A Discussion with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs: Priorities for the EU's Approach to its Eastern Neighborhood
On the margins of the Riga Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) had the pleasure of hosting the foreign minister of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, and his Georgian counterpart, Tamar Beruchashvili, for a discussion on how to relaunch the EU’s Eastern Partnership. The breakfast event, taking place in Berlin’s Adlon Kempinski Hotel, included remarks from Ambassador Cord Meier-Klodt of the German Foreign Office and Zaneta Ozolina of the Latvian Transatlantic Organization. Daniela Schwarzer, director of the Europe Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, moderated the discussion. The event also featured a report co-authored by Daniela Schwarzer and Zaneta Ozolina, titled: European Eastern Partnership: Recommendations for a Refined Approach .
In anticipation of the EaP Summit the following day, participants discussed its potential to contribute to better policies for Europe’s eastern neighbors going forward. While the summit was not expected to bring significant change, it was recognized as an important reality check that would confirm the EU’s readiness to stand by its partners. The following three objectives were highlighted: first, to renew the commitment to the existing agreements; second, to come up with action-plans for tailor made support; third, to open the dialogue and cooperation to a wider geographical area.
When it came to Russia, opinions were mixed. On the one hand, the Eastern Partnership was seen as an opportunity to enter into dialogue with Russia and to stress that the policy is not directed against, and is not in competition with, the Eurasian Economic Union. This, it was argued, would contribute to Russia’s partnership in addressing global concerns such as terrorism, nuclear weapons, and refugee crises. On the other hand, it was thought that the EU should not engage with Russia until it respects the territorial integrity of the EaP countries, and that cooperation should only take place under strict preconditions.
Two points of agreement were that 1) the EU needs to have a more strategic, long-term vision and communication strategy for the Eastern Partnership and 2) the EU needs to be united in its leadership towards its Eastern neighbors, especially during these challenging times. The EaP Summit, which took place on May 21-22, demonstrated the importance of continuing deliberations on refining the approach to the EU’s eastern neighbors.