B Explanatory memorandum
by Mr von Sydow, rapporteur
1. A motion for a recommendation entitled “The Council
of Europe and the Eastern Partnership of the European Union” was
tabled with the Parliamentary Assembly in February 2009. The motion
was in response to the European Commission’s communication on the
“Eastern Partnership”, aimed at substantially upgrading the level
of political engagement of the European Union in its relations with
six ex-Soviet States: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the
Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
2. According to the European Commission’s communication, the
Eastern Partnership would be based, inter alia,
on mutual commitments to the rule of law, good governance, human
rights and respect for and protection of minorities.
3. The motion for a recommendation notes that five of the six
countries concerned are full members of the Council of Europe and
have commitments and obligations deriving from their accession to
our Organisation. It is therefore essential that the Council of
Europe be fully involved in the implementation of this initiative
in the areas of its core activities. It is also essential that the
projects carried out in the framework of the Eastern Partnership,
such as the establishment of a new Parliamentary Assembly, do not
undermine existing institutions and mechanisms of co-operation.
4. My predecessor, Mr Dariusz Lipiński, was appointed rapporteur
in June 2009. However, following the general elections in Poland
in September 2011, Mr Dariusz Lipiński lost his parliamentary seat
and was unable to complete the work on the report. At the meeting
on 14 November 2011, the Political Affairs Committee took note of
his request to step down as rapporteur. Due to the fact that the
validity of the motion would expire on 31 December 2011, I was asked
to finalise the report with a view to its adoption in committee
on 14 December 2011.
I recall that, in May 2011, the Assembly adopted Resolution 1812 (2011)
on the impact of the Eastern Partnership of the European
Union on governance and economic development in eastern Europe,
on the basis of a report prepared by our colleague Mr Andrea Rigoni
for the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development. Mr Rigoni’s
report contains general information and a thorough analysis of the
Eastern Partnership process.Note
6. For this reason, and also due to the very short time at my
disposal, I will limit myself to the latest developments in the
Eastern Partnership, including the second Eastern Partnership summit
in Warsaw (29-30 September 2011), the inauguration and the first
session of the Euronest Assembly (May and September 2011), and the
joint Communication of the European Commission and the European
Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
“A new response to a changing Neighbourhood” (May 2011), with a
focus on the aspects concerning the Council of Europe. For the rest,
I refer colleagues to Mr Rigoni’s comprehensive report.
2 From European Neighbourhood
Policy towards Eastern Partnership
7. Following the enlargement of the European Union in
2004 and the accession of most of the countries of central and eastern
Europe, the European Union focused on strengthening its relations
and its co-operation with the countries on the eastern and southern
borders of the European Union, which had no immediate prospects
of becoming members of the Union.
8. With this in mind, in 2004, it introduced the European Neighbourhood
Policy to avoid the emergence of new dividing lines between the
enlarged European Union and its neighbours and to reinforce prosperity, stability
and the security of all.
9. To strengthen this policy on its eastern borders and give
it a multilateral framework, the European Union presented a new
initiative: the Eastern Partnership, which was officially launched
at a summit in Prague in May 2009.
10. This initiative concerns six former Soviet States: Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine,
and proposes that they build a comprehensive partnership with the
European Union, based on mutual interests and joint commitments
to the fundamental values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights
and fundamental freedoms, as well as the principles of the market
economy, sustainable development and good governance.
11. The Eastern Partnership seeks to create the necessary conditions
to accelerate political association and further economic integration
between the European Union and interested partner countries. It
is expected to provide the European Union’s support for political
and socio-economic reforms in the partner countries and thereby
improve the stability, security and prosperity of the European Union,
the partner countries and the entire European continent.
12. Political dialogue between the European Union and the partner
countries will be stepped up. With this in mind, meetings of heads
of State or government of the Eastern Partnership will be held every
two years. The second summit was held in Warsaw in September 2011,
under the Polish presidency of the European Union. For their part,
the ministers of foreign affairs will meet once a year.
13. The Eastern Partnership process combines two tracks which
are intended to complement one another: bilateral and multilateral
14. The bilateral track provides for enhanced co-operation between
the European Union and each of the countries involved. It is central
to the entire project. The main objectives of the Eastern Partnership,
namely political association and economic integration between the
participating countries and the European Union, are to be achieved
with the aid of bilateral instruments such as association agreements,
free trade agreements, assistance with institution building and
visa liberalisation. However, the closeness of the relations with
each country depends on the progress it makes with reforms.
