended following a bank fraud scandal in 2014. However, after an agreement was reached between the Republic of Moldova and the International Monetary Fund at the end of 2016 on a program aimed primarily at stabilizing the country's banking sector, the EU resumed budget support payments. Bilateral aid to the Republic of Moldova under the European Neighborhood Instrument (ENI) ranged between EUR 284 million and EUR 348 million between 2017 and 2020. It focused on economic development and market opportunities, institutional strengthening and good governance including rule of law and security, networking, energy, environmental protection and climate change, and mobility and people-to-people contacts.

The cancellation of the mayoral election in Chișinău in June 2018, in which Andrei Năstase, an opposition leader, won, on the basis of questionable arguments, marked a new low in relations between the EU and the Republic of Moldova. This was yet another sign of widespread corruption and the control that oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc wielded over Moldova's state institutions. Once again, EU budget support and the first tranche of the MFA package were suspended.

The outcome of the parliamentary elections in February 2019 resulted in a political deadlock lasting several months. The President's pro-Russian Socialist Party won 35 of the 101 seats, the ruling Plahotniuc Democratic Party won 30 seats, and the pro-European center-right ACUM had 26 seats. In June and July 2019, the Democratic Party failed in its attempt to call a new election, although a coalition agreement between the Socialist Party and ACUM had led to a serious institutional crisis. After the new government under Maia Sandu of the alliance ACUM, which has explicitly committed itself to a program of reforms and the fight against corruption, was formed, the EU continued its bilateral aid and macro-financial assistance. However, parliament withdrew its confidence in the Sandu government in November 2019. A government made up of the Socialist Party and the Democratic Party, led by Ion Chicu, took over from the Socialist Party. After leaving the reformed Democratic Party - a significant number of its members had changed sides and joined the new factions "Pro Moldova" and later "Pentru Moldova" - this coalition lasted until November 2020. The current government under Prime Minister Chicu will be in the Parliament supported by a minority, a new election is therefore possible as soon as possible.

Former Prime Minister Sandu emerged as the clear winner from the presidential election in November 2020. In the runoff election on November 15, 2020, she won 58% of the vote, while incumbent Dodon got 42%.

The Republic of Moldova has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU provided substantial medical and economic support totaling € 108 million. In addition, Moldova's agriculture suffered from persistent drought in 2020.

The breakaway region of Transnistria, which unilaterally declared its independence in 1990, remains a major challenge for the Republic of Moldova. The EU participates as an observer in the 5 + 2 negotiation process to resolve the conflict in Transnistria and continues to support a comprehensive and peaceful solution based on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova with a special status for Transnistria. In addition, there are always political tensions between Chișinău and Comrat (the capital of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia).

A. Position of the European Parliament

The European Parliament adopted a positive position on 4 July 2017 on the Commission's proposal to grant Moldova a maximum of EUR 100 million in MFA. Unfortunately, the third and final tranche could not be paid out because the Republic of Moldova had not met all of the agreed conditions by the end of the contractual deadline in July 2020. The EU agreed to a new MFA emergency aid package for the Republic of Moldova in 2020.

In its resolution of 14 November 2018 on the implementation of the Association Agreement between the EU and the Republic of Moldova, the European Parliament expressed serious concern about the setbacks in the country's democratic standards and the state conquered by the interests of the oligarchy. However, in its resolution of October 20, 2020 on the same subject, it recognized the improvements made, but again called on the public authorities to continue efforts to fight corruption and guarantee the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.It also described the presidential election in November 2020 as a test for democracy and the rule of law in the country.

