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EU Takes Stock Of Its Near Neighbors

"Calling all neighbors""Calling all neighbors"
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"Calling all neighbors"
"Calling all neighbors"
By RFE/RL
The European Commission has issued a progress report on the European Neighborhood Policy and its implementation, noting particular challenges and concerns among the bloc's most immediate neighbors.

The European Neighborhood Policy includes bilateral action plans with six former Soviet states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Here is a rundown of the reports on those countries issued on May 15.
The report urges greater access for Abkhaz and South Ossetians to health care and other services.
The report urges greater access for Abkhaz and South Ossetians to health care and other services.

Georgia: Seeking Tbilisi's Cooperation With Abkhaz, South Ossetians

Brussels urges Georgia to engage in "pragmatic cooperation" with the leadership of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The review praises the progress Tbilisi has made both in implementing the visa facilitation agreement and in negotiations with the EU on a free-trade agreement.

The European Commission does, however, urge the country to reverse isolation of the inhabitants of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by giving them access to health care and other social services. Such care "should be extended without preconditions such as acceptance of Georgian ID documents," the report says.

The text further notes that there should be continued reform of the justice system and that the independence and efficiency of the judiciary should be strengthened.
Darya Korsak, the wife of the imprisoned Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, holds her husband's portrait during a protest in front of the headquarters of the Belarusian KGB in Minsk less than a month after the disputed presidential election of December 2010.
Darya Korsak, the wife of the imprisoned Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, holds her husband's portrait during a protest in front of the headquarters of the Belarusian KGB in Minsk less than a month after the disputed presidential election of December 2010.

Belarus: EU Declines To Adopt Country Report

For a second year in a row, the European Union opted not to adopt a country progress report for Belarus.

Unlike the five other "Eastern Neighbors," Belarus is not a full participant in the European Neighborhood Policy. EU assistance to Minsk has been restricted since a crackdown followed the controversial presidential poll of December 2010, which saw authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka reelected amid accusations of widespread fraud.

In an assessment of the situation in Belarus, the European Commission concluded that "there has been a serious deterioration in the respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles in Belarus."

The EU so far has subjected 243 Belarusian nationals to a visa ban and asset freeze, and has blocked the assets of 32 companies linked to the regime.
A protest by supporters of Yulia Tymoshenko at the gate of penal colony in Kharkiv where she was incarcerated after her October 2011 conviction.
A protest by supporters of Yulia Tymoshenko at the gate of penal colony in Kharkiv where she was incarcerated after her October 2011 conviction.

Ukraine: EU Says Review Haunted By 'Selective Justice'

The latest European Neighborhood Policy report on Ukraine is dominated by what are seen as the shortcomings of the Ukrainian judiciary and the prosecution of opposition figures.

The report says those shortcomings are blocking ratification of Ukraine's Association Agreement with the EU, and notes that several leading opposition figures, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, were "subjected to selective justice, characterized by untransparent judicial processes." It goes on to suggest that "successfully addressing the issue of selective justice would open the way to the signature and ratification of the Association Agreement."

The text also urges Ukraine to pursue reform in all aspects of the judicial process, tackle corruption in business, and bring legislation on freedom of assembly and media freedom into line with European standards.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov quickly rejected the EU criticism.
A man holds his ballot at a polling station in Yerevan during parliamentary elections on May 6.
A man holds his ballot at a polling station in Yerevan during parliamentary elections on May 6.

Armenia: EU Has Praise, But Cites Persistent Corruption

The European Commission praises Armenia for its progress on democracy and human rights, but says Yerevan still must deal with shortcomings in areas such as corruption and media freedom.

The report says negotiations toward an EU-Armenia association agreement have "progressed in good pace."

The report also offers praise for recent changes to Armenia's electoral code but notes that parliamentary elections earlier this month still fell short of international standards.

The report is critical of media freedom, citing limitations on television broadcasting and lawsuits against journalists for alleged insults and defamation.

It says "public trust in the judiciary continues to be low, and perception of corruption high."
Azerbaijan scored fairly well in the economic arena.
Azerbaijan scored fairly well in the economic arena.

Azerbaijan: Brussels Raps Baku Over Range Of Issues

The European Commission criticizes Azerbaijan for a lack of progress in a host of areas.

Brussels urges Baku to "bring legislation on elections, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and media freedom into line with international standards and ensure its full implementation." It also urges more measures to tackle corruption.

The text says negotiations on an EU-Azerbaijan association agreement have progressed "at slow pace" and that negotiations on a free-trade deal cannot start until Azerbaijan becomes a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The report does, however, praise Azerbaijan's quick economic growth, although it notes that such expansion largely was driven by "oil-financed public spending rather than by self-sustained development in the private sector."
Corruption was Moldova's weakness in this year's report.
Corruption was Moldova's weakness in this year's report.

Moldova: EU Has General Praise

Moldova arguably receives the best review among the Eastern Partnership countries in this year's European Neighborhood Policy review.

The text cites the "good pace" of negotiations on an association agreement and "good progress in almost all areas of the action plan" that was established between Brussels and Chisinau.

There is, however, criticism that only limited progress has been made in fighting corruption.

The EU also urges Chisinau to "step up efforts to implement the justice and law-enforcement reform strategies, with a focus on human rights protection."

An insufficient pace of reforms of the public administration, including transparency and access to information, is also mentioned, as is the need for faster privatization of state-owned enterprises in telecommunications, transport, energy, and the financial sectors.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak
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