Eastern Europe

Moldova

Moldova is seeking rapprochement to the European Union and initialled the EU Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit meeting on 29 November 2013 in Vilnius. The Agreement will be signed end of June 2014.The creation of a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA) is also part of the Association Agreement. In order to facilitate contacts with the EU, a visa liberalisation programme with the EU entered into force in April 2014.

The parliamentary elections of 2009 led to a shift of influence, as the Communist Party lost its absolute majority. In September 2009, four liberal parties formed a pro-European government - the  “Alliance for European Integration” (AEI).

In March 2012 the four ruling parties elected Nicolae Timofti as president of Moldova.

Moldova benefits from the “more for more” principle of the Eastern Partnership. It provides for a special assistance to the most advances partnership countries by means of ENI, the partnership’s financial tool. This generous support by the EU will increase due to the elections scheduled in November 2014.

In order to resolve the conflict around Transnistria, a breakaway region seeking independence/association with Russia, the 5+2 talks are being held. Some of them were hosted in Vienna. The term “5+2” relates to the format of these meetings: Moldova and Transnistria as two parties, the OSCE, Ukraine and Russia as mediators and EU and US as observers. The relations between Moldova and Transnistria remain complicated, in particular due to the crisis in Ukraine after the referendum and the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea.

On 1 December 2005 the EU has created a “Border Assistance Mission” (EUBAM) following a request from Moldova and Ukraine. This should help secure the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, especially the Transnistrian section. This mission includes training for local border guards and has been extended until November 2015.

Moldova is a focal point for Austrian Development Assistance. The Cooperation Agreement between Austria and Moldova was signed in 2008. Most of the projects focus on water resources and waste water management as well as professional education. There is also a surge of humanitarian activities by private Austrian charity organizations.

Belarus

 

The main factor determining Austria’s relations with Belarus is the promotion of civil society, democracy, pluralism and rule of law. Austria supports and implements the EU sanctions put in place against regime members responsible for oppression and violations of human rights. At the same time, Austria seeks to deepen its relations with civil society as well as economic ties. Belarus participates in the EU’s Eastern Partnership and is also a member of the Eurasian Customs Union. Belarus does also participate in the CEI (Central European Initiative). Since 2013, Austria is represented in Minsk by a Chargé d’affaires to Minsk, who shares his residence with the EU delegation.

Russian Federation

Due to the crisis in Ukraine as well as the illegal annexation of Crimea, the relations between the EU and Russia, a strategic and very important economic partner (especially in the energy field) are in a difficult stage at the moment. The EU has decided on restrictive measures (e.g. visa ban and asset freeze for 48 persons, cancellation of official regular summits/meetings etc.). In case of a further escalation of the situation in Eastern Ukraine the EU will take further restrictive measures.

Austria supports a solution of the current crisis by means of dialogue. The meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine and the USA with the HR of the EU in Geneva on 17. April 2014 and their declaration should form the basis of such a solution. The OSCE Monitoring Mission, which shall consist of 500 observers, plays an essential role. Austria – which held the chair of the Council of Europe from November 2013 to May 2014 is contributing to the de-escalation of the conflict. It offers assistance in the areas of rule of law, protection of minorities as well as constitutional reform.

Domestic and foreign policy of the Russian Federation

Parliamentary elections in the Russian Federation were held on 4 December 2011. The ruling party of president Putin (“Edinnaya Rossiya”) won 49,5% of the votes. During the Presidential elections on 4 March 2012 Vladimir Putin got more than 63.

The Russian foreign policy is focused mainly on Eurasia. The relations to the countries of the former USSR (CIS) remain the top priority.

On 18 November 2011 the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan confirmed their intent to strengthen further (economic) integration between their countries. The final goal of these efforts shall be the creation of an Eurasian economic Union. The already existing Eurasian Customs Union between these countries shall serve as its basis. In January 2012, this Customs Union turned into a common economic space with free circulation of goods, services and capital flows. Until 2015, this common space shall be transformed into the Eurasian Economic Union. Other states shall be able to accede to it as well.

Ukraine

The political changes due to the „Orange Revolution“ in fall 2004 led to a – at least temporarily - pro-EU orientation of Ukraine. An Association Agreement with the EU was initialled in 2012. The signing of the Agreement, initially scheduled to take place on the Summit of the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius (28/29. November 2013) did not take place upon Ukraine’s demand. This led to mass protests across the country, in the result of which the government of president Yanukovych was finally overthrown in February 2014. After a referendum on 16 March 2014, which is not recognized by Austria and the EU, Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. The evolving crisis in Eastern Ukraine is tried to be solved by the EU, USA as well as the OSCE (cf. article on Russia above). 

The EU and Ukraine have signed the political parts of the Association Agreement on 21 March 2014. The economic part shall follow after the presidential elections, which are scheduled to take place on 25 May 2014. A Visa Liberalisation Action plan is currently being implemented by Ukraine.