15. The multilateral track is intended to supplement co-operation
between the European Union and the participating countries with
projects and initiatives common to all the partners, that is 27+6,
and thereby promote regional co-operation between the partners.
At the same time, it is possible that third countries may be invited
to take part in such projects if that seems useful and is accepted
by all the partners.
The practical work at multilateral level is arranged through
four thematic platforms which meet at least twice a year and cover
the main areas of co-operation, namely:
- democracy, good governance and stability;
- economic integration and convergence with European Union
- energy security;
- contacts between people.
17. In addition to inter-government co-operation, the Partnership
aims at building broader links between societies and peoples, including
at parliamentary, local and civil society levels. An “EU-Neighbourhood
East Parliamentary Assembly” (“Euronest”) was launched in May 2011
and held its first ordinary meeting in September. An assembly of
local and regional authorities should also be established, in addition
to the Civil Society Forum which has been active since November
18. For the European Union, the launch of the Eastern Partnership
was intended to recognise and highlight more clearly that the six
countries concerned are much more than neighbours: they are part
of Europe. However, the European Union made it clear from the outset
that the countries concerned should not regard the Eastern Partnership
as a step towards membership, even though it does not rule out that
19. The partners’ views of the Eastern Partnership vary significantly
from one country to another, depending on their attitudes and expectations
regarding the European Union. Countries which have clearly indicated
their desire to move closer to the European Union or, indeed, to
join it (such as Ukraine) hoped the Eastern Partnership would bring
tangible results in areas such as free trade and visa liberalisation.
Insofar as the expected and promised results are proving slow to
materialise, the initial interest is giving way to disappointment.
Azerbaijan, which does not seek to move closer to the European Union,
uses the Eastern Partnership as an additional framework for expanding
co-operation with it in areas of interest to it. Belarus, which
has only very limited contacts with the European Union, uses the
partnership to establish contacts within a multilateral framework
(it does not take part in the bilateral part of the Eastern Partnership).
3 The Council of Europe and the
Eastern Partnership: the need to co-ordinate the new initiatives
with existing co-operation
3.1 Overlapping between Eastern
Partnership and Council of Europe activities
20. When the European Union announced the launching of
the Eastern Partnership, there were a number of concerns and questions
as to the usefulness of the initiative. Many of the activities in
the political sphere of the Eastern Partnership – those relating
to the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and human rights – appeared
to overlap with the Council of Europe’s activities. The Council
of Europe’s statutory aim is precisely to protect and promote these
values and principles.
21. In this connection, it should be pointed out that five of
the six countries taking part in the Eastern Partnership are Council
of Europe member States and therefore have specific commitments
and general obligations regarding certain fundamental principles
(democracy, human rights and the rule of law).
3.2 Competing or mutually reinforcing
initiatives? The need to fully involve the Council of Europe in
22. In the course of my predecessor’s contacts with officials
of the European Union and of the Council of Europe, he observed
that there was some understanding of the advantages of Council of
Europe participation in the Eastern Partnership for both the European
Union and the partner countries.
23. Indeed, in the case of the multilateral aspects, representatives
of the Council of Europe Secretariat are already taking part in
and are actively contributing to the work of platform 1 (democracy,
good governance and stability) and platform 4 (contacts between
people). By way of example, reference should be made to the Council
of Europe’s contribution to the work of platform 1 in terms of combating
corruption and improving the operation of judicial systems and to
the work of platform 4 in the area of youth policies.
24. On a bilateral level, the documents defining the priorities
of the co-operation between the European Union and the partner countries
(for instance, the list of priorities of the EU-Ukraine Association
Agenda for 2010) also refer to Council of Europe instruments and
25. There seems to be general agreement both within the European
Union and among the partner countries that the Eastern Partnership
should not aim to establish new criteria for member States in the
field of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, other than
those laid down by the Council of Europe, and that the best way
to ensure progress in these fields is for the States concerned to
honour their commitments and obligations as members of the Council
26. The above augurs well for co-operation between the Council
of Europe, the European Union and the States concerned in implementing
the priorities of the Eastern Partnership. We must maintain this
positive momentum throughout the process and ensure that full use
is made of the Council of Europe’s potential, experience and expertise
in bringing about the necessary changes in the countries concerned
in order to achieve practical results. The Council of Europe also
stands to gain, given that the promotion of democracy, the rule
of law and human rights are at the heart of its work.
