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European politicians and experts call on Europe to prevent new war in Donbass

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A two day forum 'Donbass – Yesterday, today and tomorrow' began today (11 May) in Donetsk under the patronage of local authorities and a group of European and international observers who were present at the November 2014 elections in Donetsk and Lughansk

Addressing the opening of the forum, head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Alexander Zakharchenko said that he believes European attitudes are "changing slowly to one of sympathy" towards the Donetsk Republic and that Europe is "beginning to understand that the situation here is not as Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko is telling them".

He said: "Europe sees that “terrorists” (as they call us here) pay pensions, social payments and that we are fighting for our freedom as they did in Europe."

Donbass, he said, should be granted wider autonomy "in all fields of life" and also expressed hope that after the Forum people in Europe will "begin to accept Donetsk republic as an equal partner in the fields of economy and politics."

Another speaker on the opening day, Luis Durnwalder, former president of the South Tyrol region in Italy, said: "Donbass has the right to demand wide autonomy in all aspects, including politics, the economy, language and culture. The history of the successful integration and development of the mostly German-speaking Italian region of South Tyrol is one of the possible solutions for Donbasss."

His comments were echoed by Greek MP Evgenia Ouzounidou, of the Syriza Party, who insisted on speaking only in Russian "because Donbass is the place where only this language can be spoken".

She added: "Europe must receive true and unbiased information about the war in Donbass. Unfortunately, European citizens do not receive correct news about the suffering of the civilian population in Donbass, the human losses, destruction of infrastructure, houses, hospitals and schools which are being destroyed by the Ukrainian armed forces."

Further contribution came from German journalist and publisher Manuel Ochsenreiter who told the Forum that German media and politicians "lie to the population and spread false information" about the "real situation" in Eastern Ukraine.

He proposed that both Donetsk and Luhansk republics should gain the right to self-determination and a "peaceful and prosperous life."

Further to this, Johan Backmann, a Finnish political scientist and sociologist, said the forum "symbolises the integration" of Donbass with Europe "because we see here representatives of major European states like Germany, Italy and France".

He said, "All Western experts agree that the information space in Europe is dominated mainly by the USA and because of that the realities of modern global politics are being distorted."

Many of the local speakers from Donetsk and Lugahnsk spoke of the tragic economic, social and humanitarian situation in both republics, and called upon Europe to re-consider their attitude to their desire for a decent, peaceful and prosperous life. They also told the forum that they have great economic potential, which under normal conditions could provide stability and progress in these territories.

The deal agreed in Minsk in February specifically states that discussions have to take place on special status for Donetsk and Luhansk

French member of the European Parliament Jean Luc Schaffhauser said: “A genuine dialog should be started between Donetsk, Lughansk and Kiev under the auspices of the OSCE."

The MEP, one of the driving forces behind the peace forum and a member of the Parliament's influential foreign affairs committee, said that any lasting solution must include a measure of autonomy for Donetsk and Lughansk, which are mostly Russian-speaking regions.

He added: "Surely, what we should be striving for is a unified, peaceful Europe. That is why this initiative seeks to bring together politicians of all colours and nationalities who, like me, share an objective view of Ukraine."

The gathering, which concludes on Tuesday, also gave participants a chance to get a 'hands-on' account of the current situation in the trouble-torn region, said the deputy.

Schaffhauser, who has previously visited the Donbass, added: “We particularly wanted to bear witness to what is happening here and to see if the provisions of the Minsk Agreement are actually being implemented on the ground."

Participants discussed the future status of the Donbass region, respecting the “specific political, economic, social and cultural” areas of eastern Ukraine.

For further information, click here.

 

Eastern Partnership

#EasternPartnership - New policy objectives for beyond 2020

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Today (18 March), the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have put forward a proposal for the long-term policy objectives of the Eastern Partnership beyond 2020.

These aim at increasing trade, strengthening connectivity and deepening economic integration with ArmeniaAzerbaijanBelarusGeorgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, strengthening democratic institutions, the rule of law, environmental and climate resilience, supporting the digital transformation, and promoting fair and inclusive societies. High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said: “Our neighbours' strength is also the European Union's strength; the Eastern Partnership remains a crucial element of the EU's foreign policy. Our proposals will further strengthen our six partner countries, reflecting the priorities and challenges that we share, while maintaining the emphasis on delivering tangible, positive results for all citizens.”

Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said: “We are sending a very clear message to our Eastern partner countries: we will help you to build strong economies and to create growth and jobs by attracting foreign direct investment and by strengthening connectivity in key sectors, such as transport, energy and environment. We will work closely together to address today's challenges across the board, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

Building on the achievements of the Partnership in the first 10 years, today's proposal outlines how the EU will work together with the partner countries to tackle common challenges and strengthen their resilience in the light of today's challenges as an overriding policy objective beyond 2020. In doing so, work between the EU and partners will continue on new policy priorities to support the ecological transformation, the digital transformation and to deliver on economies that work for all, in particular more job opportunities for youth and to promote gender equality.

Together, the EU and its Eastern Partners will create a partnership that creates, protects, greens, connects and empowers. The proposal is expected to be endorsed in view of the Eastern Partnership Summit in June 2020, which will give a mandate to develop a new set of tangible deliverables building on the current 20 Deliverables for 2020. A full press release on today's proposal is available online, as is a Memo and a factsheet. Individual country factsheets are also available online: ArmeniaAzerbaijanBelarusGeorgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine

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Eastern Partnership

European Union opens a structured consultation on the future #EasternPartnership

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The European Union institutions open a board and inclusive structured consultation on the future strategic direction of the Eastern Partnership (EaP). Over the past decade, the strengthened cooperation between the EU, its member states, and ArmeniaAzerbaijanBelarusGeorgiathe Republic of Moldova and Ukraine has proven to be mutually beneficial and has been delivering concrete results for citizens.The joint reform agenda of “20 Deliverables for 2020”, has successfully achieved key progress in working towards building stronger economies, stronger governance, stronger connectivity and stronger societies across the region. To mark the 10th anniversary of the EaP, a High Level Conference took place on 14 May, during which President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker launched discussions on the future of the Eastern Partnership. In this context, the European Council has tasked the Commission and the European External Action Service to present proposals for the future of the Eastern Partnership. Member States and Eastern partner countries; international organisations; international financial institutions; civil society; business and the private sector; academia; think-tanks; youth; media and other stakeholders are invited to share their views on a new post-2020 policy framework on the following website by 31 October 2019. Dedicated consultation events will be also held in partner countries and in the EU during this period.

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Eastern Partnership

Celebrating 10 years of #EasternPartnership

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On 13-14 May, the European Union, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine will mark the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership with a number of events in Brussels. They will provide the opportunity to celebrate a partnership that has proven to be mutually beneficial and has been delivering concrete results for citizens.

To mark the 10th Anniversary of Eastern Partnership, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini (pictured) are hosting a series of high-level gatherings in Brussels with the participation of the six Eastern partner countries, EU member states and stakeholders.

On Monday 13 May, High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini will chair the annual Eastern Partnership Foreign Affairs Ministerial Meeting with the 28 EU Member States, the EU's six Eastern partners and key stakeholders, and the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

The meeting will take stock of the progress made under the ambitious 20 Deliverables for 2020 work plan. This common agenda was adopted at the last Eastern Partnership Summit of November 2017 and aims to bring tangible benefits to the lives of citizens across the region through working towards stronger economies, stronger governance, stronger connectivity and stronger societies.

On the evening of 13 May, President Tusk will host a celebratory dinner for the six heads of state or government of the EaP partner countries. President Juncker, High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini and Commissioner Hahn, as well as Radosław Sikorski and Carl Bildt, former Foreign Ministers of Poland and Sweden respectively and initiators of the Eastern Partnership framework back in 2008, will also attend.

In parallel, the Creating Together concert will take place at the Brussels Centre for Fine Arts, BOZAR. The concert will bring together on one stage the well-known Brussels Jazz Orchestra and musicians from the six Eastern partner countries.

On Tuesday 14 May, President Juncker will host a High-level Conference in the European Commission's Charlemagne building. This conference will bring together Heads of State or Government of the partner countries, Foreign Ministers of the European Union member states, civil society representatives, business leaders, young people and journalists from across the 34 countries High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, Commissioner Hahn and the Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, will also participate. The event will be an opportunity to discuss the developments of the partnership during this first decade and exchange on its future among a wide audience of key stakeholders active in the region or directly involved in this policy framework. 

More information

Website of the 5th Eastern Partnership Summit

Factsheet on the Eastern Partnership's Top 10 Achievements

Factsheet on myths about the Eastern Partnership

Factsheet on EU-Armenia relations

Factsheet on EU-Azerbaijan relations

Factsheet on EU-Belarus relations

Factsheet on EU-Georgia relations

Factsheet on EU-Moldova relations

Factsheet on EU-Ukraine relations

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