Does EU have an eastern policy?


- Why have the Baltics, Poland and Ukraine slammed the German-Russian Baltic gas pipeline?

- Can the EU do more to promote democracy and civil society in Belarus?

- And what are Ukraine's prospects of joining the EU?


The German-Russian deal struck last autumn to build a pipeline under the Baltic Sea to pump natural gas from Russia continues to raise concerns in the Baltic States, Poland and Ukraine. These countries' leaders have said they felt uneasy about, what they felt was, deals being made behind their back on an issue as vital as energy security.

This report by Michal Zajac in Tallinn.

'Haapsalu is one of Estonia's summer resorts. Situated on the Baltic Sea, it offers long beaches, hence thousands of holidaymakers flock here in search of sunshine, water and relaxation... But soon somewhere among the waves, on the bottom of the sea, a pipeline will be built pumping gas from Russia to Germany. Will it prove hazard-free or at least neutral to the organisms living in the Baltic Sea and humans as well?'

Even though most of the information concerning the manner in which the gas pipeline will be constructed remains secret, environmentalists in the Baltic states still say that threats to the environment do exist. After all, the gas pipeline is to be laid on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, there may be a temptation to add more pipelines to transport chemicals or crude oil. According to Estonian environmental protection expert Marek Strandberg no matter how advanced technologies are applied, the life of the Baltic Sea along the pipe line will feel their consequences.

'If there are plans to lay this pipeline on basements, this also means very intensive construction work and excavating on the bottom of the sea. This will heavily reduce the penetration of the light in the sea to the organisms which need solar light. It's impossible to build this pipeline without any impact on the environment.'

Estonia, just like the remaining Baltic states, is opposed to the German-Russian plans. The four billion euro project to construct a 1,200-km gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea is to be completed by 2010. The pipeline is to skirt Estonia, so Tallinn doesn't feel it will lose any potential transit fees, but it's still voicing its reluctance to the venture.

When it comes to the Baltic states, there is one overriding concern. Estonians still feel that Russia is casting a long shadow over their newly independent country. Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute Andres Kasekamp argues that Estonia's concerns over the German-Russian pipeline have several dimensions.

'The first one is a purely political level of not being consulted, of having the big powers in Europe deciding on something which concerns us without being consulted. And this, of course, has echoes of what has happened in the past. Historical emotion is there. This pipeline is immedietely outside our territorial waters and this could have a direct environmental impact on us.'

But Germany and Russia stand by the deal signed by Gerhard Schroeder and Valdimir Putin in Berlin on September 8 last year. The pipeline's construction is likely to go ahead next year. Estonia is aware that opposing the plans can bring about no results. That's why Prime Minister Andrus Ansip is determined to focus on diversifying energy sources.

'We are very much interested in having our energy system connected to the Scandinavian and Polish ones. To achieve this goal Estonia and Poland will ask for funds from the European Union.'


The elections both in Belarus and Ukraine this past spring were disappointing for the European Union. In Ukraine a pro-Russian party, sidelined during the Orange revolution of 2004, romped back into domestic politics. In Belarus, the democratic opposition failed to unseat the ruthless autocratic regime of Alexander Lukashenko. His massive security machine - employing an estimated one in 10 of the population - heavily rigged the elections in his favour. But even if he hadn't manipulated the elections, most observers think he would have won anyway - albeit with a smaller margin...

This begs the question: did the EU really use all its weight to influence the outcome of those elections? Or do the results in both Ukraine and Belarus demonstrate how limited the influence of the European Union is on its eastern neighbours. Deutsche Welle's Barbara Gruber has a closer look at EU-Belarussian relations.

'Aldis Kuskis, the vice chairman of the Belarussian delegation in the European parliament says its hard to believe what's going on in Belarus. First the rigged elections, then the violent crack downs on anti-government demonstrators and the arrests of all democratic opposition leaders. Stepping up its response last week the European Union launched a procedure to seize any foreign assets of President Alexander Lukashenko and 35 of his top aids. Kuskis says this was long overdue '.

'This money is stolen from the people of Belarussia. This money is earned trading the arms with the worst possible dictatorships in the world. Lukashenko is the top five dictator in the world, the last one in Europe.'