27. In this context, it is obvious that those Council of Europe’s
activities aimed at assisting Eastern Partnership participating
countries with the implementation of standards should be enhanced,
as should the mechanisms for monitoring compliance with commitments
28. It is also important that the partner countries feel that
they are fully in control of the process, in particular regarding
the choice of priorities.
29. On this point, the new arrangements for financing co-operation
between the European Union and the Council of Europe in the form
of an overall “facility” (package of €4 million), which became operational
in March 2011, offer greater flexibility and could meet the practical
needs of the countries concerned more effectively – naturally, while
taking account of the Council of Europe’s remit and fields of activity.
30. We must also ensure a higher profile and greater recognition
for the Council of Europe’s role and contribution to the realisation
of the Eastern Partnership. To this end, the Council of Europe’s
role as the standard-setting organisation, which seems to be recognised
by the Eastern Partnership stakeholders, should be highlighted more
clearly and systematically reasserted in European Union documents
and declarations concerning the Eastern Partnership.
In this context, it is to be regretted that the Council of
Europe was not associated in the second Eastern Partnership summit
held in Warsaw in September 2011, despite a call by the Assembly
to the Committee of Ministers to prepare a set of proposals on our
Organisation’s contribution to the implementation of the Eastern Partnership
and to present it at the summit.Note
Furthermore, in the
final declaration of the summit, there is not a single reference
to the Council of Europe. In my view, the Ukrainian chairmanship
of the Council of Europe missed an opportunity to highlight the
role that our Organisation already plays in the process, and to
make it even more prominent.
I should also refer to the joint Communication of the European
Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and
Security Policy “A new response to a changing Neighbourhood”,Note
issued in May 2011. The paper reviews
the EU policies in its neighbourhood (European Neighbourhood Policy
(ENP)) with a particular focus on the Eastern Partnership process,
and concludes that “EU support to political reforms in neighbouring
countries has met with limited results”. It further states that
“co-ordination between the EU, its Member States and main international
partners is essential and can be improved”.
33. Taking into account the fact that, in the 2007 Memorandum
of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European
Union, the role of the former is defined as “the benchmark for human
rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe”, one cannot help
but come to the legitimate conclusion that the Council of Europe
should be the main European Union partner when it comes to implementing
reform policies in the Union’s neighbours which are members of our
Organisation. However, the joint communication, which is meant to
define the strategy of the European Union for the years to come,
contains only one single reference to the Council of Europe: “Boosting
co-operation with the Council of Europe could also help in promoting
34. I therefore regret that the Council of Europe’s standard-setting,
advisory and monitoring role is not appropriately reflected in the
basic political documents of the Eastern Partnership and in public
statements on the Partnership. I deem it necessary to make the Council
of Europe contribution to the Eastern Partnership more visible and
3.3 Special case: Belarus
35. Belarus is obviously a special case compared to the
five other countries taking part in the Eastern Partnership.
36. First of all, its democracy and human rights record is extremely
disappointing and continues to be a source of serious concern. The
authorities of Belarus have failed, so far, to put the fundamental
provisions of the Partnership, namely a commitment to democracy,
the rule of law and human rights and fundamental freedoms, into
practice. The developments in the country following the presidential
election in December 2010 and, in particular, the repression of
political opponents of the regime, do not bode well for the country’s
37. Moreover, Belarus, unlike the five other States, is not a
member of the Council of Europe and has no commitments or obligations
in the context of our Organisation.
38. Lastly, unlike the five other partner States, Belarus is not
involved in the bilateral track of the Eastern Partnership. This
makes it all the more difficult for the European Union to exert
real influence over the political processes in the country through
the Eastern Partnership instruments.
39. Nevertheless, the implementation of the multilateral track
of the Eastern Partnership might encourage Belarus to undertake
political reforms and to start bringing its legislation into line
with our standards, which would in the long run facilitate its future
accession to the Council of Europe.
40. In this context, it should be noted that, as a country participating
in the multilateral track of the Eastern Partnership, Belarus has
been invited to take part in all the multilateral activities for
which the Council of Europe is responsible under platform 1 (democracy,
good governance and stability) – even though it is not a member of
the Council of Europe. More specifically, these activities cover
four main areas: electoral standards, support to the judiciary,
measures to combat cybercrime and the fight against corruption.
