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EU Parliament Hails Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova Reforms; Eyes Russia Pressure

EU lawmakers have said that they were in favor of "clear benchmarks for future cooperation" with Eastern European partners. (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- European Parliament lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a resolution praising reforms in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova and said the three former Soviet republics could eventually be considered for membership in the European Union.

The resolution on November 15 also vowed to maintain "collective pressure on Russia to resolve the conflicts in eastern Ukraine, the occupied territories" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Transdniester.

The move by parliament members comes ahead of the 2017 Eastern Partnership summit scheduled for November 24 in Brussels. The partnership was created in 2009 to deepen EU ties with six Eastern European partners -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

The recommendations had been approved on October 10 by the parliament's foreign affairs committee.

The text is nonbinding, but EU lawmakers said they welcomed "significant progress" made since the previous Eastern Partnership summit held in Riga in 2015.

The text called on member states to "agree to an ambitious declaration for the 2017 Summit that sets relevant long-term goals" and highlights that the association agreements signed with the three countries "do not constitute the final goal in their relations with the EU."

The lawmakers said they were in favor of "clear benchmarks for future cooperation" and that the EU would make no further deals with any Eastern Partnership country that does not respect EU values or "intimidates human rights defenders and journalists."

Economic Reforms

The text was not specific, but the parliament has in the past criticized some of the countries for alleged rights violations. On November 13, 47 members of the parliament condemned the treatment of imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist Afqan Muxtarli and demanded his immediate release.

Diplomats told RFE/RL that the final declaration of the upcoming summit will acknowledge the EU aspirations of the partners but will not make any specific commitments toward potential membership.

The lawmakers did recommend providing aid to Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova in the form of trust funds to focus on private and public investments in social and economic infrastructure.

One of the goals, they said, would be to support economic reforms "aimed at phasing out monopolies, limiting the role of oligarchs, and preventing money-laundering and tax evasion."

"The summit must not only talk about what has been achieved, but what needs to be done and where to do homework," said Knut Fleckenstein, an MEP from Germany.

The lawmakers also vowed to "keep pressure on Russia to resolve conflicts in the EU eastern neighborhood," without going into detail.

The resolution also stated that the MEPs supported the deployment of an "armed" police mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in eastern Ukraine.

Russia occupied and seized the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and backs separatists whose war against Kyiv's forces has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April of that year.

Russia has also unilaterally recognized the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia following a brief war with Georgia in 2008. And Moscow maintains troops in Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region over the repeated objections of the Moldovan authorities.

With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels
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