Visa waiver programmes and more money for the Eastern Partnership
Adelina Marini, May 6, 2009
The EU is losing the battle for the hearts and minds in its Eastern Partnership initiative which will be officially introduced tomorrow in Prague. This is the opinion of the experts of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) who also say that the main problem is in the increasing trend of mistrust between the EU and those countries and the growing influence of Russia instead. To restore the balance and even to turn things in EU's benefit, the experts propose some ideas.
One of the important policies which could be used as a leverage in the region, would be the visa policy. Experts suggest that the EU should draw road maps for visa-free travel in the EU for Ukrainians and Moldovans, and fast-forwarding visa facilitation for the south Caucasus and Belarus. They also suggest visa fees to be waived during negotiations. This is what Bulgaria did for the Russians though Russia is not included in the Eastern Partnership initiative.
Secondly, from the ECFR proposes an increase of funding for western-leaning countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia and that should be a long term engagement. Part of the financial support could be directed for example to the troubled preparations for the European Championship finals in 2012. And also related support for train links, the proposed Kiev-Warsaw highway, new stadia, hotels and airport upgrades.
The initiative that will be presented tomorrow also proposes visa facilitation and in the long term visa liberalisation. The EU will also introduce new Association agreements for those countries that demonstrate sufficient progress toward democracy, improvement of administrative capacity, better economic integration with the EU as well as additional financial support of 350 mn euro and relocation of another 250 euro for implementation of the initiative.