Februar 10, 2011

Eastern EU Members "go for color" and accept responsibility for Eastern Partnership countries

For nearly two decades, the Eastern EU Members enjoy the advantage of democracy. Since 2004 all of them are able to enjoy the same benefits as full EU Members. It is time to break that stranglehold of the past of beeing a kind of second-class member and to create a new democratic environment that applies to all Eastern neighbours of the European Union. The whole development in the Eastern Partnership countries open a window of opportunity to come to a sustainable and durable influence on the European Eastern policy.

New operating system: Civil society has become top priority

All the new EU members know from their own experience, the radical change in 1989 was a fantastic experiment inspired not by historical entitlements or military conquests by some avant-garde European (or foreign) nation, but a fundamentally practical upheavel supported by a broad domestic civil society and by common values. Now is the time the civil society in the neighbouring countries needs to hear such things from the new EU members.

As a consequence of the latest events in Belarus, Poland has increasingly been "sharpening" its profile and will in future concentrate on important major areas of focus within the democratic development work it conducts: economic modernisation and democratic transformation, the creation of additional influence channels and providing individual support for the civil society.

Instead of waiting for the European Union to adopt a united policy toward Belarus, Poland moved quickly with its unusual unilateral effort. The steps included extending its Belarussian-language television to Belarus, opening its universities to Belarussian students who can no longer complete their studies back home because of their political activities and establishing a center in Warsaw for the Belarussian opposition. Poland waived also a €20 visa fee for any Belarussian wishing to travel to Poland, The New York Times reported.  Estonia took also this step and waived national visa fee for Belarusian citizens. At the same time, Poland has imposed a travel ban for all those in Belarus implicated in election rigging and repressions against presidential candidates and participants of protest action on December 19, 2010.

It might be argued that Poland has taken a leading role in European efforts to promote democracy in Belarus. At the beginning of February 2011 Poland hosted a donors' conference “Solidarity with Belarus”. At the meeting, Polish foreign policy is getting slightly bitter towards undemocratic countries. Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, expressed his disappointment with Alexander Lukashenko: "President Lukashenko, you are losing (power)... Sooner or later you will be forced to flee your own country, chased by your own people, to seek asylum in another country," he said quoted by KyivPost. Mr. Sikorski used the events in North Africa and the Middle East as a reference model for comparison with the real situation in Belarus: "After developments in Tunisia and Egypt, this is becoming even more evident. In Minsk too, you will have to keep an aircraft ready for quick take-off at any time," Sikorski told quoted by KyivPost.

As a result of the conference, the European Commission will increase European funding from the currently available €4 million to €15.6 million. European support will target Belarusian NGOs, independent media and students who are subject to the regime’s repression. Eastern EU Members heeded the Commission's call for financial support. For example, Romania will donate 100,000 euros to support the civil society in Belarus. Lithuanian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Evaldas Ignatavicius said that Lithuania would increase support for the Belarusian civil society through the Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Programme.

Estonia also has taken appropriate steps to ensure that the principles of strengthening the administrative capabilities of the public sector in Eastern Partner states and sharing reform experiences with them are being adhered to in all cases. On 26 January 2011 Estonia opened an Eastern Partnership Center, a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Estonian School of Diplomacy.

If Eastern EU Members want to remain competitive, they have to respond to general evolutions in Eastern Europe!

It seems to me to be crucially important that every person should assume responsibility for their own future and their own life. However, openess, dialogue and multiple contacts schould be a part of a competitive foreign policy.

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