The Eastern Partnership seems set to enter a new phase, reviving hopes for Ukraine's European aspirations.
After the Orange Revolution many pro-European Ukrainians hoped that the political changes taking place in their country would promptly lead to EU membership talks. At the very least they expected that the pro-Western course proclaimed by the Yushchenko administration would see Ukraine move towards European norms and standards. Yet after five years of partisanship and instability, however, hopes wilted away. Indeed, following the election of President Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian villain of the Orange Revolution, many feared that Ukraine had missed its window of opportunity for years to come.
Within this context the Eastern Partnership (EaP) appeared as a partial solution, aiming to structure relations between the EU and six of its Eastern neighbors (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine). The program, the product of Swedish-Polish cooperation (with Czech assistance), was inaugurated in Prague on May 7, 2009. Since then, however, many experts have expressed worries about its future, particularly in light of political changes taking place in Eastern Europe and its possible effect on potential effect on relations with Russia, which opposed the project from its very beginning. These concerns, as well as the upcoming Polish EU presidency, set for the second half of 2011, prompted the Polish Institute of International Affairs to organize a conference in Lublin on November 3-5, in the hopes of resolving existing problems and exploring the possibilities for the EaP.
In the beginning there was trade
As no civilization can grow without trade, so no political partnership can exist without an economic one. Hence it is only fitting that Ukraine's first big step towards Europe take the form of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which is to be implemented within the Ukraine-EU framework. As Ewa Synowiec, head of the European Commission Representation in Poland and one of the chief negotiators of the DCFTA deal explained, the trade agreement is largely based on WTO rules with an additional emphasis on regulatory approximation and legal harmonization.