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The EU and the Polish national interest: The results of the Euronest sessions

Although the Eastern Partnership project has lost its momentum, there are still a few smaller initiatives being carried out, which, if there is new political will, may turn into an efficient tool for active Eastern policy. This, in turn, may prove beneficial for Polish interests.

December 6, 2017 - Wojciech Jakóbik - Analysis

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Eastern Partnership and Polish interests

In accordance with the interests of Poland, a critique of Nord Stream 2 was pushed through Euronest, the assembly gathering representatives of the European Parliament and the parliaments of the Eastern Partnership countries. It shows how the policy of structuralism in international relations can serve to defend the interests of individual states. Particularly in the face the threats deriving from the dominant influence of Russia and its foreign policy tool – Gazprom, in the Eastern Partnership area.

On October 31st the Euronest Committee on Energy Security adopted a report which was then put to vote at the assembly’s plenary session. The parties agreed that even though natural gas could be an important tool for energy transition, from the point of view of the European Union and the Eastern Partnership countries the construction of Nord Stream 2 would be inadvisable.

Point ten of the report warns that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline may “negatively impact the regional gas market and, in particular, will have a detrimental effect on Ukraine’s gas transmission system”. The authors of the document call on the European Union and its partners from the east not to participate in projects that are incompatible with the Energy Community Treaty. The document was adopted with 42 votes. Two voters abstained.

Against the interest of the West

Based on the above example, it is possible to evaluate the limited but significant impact that multilateral bodies within the European Union can have on Eastern policy – in this case the Eastern energy policy. Thanks to them, the EU becomes a transmission belt for the interests of the member states. The limited character of these institutions is due to their multilateral nature and the need to seek compromise within them. However, in turn, the results of their activities have the mandate of all the members.

This is why the critique of Nord Stream 2 is another important contribution to the resistance to this project, which adds to the growing pile of complaints from Central and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and the US. The document was adopted despite Germany’s membership in Euronest. The basis for its adoption was the contents of the Energy Community Treaty, which regulates the foreign dimension of the European Union’s energy policy and the provisions of which impose on Euronest member states like Ukraine the obligation to reform their gas and electricity sector. In return, however, these member states are provided with the legal and political protection and expert aid of the EU.

“The unanimous position of the Euronest sends a strong political signal from the region that is the most threatened by the Nord Stream 2 project. The Eastern Partnership countries are under direct political, economic and military pressure from Russia, and the construction of Nord Stream 2 will only reinforce this situation,” said member of the European Parliament Jacek Saryusz-Wolski.  The construction of the gas pipeline would therefore contradict the basic assumptions of the European Union’s neighborhood policy, which aims to stabilise the EU’s direct neighborhood, in the best interest of all its member states. Consequently, Nord Stream 2 is a project that goes against the geopolitical interest of the entire European Union.

“We should hope that the provisions of the resolutions adopted by Euronest will be reflected in the declaration of the Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels at the end of November, because they would have more political weight in such form. And blocking the construction of Nord Stream 2 requires very strong political will and pressure, because the interests of the business sector of some Western European countries are at stake. But business interests should not dictate such a strategic decision for the future of the European Union and the Eastern Partnership countries,” Saryusz-Wolski said.

“Indeed the potential of the Eastern Partnership can be seen in its practical undertakings. It is important that in the report, which was adopted by a large majority and without any objections, we underlined the threat that the construction of Nord Stream 2 could pose to the energy markets in the region, and in particular for the Ukrainian transmission system. This shows that the Eastern Partnership can still speak with one voice in important matters,” said member of the European Parliament Andrzej Grzyb.

Not only Nord Stream 2

“Since the last Eastern Partnership summit in Riga in 2015, the European Union and the Eastern Partnership countries have already achieved significant results – both political and economic,” says Dariusz Rosati, a member of the European Parliament. “These achievements include entering into force of the Association Agreements and visa-free regimes between the European Union on the one hand, and Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine on the other, initiating a new partnership and cooperation agreement with Armenia, as well as beginning negotiations on a new agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan. In addition, a European Union-Belarus Coordination Group was established, helping improve dialogue with Belarus.”

“The Eastern Partnership is torn by political tensions. Despite this, three association and trade agreements have been signed, and an ad hoc committee monitoring the progress of the implementation of association agreements was established within the Euronest. When working on my report on cooperation in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, we proved that despite the political situation, when it comes to specific issues or initiatives co-financed by the European Union, we can boast several successful achievements,”  Grzyb said.

“Currently, the most important word for the Eastern Partnership is the ‘implementation’ of already existing agreements. This is crucial, because before taking the next steps, citizens must notice that cooperation with the EU and within the Partnership brings them noticeable benefits,”stated Rosati.

If there is political will in the European Union to further develop these mechanisms in the future, their effectiveness will grow. For the moment, such appetite seems absent. However, there is a certain correlation that we may observe. Crises in relations with Russia have always been followed by strengthening the common energy policy. The 2006 gas crisis in Ukraine brought the postulate to create the Energy Community. The 2009 crisis contributed to the adoption of the Third Energy Package, a legal umbrella against monopolies such as Gazprom. The war of 2014 helped to promote the Polish concept of the Energy Union.

Any further aggressive moves from Russia will result in more initiatives for the European Union’s integration with the Energy Community. The Eastern Partnership summit planned for the end of November will constitute an opportunity to turn declarations into action.

Translated by Aleksandra Małecka

The publication of this text was co-financed with a grant by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland within the framework of Public Diplomacy 2017 – II component Eastern dimension of Polish foreign policy 2017 and in partnership with Eastbook.eu. The publication expresses the views of the author only and should not be identified with the official position of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Wojciech Jakóbik is an energy analyst at the Jagiellonian Institute.

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