4 Parliamentary dimension: the
need to avoid duplication
4.1 Establishment of the Euronest
Parliamentary Assembly, its composition, aims and activities
41. The European Parliament proposed to set up an EU-Neighbourhood
East Parliamentary Assembly (Euronest) to give the Eastern Partnership
a parliamentary dimension – on the same principle as the Euro-Latin American
Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLAT) and the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary
Assembly (EMPA). This proposal was welcomed by the heads of State
and government at the Prague summit at which the Eastern Partnership
was officially launched in May 2009.
42. The European Parliament therefore decided to establish the
Euronest Assembly, comprising 120 members: 60 members of the European
Parliament and 60 members representing the parliaments of the partner
countries (10 per country). The question is whether this formula
ensures a balanced representation, given that the population of
Ukraine (48 million inhabitants) is 16 times that of Armenia (3 million).
43. The assembly’s launch, which was initially scheduled for March
2010, had to be deferred several times because of disagreement between
the European Parliament and the Belarusian authorities on how the
latter should be represented. The European Parliament does not recognise
the legitimacy of the Belarusian Parliament and insisted on a mixed
form of representation including leading opposition figures who
are not members of parliament, which Belarus did not accept.
44. The speakers of parliaments of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova,
Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia declared their common opinion on
the necessity to include Belarusian MPs in Euronest. However, the
events in Belarus after the presidential election of 19 December
2010 forced them to relinquish their position. Following the harassment
of the opposition by the Belarusian authorities, it was decided
that the Belarusian delegation would not be invited to join Euronest
until such time as the OSCE recognises parliamentary elections in
that country as democratic.
45. On 20 April 2011, the European Parliament finally agreed to
launch Euronest without the official participation of the Belarusian
Parliament. On 3 May 2011, Euronest was finally inaugurated in Brussels
by 50 members of the European Parliament and 50 representatives
of parliaments of the partner States (10 from each country, except
for Belarus). The assembly adopted the constituent act and rules
46. Euronest elected its two co-presidents, Kristian Vigenin (Bulgaria)
and Borys Tarasyuk (Ukraine), as well as eight vice-presidents,
to form a bureau: Vahan Hovhannisyan (Armenia), Elkhan Suleymanov
(Azerbaijan), David Darchiashvili (Georgia), Igor Corman (Republic
of Moldova), Traian Ungureanu (Romania), Ryszard Czarnecki (Poland),
Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (Netherlands) and Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (Poland).
It is worth mentioning that Mr Elkhan Suleymanov and Mr David Darchiashvili
are respectively members of the national delegations of Azerbaijan
and Georgia to the Parliamentary Assembly. The delegations of Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Ukraine include two Assembly members, while the delegation
of Georgia includes four. Several delegations also comprise former
members of our Assembly.
47. Euronest has established four standing committees: Committee
on Political Affairs, Human Rights and Democracy; Committee on Economic
Integration, Legal Approximation and Convergence with European Union Policies;
Committee on Energy Security; and the Committee on Social Affairs,
Education, Culture and Civil Society. Each of the committees is
composed of 30 members: 15 from the European Parliament and 15 from the
parliaments of the partner States.
48. Euronest has also set up two working groups, the first one
on Belarus and the second one on working procedures.
49. Euronest meets, in principle, once a year, alternately in
an Eastern Partnership country and on the premises of the European
Parliament in one of its places of work (Brussels, Luxembourg or
Strasbourg). The first regular meeting of Euronest was held in Strasbourg
in September 2011.
4.2 Possible synergy and complementarity,
and the need for co-ordination, with the Parliamentary Assembly
50. The establishment of the Euronest Assembly raises
a number of questions, including among the parliamentarians from
the partner countries taking part in it. Some believe that it would
have been better to involve delegations from these countries in
the work of the European Parliament, with observer status, rather than
establishing a new bureaucratic and expensive institution with uncertain
51. The work of the Euronest Assembly is organised in four committees
(see above) to ensure parliamentary monitoring and scrutiny of the
four thematic platforms of the multilateral co-operation. If Euronest
is called on to evaluate the progress made in achieving the objectives
of the Eastern Partnership in the field of political reforms to
consolidate democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human
rights, the result will be a duplication of the activities of our
Assembly – and even the risk of differences of evaluation and contradictions between
the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Euronest.
