Eastern partnership in a different scenario


The visit of the Georgian president to Minsk on March 2-3, 2017, can noticeably revive the topic of integration with the European Union of a group of post-Soviet countries participating in the "Eastern Partnership" project among which Belarus is also trying to be active.

Today, both in Brussels and in other capitals there is notable pessimism regarding this unpromising project. However, there is no adequate optimism about the future of the European Union itself, which is facing a profound crisis.



Deadlock partnership

Nevertheless, the declarations announced at the Prague Summit have created optimism about the future of the Eastern Partnership project (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus) and the EU leadership.

Subsequent summits of the Eastern partners have introduced nothing new. However, the latest Riga summit, has indicated the necessity for participation of the six countries in this project at different paces. As known, Belarus was among those who considered the development of trade and economic relations to be a priority, pushing away the fundamental values of the EU (human rights, freedom of speech, and assembly, democratic elections) to an uncertain future.

At present, Brussels welcomes with understanding, which they call pragmatism. It cannot be said that other European capitals are dominated by some other attitude towards such Eastern partners. Moreover, there has been a revival of bilateral and, to a lesser extent, multilateral, interregional cooperation projects between these partners.

In this context, the development of Belarusian-Georgian interstate relations is becoming evident as well. Undeniably, the position of Minsk on the problem of the territorial integrity of Georgia and the official non-recognition of Russian protectorates, which Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain, give a special tone to them. They have an embassy in Moscow, but not in Minsk.

Official visits of Lukashenka and his Foreign Minister to Georgia confirmed the immutability of this position last year. Furthermore, due to the obvious deepening of the crisis in relations between Putin and Lukashenka, the current visit of the Georgian president to Minsk acquires special interest, both in Europe and among the other participants of the EU "Eastern Partnership" project. As the, If at the beginning of the project Kremlin officials and thinkers in Moscow believed it to be an anti-Russian idea of Brussels, but now the attitude towards the project is smooth and calm. Obviously, such an attitude is fueled by the challenges which the EU and Europe as whole are facing.


The forgotten GUAM

However, being in such situation is forcing the European Union to consolidate to save its own future and give new breath to some half-forgotten projects in the post-Soviet space, for example, GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova). This structure was established with a pro-Western perspective 20 years ago. The “Rose Revolution” in Tbilisi and the “Orange Revolution” in Kiev were driving reasons of attempts to create this inter-regional community against Russia. However, open confrontation with Moscow did not please Baku at all, while Chisinau did not show any special deal in this. And GUAM has turned into a club of friends who meet and organize summits, but they do not take serious decisions, like the CIS.

Precisely, after the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war, Georgia withdrew from the Russian orbit of influence. Meanwhile, GUAM turned out to be four out of six participants of the "Eastern Partnership" project, except for Belarus and Armenia, for which only Russia is the guarantor of the status-quo in Karabakh. But there are lively discussions about the guarantor of the state independence of the Republic of Belarus today in European and other political circles. In many ways, they were stimulated by the Crimean blitzkrieg.


Belarus is not waiting?

Therefore, the current behavior of Minsk in such integration projects as the Eurasian Economic Union, and in a conditional "allied state" gives more and more reasons to some experts and observers to talk about the reality of the prospects for Belarus' integration with the resurgent GUAM. The idea of Lukashenka is "integration of integration."

Moreover, such expert assessments are both in the West and in the East, as well as some ultra-optimists in general believe that the Kremlin's foreign policy is almost inevitably capable of turning GUAM into an alliance that is opposing Moscow at close approaches. A kind of Euro-Union "Eastern Partnership" in a different scenario.

Meanwhile, March promises an increased interest in the topic of the growing activity of such an organization as GUAM. It is possible that more information about this may appear after the Kiev GUAM summit.


Major partners of GUAM will arrive in Kiev

As far as we know, on March 27, 2017, after a series of postponements a meeting of the heads of government of GUAM member states will take place in Kiev. According to the Georgian Foreign Ministry, this was announced during the meeting of Foreign Minister Mikhail Janelidze and GUAM Secretary General Altai Efendiyev. The parties discussed the main agenda, the new program of cooperation of the organization, which was decided to be titled "Together for a Strong GUAM". The parties agreed on political consolidation within the framework of GUAM, further deepening of sectoral cooperation, as well as holding political consultations with GUAM partners - the United States, Japan, the countries of the Visegrad Group.