'A few weeks earlier the European Union had also introduced a visa ban restricting the travel of leading Belarussian politicians after the rigged elections in mid-March. But Aldis Kuskis remains sceptical as to whether these measures will have any real impact. After all Belarussian politicians rarely travel to the EU and are not known to have any financial assets in the Union. And even if they do the prolonged discussions about freezing assets has left them plenty of time to transfer funds elsewhere or cover their tracks. And yet Kuskis says these highly symbolic measures are a step in the right direction. He stresses though, that the European parliament has always been the most energetic and strongest supporter of democratic change in Belarus.'

'A year ago we were talking about supporting democratic civil society. Today, we are already dealing with the opposition. I believe, in the near future, we would be talking and dealing with the overthrowing the regime. This just takes time for the European Commission to change their structurized financial and other rules. And it takes time to discuss this between 25 countries in the council as t he European Council is more united and straight and direct.

'Indeed it was the European parliament which invited opposition leader Alexander Milinkiewicx to address the European assembly in Strasburg. He called for support from Europe and sketched out possible options for European cooperation. Along with sanctions stipends for Belarussian students evicted from their universities after recent demsonstrations are seen as an important measure. - Likewise supporting free and uncensored media is another big task that the UN has taken on.'

'Only informed Belarussians could take the right decisions. If they are not informed they are not taking the right decisions. Freedom of choice is the highest possible freedom to fight for.'

'And while opposition parties in Belarus might not enjoy nation wide support anti-Lukashenko rallies following the rigged elections were encouraging signs of a nations opposition. Alexander Furlingin, the president and founder of Equipe Europa, an organization that trains new and future EU members witnessed the demonstration in the capital Minsk.

'It was interesting to see that the opposition was flying the opposition flag, white-red-white, the classical one, but a lot of Ukrainian flags, which is symbolic, one or two Russian flags to say, help us better, and a lot of European flags , even some from Georgia. So, showing the flags was showing what the opposition really want: to follow Georgia and Ukraine and to be Europe.'

'So has Europe offered the Belurussian opposition the solidarity and support they were calling for? Jean Francois Vallinhed, an NGO promoting a Belarussian and Ukrainian issues in Brussels . He argues Europe's support has only been diplomatic window dressing issuing a few warnings unbinding resolutions and some cosmetic sanctions. '

'The fundamental problem is that the European Union refuses to give Belarus a concrete offer of membership to aim for so anything thr Belarussian opposition comes up with to promote EU membership falls on deaf ears. How do you expect them to campaign when the EU isn't supporting their cause. It's a scandal . Geographically speaking this country is part of Europe. There is not one square metre that is outside the EU. I mean really if you don't open up the doors to the west then obviously Belarus will look east - to Russia.'

'And many in Brussels say the European Union will also have to turn to Russia and remind Vladimir Putin that Russia's ties with EuroBalt were more than Lukashenko 's gratitude. The EU has already put Belarus on the agenda of the up coming G8 summit in St Petersburg and if the EU is really serious about putting an end to Europe's last dictatorship Europeans will have to seriously review their so-called neighborhood policy and ask themselves if warnings, non-binding resolutions and cosmetic sanctions shouldn't be followed up with saubstantive actions.'


The European Radio for Belarus has been broadcasting for young Belarussians out of the Polish capital Warsaw for three months now. The situation of independent media in Belarus ruled by the authoritarian Lukashenko regime is difficult. By combining attractive content such as popular music and independent news coverage, the station aims to foster a new generation of listeners. More from Gabriel Stille in Warsaw.

The station "European Radio for Belarus" is not, as you might think, a foreign radio station broadcasting to Belarus. Instead, it's a Belarusian station mainly operating out of Warsaw. As soon as the circumstances permit, it will pack its bags and move to Minsk.

We have been asked frequently by other journalists, that are you like Radio Svoboda, Radio Free Europe which said that when democracy comes, it closes the next day. And we say that it is not our goal. We are doing vice versa, we hope that when changes come, we can return there and work as a professional, attractive radio station with balanced information and education content which would be really recognisable by people in Belarus. I think this is the main difference of our project and other pro-democracy projects around Belarus.

The station aims, not at people already into independent media, but ordinary young Belarusians, and uses all possible means to reach out to its audience. Maria Sadovskaya is the coordinator in the Warsaw headquarters:

We are trying to introduce more entertainment. I mean, we broadcast 24 hours already by satellite and internet, and we will of course expand our FM broadcasting when possible. And what we are trying is to show them attractive things, music which they cannot listen to at home. This is one thing. The other thing that the information, the news that we try to do, is more or less of attractive content. For example, the program "Window on Europe", which we are broadcasting daily for an hour, includes European news but also news of European fashion or music, reviews of possibilies for education or for travelling and other things like that. We will introduce more musical content, and all those things will at the same time be balanced by really professional news from Belarus, which would and are telling about political and economical realities in Belarus.

