Region

EU plus

Stories in this section cover the EU-27 countries plus the UK, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra and the Balkan Countries (Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia).

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Armenia and Azerbaijan recognise each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty

Armenia and Azerbaijan recognise each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty

After hours of negotiations, with the mediation of European Council president Charles Michel, and French president Emanuel Macron, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan , Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev, have taken a historic step towards lasting peace. Both countries have recognised each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and committed to tangible steps to establish peace and stability in the region. President Macron tweeted early this morning "Tonight, Armenia and Azerbaijan confirmed their commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and the Alma Ata 1991 Declaration through which both recognize each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty." The four leaders held two long sessions of negotiations on the margins of the summit of the European Political Community which was launched at Prague Castle on Thursday afternoon (6 October). It is also understood that a number of other decisions were taken. It was agreed that the EU will deploy on the Armenian side of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border a civilian monitoring mission, for a period of two months starting from October.

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News
NATO countries sign the accession documents for Finalnd and Sweden to join the alliance

NATO countries sign the accession documents for Finalnd and Sweden to join the alliance

NATO Ambassadors signed the Accession Protocols for Finland and Sweden at NATO Headquarters on Tuesday (5 July 2022), in the presence of Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde. The protocols now need to be approved by the countries of all thirty member states, and this procedure will take a while. But for many practical purposes Sweden and Finland are now members of the alliance, breaking with decades of neutrality as Europe continues to face Russian aggression against Ukraine. NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO’s door remains open to European democracies who are ready and willing to contribute to our shared security: “With 32 nations around the table, we will be even stronger and our people will be even safer, as we face the biggest security crisis in decades.”
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NATO summit marks a new beginning for the organisation

NATO summit marks a new beginning for the organisation

The NATO Summit in Madrid drew to a close on Thursday (30 June 2022) with decisions to transform and strengthen the Alliance. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “The decisions we have taken in Madrid will ensure that our Alliance continues to preserve peace, prevent conflict, and protect our people and our values. Europe and North America, standing together in NATO.” NATO leaders agreed on a fundamental shift in NATO’s deterrence and defence, with strengthened forward defences, enhanced battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, and an increase in the number of high readiness forces to well over 300,000. Leaders also agreed to invest more in NATO and to increase common funding. During the Summit, NATO’s closest partners Finland and Sweden were invited to join the Alliance, a significant boost to Euro-Atlantic security. Allies further agreed on long-term support for Ukraine through a strengthened Comprehensive Assistance Package.
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Commentary
Commentary: A historic decision leaves Ukrainians delighted, Moldovans ecstatic and Georgians grumpy

Commentary: A historic decision leaves Ukrainians delighted, Moldovans ecstatic and Georgians grumpy

the European Council which gathers the 27 EU member states and the institutions, agreed to give Ukraine and Moldova candidate status with immediate effect. It gave Georgia "a membership perspective", with candidate status in the future if they can get their act together quickly. The Ukrainians were delighted. President Zelensky described it as a victory and promised not to rest until Russia’s defeat and full membership had been secured. In Moldova, the pro European government was ecstatic. Things had moved much faster than they had anticipated. In Georgia the situation is different, and the country is somewhat grumpy. Georgians do not  like to be last, and in a sense in this process at which they were until last year at the centre, they find themselves lagging behind the other two trio countries. The government has tried to put on a brave face saying that being given a membership perspective was a victory for Georgia too. The opposition accuses the government of squandering a historic opportunity which will have long lasting impact. In many ways both are right. An EU membership perspective is important for Georgia, even if it is largely an abstract term. It consolidates the relationship. But it would have been much better for Georgia if they had been given candidate status with the others. The ball is now in the court of the Georgian politicians, and the world will be watching.
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Tens of thousands in pro European rally in Tbilisi

Tens of thousands in pro European rally in Tbilisi

Tens of thousands of Georgians attended a pro European rally in Tbilisi on Monday (20 June) amid continuing controversy about the country's European asspirations. On Friday, the European Commission recommended to EU leaders to give Georgia a membership perspective, but stopped short of granting the country the same candidate status as it recommended for Ukraine and Moldova. The three countries, sometimes referred to as the "Trio" countries recently submitted an application for full membership of the European Union. The EU on its part has dealt with the applications with unusual speed, motivated primarily by a wish to send a positive signal to Ukraine as it continues to resist a Russian military invasion. The Commission has recommended to give candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova but stopped short of doing so as regards Georgia. "It is up to Georgia to accelerate (the reforms) and move towards this open door," commented Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. "Georgia must now come together politically to design a clear path towards structural reform and the EU,"  Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on twitter. "So we recommend to grant Georgia the European perspective, but to come back and assess how it meets a number of conditions before granting it candidate status."
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European Commission recommends to give candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and a membership perspective to Georgia

