Closer EU ties with post-Soviet states not aimed against Russia: Estonia FM

Closer EU ties with post-Soviet states not aimed against Russia: Estonia FM

PanARMENIAN.Net - Some post-Soviet republics' attempts for closer ties with the EU are not aimed against Russia, Estonian Foreign Minister said.

As Urmas Paet said in an interview with Interfax, there's no reason for conflict even if Ukraine signs a free trade agreement with the EU. The whole issue, he said, is "blown out of proportion."

"The Eastern Partnership program is not an anti-Russian one, cooperation with post-Soviet republics being beneficial to the latters," he said.

Easter Partnership projects will not end with the Ukraine-EU association and free trade agreements inking and initialing of similar deals with Moldova and Georgia, the official said.

"Much depends on the expectations of the republics in question. While Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova seek closer ties with the EU, other states show more restraint," he said.

The official found it hard to say which of the 6 states involved in the program will be ready to sign the free trade and association agreements. "Much here depends on the EU's stance," he said, according to Rosbalt.

Armenia completed technical talks on a ‘deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement' (DCFTA) with the EU in July and it was set to be signed at a summit with the EU in late November. In addition to a free-trade deal, Armenia has been working towards the signing of an association agreement with the EU, a framework agreement on co-operation that is seen as a first step towards political integration with the EU.

However, during a Sept 3 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenian leader Sargsyan said Armenia is ready to join Customs Union, with further plans to be involved in formation of the Eurasian Economic Union. Mr. Putin supported the initiative, vowing procedural assistance to Armenia.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt described Armenia’s intention as a U-turn in relations with the European Union. “Seems as if Armenia will break talks on free trade agreement with EU and integrate with Russia instead,” he said.

Linas Linkevicius, the Foreign Minister of Lithuania, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said Armenia “has blocked its chances of signing a free trade deal with the European Union by choosing to join the Russia-led union.” “We respect any choice of countries but they cannot enter both organizations at the same time because of different tariff requirements,” he said.

In a separate statement, Linkevicius and seven other ministers from Nordic and Baltic countries warned against Russian pressure on post-Soviet states. “Any economic threat or political pressure directed against Eastern partners because of their European aspirations and engagement with the EU is unacceptable,” they said.

The European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fule said the Customs Union membership is not compatible with the DCFTAs which have been negotiated with Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia.

“This is not because of ideological differences; this is not about a clash of economic blocs, or a zero-sum game. This is due to legal impossibilities: for instance, you cannot at the same time lower your customs tariffs as per the DCFTA and increase them as a result of the Customs Union membership,” he said during the European Parliament plenary meeting in Strasbourg in a statement on “the pressure exercised by Russia on countries of the Eastern Partnership.”

“It may certainly be possible for members of the Eastern Partnership to increase their cooperation with the Customs Union, perhaps as observers; and participation in a DCFTA is of course fully compatible with our partners' existing free trade agreements with other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) states,” Fule said.

The Customs Union was formed in 2010 to include of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia; Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan later expressed willingness to join the Union.

Eastern Partnership

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is the first comprehensive initiative introduced into the system of the European Union’s external relations, addressed to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Eastern Partnership is designed to help the countries of Eastern Europe and South Caucasus with their approximation to and integration with the European Union. The EaP has injected a new quality into relations between the EU and the countries covered by the initiative through their gradual integration with the European Union.

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