Using Internet to reach its audience has proved successful throughout the three months that ERB have been in operation. The FM broadcasts from Poland and Lithuania can only be heard in the border regions, whereas now 20 % of Belarusians have internet access through the national service provider.

Most of the reactions have been positive. We even had cases when young Belarusians rebroadcasted our program free of charge in their local computer network, and they put a link and said, OK, if someone doesn't want to pay traffic for listening to the radio, please join our home computer network. So that was quite encouraging.

European Radio for Belarus is coordinated from abroad, funded by the governments of USA and the Czech Republic, and the European Commission, but retains a presence in Belarus, despite the many problems faced by media there. During the recent presidential election, won by Lukashenko but widely regarded as unfair, ERB proved an important news channel:

While many other informational channels were blocked, our radio functioned and we were the first source to get some news about what was happening in the streets.

By gaining experience in the field of broadcast, ERB is also preparing to contribute to the civil society of a free Belarus as a regular radio station. Thus getting journalists and listeners alike ready for a pluralistic society, ERB takes part in a long term strive to finally make Europe's last dictatorship safe for democracy.


Since its orange revolution two years ago, Ukraine has declared that it wants to join the European Union. "The EU must be open to those who have clearly chosen their future and are prepared to share the continent of Europe", Ukrainian president Viktor Yuschenko said recently. More on Ukraine's aspirations from Tetyana Harbul of Radio Ukraine International.

Ukraine is not a EU member but it's foreign policy is pro-European. Economically wise it is an important transit country for EU bound oil and gas flows from Russia and the Black Sea. Moreover, Ukraine has a potential for becoming an exporter of electric energy to the EU and has expressed the wish to be integrated in the EU and southeast Europe electricity market. Energy is therefore a sector whereby bilateral EU Ukraine cooperation is expected to grow substantially in the coming years. In December of last year EU and Ukraine signed two transport agreements on Ukraine's participation in Gallaleo, Europe's own global navigation satellite system and on closer cooperation on aviation matters. More recently Ukraine has asked the EU to enter into negotiations for facilitating the issues of entry visas for certain categories of it's citizens. In September of last year the commission submitted to this affect a draft negotiating a mandate to the council. As a unilateral gesture Ukraine has suspended since 2005 the requirement of entry visas for EU citizens on short-term visits to Ukraine. Negotiations on visa facilitation have now begun and should simplify procedures for Ukrainians seeking visas to travel to Europe. The EU-Ukraine action plan is an important step towards the overall process of developing the increasingly close relationship between Ukraine and tool for promoting political and economic reforms in Ukraine. The year 2005 saw good the EU. Going beyond cooperation to gradual economic integration and in deepening of political cooperation. T he action plan has become a key progress in a manner of areas of the action plan. The EU-Ukraine relations have deepened and several important breakthroughs can be announced. Both sides agreed: the main policies addressed in the bilateral relations with Ukraine reflect the specific priorities endorsed by the cooperation council, mainly approximation of Ukraine's legislation with that of the EU, trade and investment, energy, environmental protection, transport and infrastructure, science and technology, cross-border cooperation and justice and home affairs.


Joining me in Network Europe now are: Krzysztof Bobinski, a specialist in EU affairs, from the Poland-Union magazine, who is with me in Radio Polonia's studio in Warsaw, and Dmitriy Babich, a journalist and political analyst of the Russia Profile monthly, in Moscow.

I'm addressing this question first to Krzysztof Bobinski:

'Is the European Union doing enough in Belarius? It's difficult to do anything in Belarus because the nature of the society, and the nature of the ruling system and that Poland is encouraging the European Union to do a lot about democratizing the system in Belarus. I think the European Union is coming to understand this is quite important. And I think probably the Kremlin is quite unhappy about what is happening in Belarus. There seems to be a certain amount of tension between the two rulers - Mr. Putin and Mr. Lukashenko and I think that the Kremlin would like to see a certain loosening up of the system in Belarus.'

'For the EU to have safe eastern borders it must primarily have good relations with Russia and Ukraine and Belarus. Right now that's not the case unfortunately. Actually Russia's position is that it's possible for Ukraine to be both an EU member and to have good relations with Russia. But the requirements come in from Brussels to Ukraine. It's not so directly but the meaning is that you have to choose between the EU and closer cooperation with Russia. And many Ukrainians would not like to make that choice. As for Belarus I think that already President Putin is unhappy with the developments there but primarily not because of their lack of democracy there but because of the lack of reliability. Lukashenko has not shown himself to be a good business partner.'

