14 january

EU’s 2014 priorities: Signed trade accord with Moldova; improved democracy in Belarus

One of European Union’s priorities for 2014 with regard to Eastern Partnership countries is to sign the Association Agreement with Moldova by the end of August 2014. A statement in this regard was made by Peter Stano, spokesman of Commissioner Štefan Füle, who is in charge with EU’s Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy.

Officials in Brussels also expect an enhancement of the political institutions in the country that will strengthen democracy.

“We expect continuation of the good cooperation we had with Moldovan partners in 2013, strengthening of democratic principles in the political institution of the country and the highlight of this year in our relations should be signature of the Association Agreement, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between the EU and Moldova no later than the end of August 2014,” Peter Stano said in an exclusive statement for Moldova.ORG.

Moldova, along with Georgia, initialed an Association Agreement with the European Union at the Eastern Partnership Summit in November last year. The deal is meant to create better trade conditions between sides, lifting import and export tariffs.

With regard to Ukraine, the European Union is still open to sign an Association Agreement, since this a good way to undertake reforms and modernize the country.

“This offer is on the table,” Mr. Stano said. “Our position is clear: the Association Agreement is the blueprint for reforms and modernization of Ukraine. It is an offer to the country and to its people bringing numerous benefits for both sides and also for the neighbors of our neighbors.”

Ukraine has been facing massive protests lately after President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit. He chose better ties with Russia instead.

The latest rally took place on Sunday when thousands gathered in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, to protest the beating of an opposition leader who was hospitalized due to severe injuries.

EU’s relations with Belarus seem to have seen a gradual improvement lately, the spokesman said. Authorities in Minsk launched talks on visa-free travel regime and readmission at the Eastern Partnership Summit.

European Commission will not change their current “critical engagement unless human rights, democracy and rule of law situation is improved.” A test of democracy for Belarus will take place during local elections of March this year.

“It should nonetheless be stated that the EU is not ready to change its current policy of critical engagement unless human rights, democracy and rule of law situation is improved,” Mr. Stano pointed out. “We will also closely monitor the way local elections will be carried out on 23rd March. EU cooperation funding will again put a great emphasis on the support to the civil society.”