B. Cooperation between Parliaments

An Association Parliamentary Committee has been set up in accordance with Article 440 of the Association Agreement between the EU and the Republic of Moldova. The first meeting of the Association Committee took place on October 16, 2014 and the eighth meeting on October 8, 2020. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the latter meeting had to be held as a video conference. In its final declaration and recommendations, the Association Committee draws attention to the high human and economic toll that the Republic of Moldova and the EU had to pay as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Association Committee called on Moldova to step up reforms aimed at strengthening the common values ​​of the EU and Moldova, in particular human rights, the rule of law and democratic standards. He also called for strict respect for the independence of the Constitutional Court and emphasized that independent and depolarized media, which are not subject to political influence, represent the basis of a democratic society.

C. Election observation

The European Parliament has been invited to observe all recent parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova. In February 2019, the European Parliament sent election observers to the parliamentary elections in Moldova and then stated that the polls had taken place without major incidents and that, by and large, it was well organized. It also raised concerns about reports of organized vote buying for certain parties, with voters from Transnistria being taken to polling stations in buses. Due to the pandemic, the European Parliament was unable to send an election observation mission to the presidential election in November 2020, but according to the preliminary results, the ODIHR of the OSCE, which was sent in a reduced form, found that despite a negative and divisive election campaign and polarizing media coverage, voters were between political Alternatives could choose and the fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and expression were respected.

Belarus

Over the past few decades, the EU's relations with Belarus have been difficult at times because of the constant violations of human and civil rights in the country. However, between 2014 and 2020 Belarus appeared to be more open to the EU and the Eastern Partnership policy. Relations with Western countries had somewhat improved and Belarus played an important role as host of the EU-brokered talks to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. As a result, the EU committed itself to a policy of “critical engagement” with Belarus, as outlined in the Council Conclusions of February 15, 2016, according to which Belarus should take concrete steps to guarantee fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and human rights for the shaping of the future EU policy towards Belarus will continue to be decisive.

On February 25, 2016, the Council decided not to renew restrictive measures against 170 people and three companies whose application had already been suspended. However, he extended the other applicable measures, including an arms embargo, asset freeze and a travel ban for four people linked to the unexplained disappearances of two opposition politicians, a businessman and a journalist. The Council extended the restrictive measures until February 28, 2020 [6].

The human rights dialogue between the EU and Belarus was resumed in 2016 at the initiative of the Belarusian side, with the sixth round of talks taking place in June 2019. In 2016, the EU-Belarus Coordination Group was set up to serve as a forum for political dialogue at high-level expert level. The main task of this body is to steer the cooperation between the EU and Belarus and to oversee the further development of the relationship. In April 2019, the coordination group met for the eighth time.The EU Delegation in Belarus reaffirmed its readiness to further develop relations between the EU and Belarus in the interests of Belarusian citizens, to strengthen the resilience of Belarusian society and to support sovereignty and Independence from Belarus, but also reiterated the need for major electoral reform, raised a number of concerns related to fundamental freedoms, in particular freedom of the media, freedom of expression and assembly, and reiterated its strong opposition to the death penalty .

Belarus participates in the Eastern Partnership both bilaterally and multilaterally in the appropriate formats. Negotiations on a mobility partnership were concluded in 2017 and visa facilitation and readmission agreements came into force on July 1, 2020 with the aim of promoting people-to-people contacts. Both sides are currently negotiating the partnership priorities that will form the framework for cooperation between the EU and Belarus in the years to come.

However, it is very regrettable that, despite the adoption of a Human Rights Action Plan for 2016-2019, Belarus has failed to meet its commitments in this area. It is still the only country in Europe that still carries out the death penalty, which means that it cannot, de jure, become a member of the Council of Europe. There are regular debates on a moratorium with the aim of the possible abolition of the death penalty, but these are more likely to act as a smoke candle, as no concrete measures have yet been taken.