Poland is a strong advocate of EU eastward enlargement. Russian president Vladimir Putin describes the European Union as Moscow's biggest foreign partner but how does he view the bloc's expansion eastwards?

DMITRIY BABICH: 'Certainly President Putin would like to see Russia's interest accommodated. And there is a certain contradiction in that because Russia wants to have, at the same time, a special and a close relations with the European Union, while the European Union wants to have a general good neighborhood policy which makes no difference between Russia and say Morocco or Tunesia. The other friction point is that certainly Russia would like to have a chance to enter the EU at some point in the future just as the Ukraine has that chance probably. And Russia does not see itself in anyway worse than Ukraine. So there is a certain friction between Russia and the EUont that point. And also there is a certain friction any time when the EU starts talking about values. Russia does not like this kind of talk because a lot of politicians in the Kremlin view it as discriminatory.'

A controversial deal between Russia and Germany to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea has provoked fierce protests from Poland and the Baltic states. Poland's defense minister sparked off political storm when he compared it to the infamous World War Two Pact between Hitler and Stalin. Are Poland and the Baltic being too sensitive? Isn't Russia using gas and oil as a weapon to exert pressure on other countries, especially pro-western ex-Soviet states? Dmitriy Babich:

'Gas is not a weapon that Russia uses against anyone but Russia does not want to be just an exporter of goodwill and gas. The only way to do it for Russia right now is first to have long term contracts with European countries that will guarantee Russia from the repeat of 1998 fall when suddenly oil prices fell down and all the Russian financial system just collapsed. And the second way is to partcipate in the ownership of the gas pipelines leading from Russia to Europe. And if possible ownership over the oil refineries in Europe. That would make Russia an energy player which does not just export crude oil but which also reprocesses that oil and which has launched many commitments with Europe. Unfortunately Russia did not see the EU particularly happy about that.'

KRZYSZTOF BOBINSKI:This is an enormous subject and it's the subject of the future of energy security for the European Union in a situation in which within the next 20-25 years the great mass of gas supplied to the European Union will be coming from Russia because Russia has enormous reserves. And the problem is that after what has happened to Mr. Chodorkowski and Yukos, after the various pressures being put on western energy companies in Russia people are beginning to wonder whether Russia is a reliable partner, a reliable business partner. And secondly, people are beginning to wonder whether the energy weapon won't be used by Russia for political purposes. This is a problem that the European Union faces and I think it can be resolved with goodwill on both sides and by placing the whole energy business in Russia and in the European Union and in other countries like Ukraine, Turkey, etc. on a legal basis. This being said if we can put into place treaties and international agreements which would allow people to feel secure about their investments in all the countries, which would allow people access to pipelines so that if you invested say, in a Russian gas or oil field, or gas field certainly, then you could have a certainty of exporting that gas and all these things are very important. And one of the key issues here is something called the energy treaty which Russia is fairly unhappy about and had yet to ratify some of the protocols. There are other proposals b y the European Union for putting the whole energy business on a legal footing.'

The EU wants to have a safe neighbourhood, but is it doing enough to encourage democratic processes in, says, Belarus and to prevent pro-western sentiments from dying down in Ukraine?

Kr zysztof Bobinski, from the Poland-Union Foundation, and Dmitriy Babich of the Russia Profile monthly thanks for joining me in Network Europe.


The EU's new member states may be enthusiastic about further eastward expansion. But their enthusiasm is not shared by the old EU members. Germany, which will assume the rotating EU presidency next January, is one of them. Another is France. Radio France International's Nick Champeaux talked to Philippe Moreau Defarges, senior researcher at France's Institute for International Relations.

'For the time being there will be no new enlargement for five years time or maybe ten years time. There will be no new enlargement. The priority of the European Union it will make the present enlargement a true success to complete this first eastern enlargement. And after that we will see. But it is clear on the side that the European Union is ready to set up partnerships with the other European states.'

To what extent is this new cautious approach a repercussion of the rejection of the European Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands?

'You are right. There is a link between this rejection and this enlargement.. You know, one of the problems is that the French people, the Dutch people have said no for many reasons. It's clear that, of course, one of the factors is their anxziety, or cautious or distrust towards enlargement.'

That's just two countries out of 25.