European Commission recommends to give candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and a membership perspective to Georgia

The EU should grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, bringing them a step closer to bloc membership, while Georgia still has some work to do, but is given a membership perspective, the European Commission said on Friday (17 June). Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia share the strong and legitimate aspiration of joining the European Union. Today, we are sending them a clear signal of support in their aspirations, even as they face challenging circumstances. And we do so standing firm on our European values and standards, setting out the path they need to follow in order to join the EU. The Commission's opinions mark an inflection point in our relations. Indeed, this is a historic day for the people of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. We are confirming that they belong, in due time, in the European Union. The next steps are now in the hands of our Member States.”
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Brussels sources say European Commission will recommend candidate status for Ukraine, but final decision is with the EU member states

Brussels sources say European Commission will recommend candidate status for Ukraine, but final decision is with the EU member states

The European Commission will recommend granting Ukraine official status as an EU candidate country, according to several officials familiar with deliberations that took place during a debate among commissioners on Monday. This was reported by the authoritative website Politico on Tuesday (14 June) The debate in the College of Commissioners followed a surprise visit Saturday by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Kyiv, where she discussed Ukraine’s membership bid with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It was von der Leyen’s second trip to the Ukrainian capital since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in late February. Moldova and Georgia have also applied for candidate status, and officials said that commissioners were generally supportive of Moldova, where a staunchly pro-EU government is now in place, but that they were less confident about Georgia, which has suffered from pervasive political turmoil and notable democratic backsliding in recent years.
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Editorial
Editorial: Give Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine EU candidate status now!

Editorial: Give Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine EU candidate status now!

In the next few days the European Commission will announce its opinion on the request of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine for European Union candidate status. A decision will then be taken by the 27 member states in the European Council at the end of this month. “Candidate Status” is the beginning of a journey for any country that wants to join the European Union. In the case of many successful candidates in the past, the process has often taken a decade or more. In the case of others, such as Turkey, the process does not appear to have an end in sight. In short candidate status is not an automatic ticket to EU membership, simply a political expression of the will of the applicant and of the EU to embark on the journey. This notwithstanding the EU has been increasingly hesitant to give a membership perspective to the trio. This is partly due to the so called “enlargement fatigue”, partly because there are those within the member states and the institutions who do not think Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine should be in the EU, period! These sceptics have been caught on the wrong foot by the war in Ukraine, the heroism of the Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion, and the decision of the trio to bring forward their request for candidate status and to ask that it be dealt with urgently. Clearly, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are not ready for EU membership today, but that is not what is on the agenda now. The many challenges facing the three countries should not be hidden under the carpet, and the political elites in Tbilisi, Chisinau and Kyiv must assume their responsibility to ensure political, economic and judicial reforms are implemented more comprehensively and more speedily. But for now, candidate status, especially in the present context, is primarily a political decision and a political statement, and it should be extended to the three countries now!
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Interview
Opinion: "Our ambition in Kosovo is to transform our young and vibrant democracy into the most prosperous nation in the region"

Opinion: "Our ambition in Kosovo is to transform our young and vibrant democracy into the most prosperous nation in the region"

Recently, the Government of Kosovo submitted a formal application to join the Council of Europe as a full member. The international community remains divided on the issue of Kosovo's international recognition. Yet in the few years since its independence Kosovo has made great strides forward, and today has one of the most dynamic economies in the Western Balkans, a vibrant cultural life, and a solid track record on human rights and the fight against corruption. commonspace.eu interviewed the Ambassador of Kosovo to the Netherlands, Dren Doli, about the current state of play in relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and on the thorny issue of whether the recognition of Kosovo has emboldened secessionist movements elsewhere. Ambassador Doli said that "the tendency to use Kosovo as a model for other cases is a strategy to generalise the rules that guide the creation of states and inflict confusion, deflect the truth, and deny the significance of objective arguments that differentiate Kosovo from other cases". Doli told commonspace.eu that "Kosovo is one of the rare examples of successful democratic state-building supported by western democracies". Ambassador Doli said that the government of Kosovo is committed to further develop and improve its relations with Serbia and welcomes any initiative  by the EU and the US in this direction.