Rebuking Russia, three presidents sign statement on EU integration.
The presidents of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine on Monday jointly proclaimed their commitment to a European future, standing with European Council President Charles Michel in what amounted to a triple rebuff of Russia, which has menaced all three countries in an effort to thwart their Western aspirations.
The striking display of pro-EU unity came at the annual Batumi Conference, on Georgia’s Black Sea coast.
“We have a lot in common,” Georgian President Salomé Zourabichvili said, standing with Michel, alongside Maia Sandu of Moldova and Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine.
“A common past, common challenges to our sovereignty and territorial integrity, common challenges to our security and those destabilization attempts that can come from outside forces, as well as from internal forces,” Zourabichvili said. “But we have in common also that we do not want to return to the past. We are ready and determined to fight for our European future.”
She added: “Our response is clear. It is a European response. Neither adventure nor resignation or stagnation, but advance, advance steadily in the right direction — in the direction of Europe and that is called resilience.”
Monday’s event was a marked triumph for the EU’s 12-year-old Eastern Partnership initiative, an effort to reach out to former Soviet states, that has suffered numerous setbacks over the years and, at times, seemed at risk of doing more harm than good.
A decision by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to turn away from the Eastern Partnership, breaking a promise to his own citizens, led to the Maidan Revolution, as well as Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, and the now seven-year-long military conflict in Donbas, which remains unresolved.
Russia has supported frozen military conflicts within the territories of all three countries in an effort to hinder their bids to move closer to the EU.
Zelenskiy, in a symbolic gesture, on Monday visited the line of contact in the conflict over the Georgian region of Abkhazia, which is occupied by Russia and recognized by Moscow as an independent state.
Last month, the Belarusian dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, withdrew his country from the Eastern Partnership program, after the EU imposed batteries of sanctions over a fraudulent presidential election last August, repression of pro-democracy demonstrators, and the forced landing of a Ryanair passenger jet.
In Moldova, Sandu’s Party of Action and Solidarity won a resounding victory in parliamentary elections this month by campaigning on a pro-EU platform. And in recent years, the Georgian and Ukrainian governments have consistently reiterated their aspirations to join both the EU and NATO.
In statements to the press later in the day, Sandu cited the political association agreements and comprehensive free trade agreements signed by the Eastern Partnership countries as “the backbone of our national reform agendas.”
“The Eastern Partnership is a major success for our countries,” she said, adding, “With our Georgia and Ukrainian friends today we shared our views on the next steps that our countries could take to strengthen the Eastern Partnership even more … as countries that want to build Europe at home, but also become part of the European family.”
Source: Politico.eu July 19, 2021