'Yes, your right. The eastern members, central and eastern European members of the European Union are quite keen, are quite unsuggestic about welcoming Ukraine or I want no Georgia or no new member state. It feels that the western members, the old members of the European Union are not ready for that. I think that today there is a debate inside the European Union between two visions. On the one side we have what we could call the British vision , for the British, for Britain the European Union must enlarge as must go on enlarging because the main task of the European Union is to integrate the European state into globalization. That is the British vision. It feels that the French vision or the German vision, or the Italian vision is not that vision. For France, for Germany, for Italy the priority is to create a cohesive European Union. And in fact it does not mean that we are going to reject any kind of enlargement, but enlargement must be compatible with strengthening, with deepening the European Union. We must recall one thing to welcome, to take a new member inside the European Union, all the present members, all the 25 must say 'yes' individually. It means that we must get a 'yes' inside each of the 25 member states. Today it's impossible to get such a 'yes'".

Philippe Moreau Defarges, senior researcher at France's Institute for International Relations was interviewed by Radio France International's Nick Champeaux.


Pro-enlargement politicians believe that successive EU hop efuls should not be left in the waiting room for too long. Otherwise they might leave the road of democratic development and even embrace some form of an authoritarian regime. Slovakia, whose EU train almost got derailed under former pro-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, knows the risks involved. This report from Martina Grenova of Radio Slovakia International.

'It took 12 years for Slovakia to get into the European Union. The process of entering the Euro Atlantic and political and military structures was divided into two halves. During the first six years the country was stagnating under the rule of the government led by the then Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. After the change of government in 1998 the country greatly increased the integration efforts to enter the Union along with it's closest neighbors - Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. After the years of doubting and the accession euphoria Slovaks now take the fact of being Europeans for granted. Their recent Euro optimism might be influenced by the difficulties they had to go through on their way to the EU family.

On January the 1, 1993 the independent Slovak Republic was established. It's first Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar claimed that:

'The creation of a new state gives all it's citizens the opportunity to participate at the Pan European and world wide integration.'

However the same Vladimir Meciar later became an obstacle to the country's integration not only to the European Union but also to NATO. The first independent election was held in 1994. The European Union issued several warnings to Vladimir Meciar's government about not following political criteria for starting accession talks. Despite the warnings Vladimir Meciar and his people continued to suppress opposition, appoint heads of the state institutions following their loyalty to the government and misusing the power of the Slovak inteligence service. Any kind of EU notification to change the system of state government was not accepted.

In July 1997 Slovakia was not invited to join NATO at the summit of it's member countries. A week after this summit the EC announced that Slovakia was the only country of central and eastern Europe which did not fulfill the political criteria for EU entry. In order to get Slovakia back on the EU track a changing government was necessary. The turnover came after the elections in 1998 when Nikolas Surinda as a new Prime Minister.

The Slovak Republic was invited for accession talks at the summit in Helsinki. The first official talks started in February 2000. In 2002 the EU Enlargement Commissioner Jan Marinos W iersmna praised the achievements of the new government on Slovak radio.

Well I think that, and I also said that before, I said it in my report,and in my speeches in parliament.

May 1, 2004, the day of Slovakia's EU entry cost a lot of zeal among Slovaks who were celebrating this historical success in a pompous way. According to sociologist Olga Darfashova Slovakia does not face any frustration or disappointment after the EU entry hangover even two years after. Euro optimism is still present here.

The expectations towards EU membership were relatively high but they are more put in the longer period. That means that people didn't expect any improvement immediately after the entry and also they associated the benefits not with themselves but with the country.

The Euro optimism of Slovaks is also fed by a broad political consensus on EU issues.The economic and social situation of the major part of society has improved.

The EU membership was not only associated with social benefits. It had and still has a huge symbolic value. Now, finally we belong to western Europe which is democratic, prosperous and so on. This formal side of belonging is also important.

The issue of the EU membership was one of the key points in the election campaign back in 1998 and 2002. Among the achievements of the Mikolas Dzurinda government can be the fact that shortly ahead of the 2006 elections in Slovakia's Vladimir Meciar's party is not viewed as an obstacle in foreign acceptance in the next government. After all the country has proved it's ability to accept democratic principles in ruling the state.

That's all in this NETWORK EUROPE special The program is a partnership of Radio France Internationale, Radio Polonia, Radio Sweden, Radio Netherlands, Radio Romania International, Slovak Radio, Radio Prague, Radio Slovakia International, Radio Ukraine and Deutsche Welle.