Europeans were divided about Ukraine but relatively united about Belarus – but failed to achieve their objectives in both cases.
The EU’s goal is to help the countries in the Eastern Partnership region transform into democratic and pluralist societies. While none of the region’s four parliamentary elections in 2012 fully met OSCE standards, the Armenian elections (in May) and the Georgian elections (in October) were relatively competitive and peaceful. On the other hand, the OSCE saw the elections in Belarus and Ukraine as a step back for democracy. The EU was vocal in calling for the release of political prisoners in Belarus (two prisoners were released but another ten remain in jail) and much less vocal in Azerbaijan (where dozens remain in prison).
Europeans were particularly divided on Ukraine, where former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former internal affairs minister Yuriy Lutsenko are imprisoned on charges that the EU considers politically motivated. Europeans failed to send a coherent message to Kyiv when the government was in the spotlight both domestically and internationally ahead of the European football championship in Poland and Ukraine in the summer. Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK called for a boycott of matches taking place in Ukraine; Poland, Slovakia, and other Central Europeans thought that isolating Ukraine would push it closer to Russia. However, after the elections, all member states agreed to suspend the signing of the Association Agreement and the related free-trade deal (see component 48).
The EU put more pressure on the Lukashenka regime in Belarus by extending the list of individuals and companies on its visa ban/asset freeze list (though Slovenia lobbied for an exemption from these measures for an entrepreneur in business with a Slovenian company). In February, all member states recalled their ambassadors from Belarus after the Polish and EU envoys to Minsk were told by the regime to leave – however, when Minsk expelled the Swedish ambassador in the summer, member states took no similar action. Germany criticised the worsening human-rights situation in Azerbaijan but most other states remained silent.
|Leaders: Germany - Poland - Sweden|
|Slackers: Latvia - Slovenia|