52. It will therefore be necessary to be very careful to avoid
contradictions and possible conflicts and to ensure that the work
of the two assemblies is co-ordinated and complementary.
53. One of the practical ways of making sure that the work is
complementary would be to appoint as members of the Euronest Assembly
representing partner States’ parliaments, members of these States’ delegations
to the Parliamentary Assembly. This is already the case, at least
in part, as regards some delegations, as mentioned above. However,
it should become, if not the rule, at least regular practice.
54. In addition, in order to avoid any overlapping, we should
think of arrangements and methods which allow the Parliamentary
Assembly to participate in the work of the Euronest Assembly.
55. This topic was raised by Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the President
of our Assembly, at his meetings with Mr Jerzy Buzek, the President
of the European Parliament, and the chairs of the European Parliament’s
main political groups in early March 2010. Our president stressed
the need for the two institutions to co-ordinate their policies
and messages concerning countries that were the subject of Assembly
monitoring and made it clear that the Assembly should be an active
participant in Euronest.
56. The President of the Assembly also wrote to the President
of the European Parliament on 15 March 2010 to stress once more
the need for close Assembly involvement from the outset in the activities
of the Euronest Assembly.
57. These steps were not, however, followed by any reaction on
the European Parliament side. Our Assembly received no invitation
to the inaugural sitting of Euronest, nor to its first regular meeting.
58. Nonetheless, I believe that our Assembly should continue to
raise the point in our contacts with the European Parliament at
various levels, including at joint meetings of political groups
of the Assembly and the Parliament.
59. The Eastern Partnership aims at building a comprehensive
partnership between the European Union and six post-Soviet States
(Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova
and Ukraine) on the basis of mutual interests and joint commitments
to the fundamental values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights
and fundamental freedoms, as well as the principles of market economy,
sustainable development and good governance.
60. Five of these six countries, with the exception of Belarus,
are fully-fledged members of the Council of Europe and are therefore
bound by general obligations and specific commitments as regards
the fundamental principles of democracy, respect for human rights
and the rule of law entered into upon their accession to our Organisation.
61. As the degree of the European Union’s partnership with the
partner countries is conditional upon their progress on the path
of democratic reforms, the Eastern Partnership is a welcome co-operation
framework insofar as it may encourage and contribute to political,
institutional and legal reforms in the partner countries, thus helping
them to meet their statutory obligations and commitments stemming
from their Council of Europe membership, for the benefit of their
62. The Council of Europe contributes to the implementation of
the Eastern Partnership at both bilateral and multilateral level,
in particular in the framework of platform 1 on democracy, good
governance and stability, where four areas of co-operation (electoral
standards, support to the judiciary, the fight against corruption
and the fight against cybercrime) are defined as priorities. We
should welcome the agreement between the Council of Europe and the
European Commission on a €4 million financial facility instrument
to enable our Organisation to implement concrete activities in these
63. However, it is regrettable that the Council of Europe's role
is not appropriately reflected in the basic political documents
of the Eastern Partnership and in public statements on the Partnership.
The Council of Europe contribution to the Eastern Partnership must
be made more visible and duly acknowledged.
64. In order to achieve this goal, we should call on all the stakeholders
of the Eastern Partnership to make systematically an explicit reference
to the Council of Europe membership of five out of the six partner
countries, as well as to their ensuing obligations, to make more
visible the standard-setting, advisory and monitoring role of the
Council of Europe, as well as its operational capabilities involved
in the implementation of the Partnership, and to refer explicitly
to, and to take fully into account, the findings of the Council
of Europe monitoring mechanisms, including the monitoring procedure
of the Assembly.
65. While taking note of the establishment of an EU-Neighbourhood
East Parliamentary Assembly (Euronest) aimed at supporting, promoting
and consolidating the Eastern Partnership process at parliamentary level,
we should insist on the need to seek synergies and complementarity
and avoid overlaps and conflicting messages.
66. The parliaments of the Council of Europe member States participating
in the Eastern Partnership should be invited, when participating
in Euronest, to ensure synergy, co-ordination and continuity with
the work carried out at the Assembly, including by appointing to
their delegations members of parliament who sit in the Assembly,
or who have previously been members of it.