The EU strongly condemned the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in February and March 2017. The early parliamentary elections on November 18, 2019 were fraught with a number of grievances and deficiencies that deprived the opposition of any parliamentary representation. The August 9, 2020 presidential election has not been deemed free or fair by the international community. This was preceded by a systematic persecution of members of the opposition, which was then followed by brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, opposition representatives and journalists, the extent of which is unprecedented in the history of the country. As a result, the EU imposed three packages of sanctions (most recently in December 2020) [7] against 88 people and seven organizations responsible for or complicit in electoral fraud and violent repression, and reaffirmed its readiness to take further restrictive measures against organizations and high-ranking officials of the regime also against Alyaksandr Lukashenka, whom it no longer recognizes as the rightful President of Belarus. In addition, the EU has restricted bilateral cooperation with the Belarusian state power at the central level, but has expanded its support for the Belarusian people and civil society and realigned its bilateral financial aid accordingly.

A. Position of the European Parliament

The European Parliament has adopted a number of resolutions criticizing Belarus in connection with those detained there for political reasons, restrictions on freedom of the media and civil society, disregard for human rights (including the retention of the death penalty in the country) and the flawed parliamentary elections becomes. In its resolution of 19 April 2018, the European Parliament expressed its support for the EU's critical engagement with Belarus, provided that it is linked to concrete democratization measures being taken and fundamental freedoms and human rights being respected. In particular, it called on Belarus to join the global moratorium on executions as a first step towards the permanent abolition of the death penalty. In its resolution of 4 October 2018, Parliament once again condemned the harassment and detention of journalists and independent media representatives and reiterated its call for greater respect for democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In response to the rigged presidential election of August 9, 2020 and the subsequent brutal crackdown on members of the opposition, independent media and peaceful demonstrators, the European Parliament adopted resolutions on the situation in Belarus on September 17, 2020 and again on November 26, 2020. In these resolutions, the members stated that the election was carried out in blatant violations of all internationally recognized standards and that the majority of the Belarusian population see Svyatlana Zichanouskaya, the candidate of the united opposition, the winner of the presidential election and the actual elected president of the country . They called for immediate EU sanctions against officials responsible for election fraud and repression, including former President Aljaksandr Lukashenka. They expressed their support for the coordinating council set up by Svyatlana Zichanouskaja as an interim representative of the population who are calling for democratic change. Members reaffirmed these fundamental positions in their recommendation of October 21, 2020 on relations with Belarus.

In addition, the Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Belarus and the Standing Rapporteur on Belarus made a number of joint statements regretting the continued deterioration in the human rights situation in the country and criticizing Lukashenka's retention of power. In December 2020, the European Parliament carried out a briefing on Belarus to determine what the Belarusian democratic forces now need and how the European Parliament can support them at both administrative and political level. It should also be noted that the democratic opposition in Belarus was awarded the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

B. Cooperation between Parliaments

The European Parliament does not have official relations with the Parliament of Belarus, as the country has repeatedly failed to hold free and fair elections and meet international standards in the areas of democracy and the rule of law, such as recent waves of protests and total repression the faked parliamentary election of November 18, 2019 and the equally faked presidential election of August 9, 2020. Likewise, members of the Belarusian Parliament have not yet been invited to participate in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, as compliance with OSCE electoral standards is a prerequisite for admission.

However, the European Parliament maintains an active and close dialogue with representatives of the country's political forces, the independent non-governmental organizations and civil society actors who have been represented on the Coordination Council since the last presidential election. Regular meetings of the delegation for relations with Belarus (via video conference for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic) are held in Brussels and Strasbourg to discuss the development of EU-Belarus relations and the political and economic situation in the country as well evaluate recent developments in relation to democracy, human rights abuses and the rule of law. The Delegation for relations with Belarus traveled to Minsk in June 2015 and July 2017, and its Presidium in October 2018 and February 2020.

C. Election observation

Belarus has not invited the European Parliament to observe elections since 2001. As usual in such cases, the European Parliament relies on the evaluations carried out in the country by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the ODIHR of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Regrettably, these international observers were not invited to observe the presidential election on August 9, 2020, despite the Belarusian regime's previous invitation.

Florian Carmona / Fernando Garcés de los Fayos / Levente Csaszi