13.01.2015 [News]

Eastern Partnership and Central Asia relations rank high on the agenda of the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union

What are the European Union’s main challenges which the incoming Latvian Presidency of the EU Council will need to address? On  4 December 2014 a large-scale Latvian EU Pre-Presidency conference titled 'Moving the Union forward: Involvement, Growth, Sustainability' was held in Riga. EU relations with the Eastern Partnership and the Central Asian countries ranked high on the agenda.

In preparation of the Eastern Partnership Summit, wich is scheduled to take place in Riga on 21-22 May 2015, a panel session titled 'Towards the Riga Summit: Eastern Partnership as a Community of Values or Interests?' addressed related issues:

'The foundations and direction of the Eastern Partnership are now being reconsidered, not least because of the events in Ukraine. What future developments can the EU introduce on its own side and what can we expect from our partners? How does the Sakharov vision of values (such as human rights, freedom, and democracy) go together with the immediate needs of security and economic development? Can we expect ever greater convergence between the visions of development of the EU and its Eastern neighbors?' (quote from the conference programme)

'Going Beyond the Eastern Partnership: Central Asia as a Priority of the Latvian EU Presidency' was another panel discussion:

'Over the last few years Central Asia came back on the EU’s map of world politics. To a great extent this was driven by Latvia’s efforts. The upcoming presidency plans to focus on such aspects as security and stability, border management, economic development, transit and transportation networks, and education. The EU’s Central Asia strategy will also be reviewed. Why is this region increasingly important for the EU, and on which sectors of cooperation should we focus? What are the main challenges to overcome? How do we get not only EU members on board but also major international players?' (quote from the coference programme)

Dr. Wolfgang Wessels, professor from the University of Cologne, pointed out that presidencies mainly have to deal with so called 'business as usual'. 'For example, strategy review of the Central Asia probably is not an exceptional innovation but it is necessary for moving forward,' said the professor.

The Programme of the Latvian Presidency states:

'During the Riga Eastern Partnership Summit, a strong signal reaffirming long-term EU strategic support for the ENP should be sent. The review process should allow the EU to develop more flexible and inclusive approaches to all its partner countries based on differentiation and an emphasis on joint ownership.' and 'Latvia also looks forward to the review of the EU-Central Asia Strategy. EU engagement with the region can be enhanced by discussions on security, border management, energy supply, and educational exchange, while keeping civil society interests and human rights on the table.'

The Trans European Policy Studies Assocoiation (TEPSA) has the tradition to formulate recommendations to the incoming presidency and present the country with the main conclusions. Recommendations for the Latvian Presdiency were presented in this conference. Among the most important suggestions researchers mentioned: In the field of foreign affairs the researchers suggest to create a European Global Strategy instead of primarily focusing on the neighborhood. They stress that the current geopolitical situation is evidently calling into question the basis of the EU foreign and security policy and proving that the EU ambitions to have a strategic partnership with third countries (including Russia) have not been accomplished. European foreign and security policy is not merely regional, on the contrary – the EU has to be engaged with other parts of the world and not just economically but as an effective security actor.

Sources: Website of the Secretariat of the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council and Official Website of the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council