BRUSSELS, Nov. 16 - The European Parliament has backed closer integration between the EU and Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova with a view to those countries joining the customs union and Schengen area, plus gaining increased access to the single market, The Independent newspaper reported.
A motion passed by the body calls for deepening integration with the three eastern states as they implement more reforms, potentially paving the way for them becoming candidate countries to join the bloc.
A new level of closer cooperation for countries that had implemented reforms to their political systems and economies “could eventually lead to joining the customs union, energy union, digital union and Schengen area, further EU internal market access, integration into EU transport networks, industrial partnerships, increased participation in other EU program and agencies” the motion says.
With an eye on Russia, the resolution also said the countries and EU would maintain “collective pressure” on Vladimir Putin’s government “to resolve the conflicts in eastern Ukraine, the occupied territories” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, and Transdniester in Moldova.
The resolution, which comes ahead of a summit in Brussels next week between EU officials the bloc’s eastern neighbors, was adopted by 519 votes to 114 with 47 abstentions.
The EU has previously been critical of the countries for alleged human rights violations but said of its eastern neighbours those three had progressed best in implementing reforms.
The new tighter integration could bring the countries into an “Eastern Partnership Plus” (EaP+) model, they said. Possible benefits could include a trust fund to invest in infrastructure in the countries.
But the Parliament warned that no further integration would happen if countries did not “respect EU values” and that “strict conditionality” was attached to any further progress.
The EU currently has five formal candidate countries for full membership: Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. (in/ez)