International Breaking News: Following Pact with Ukraine, EU Signs Agreements With Georgia and Moldova
Aside from signing a trade agreement with Ukraine, the European Union has continued to push for other Eastern European countries to enter its sphere of influence. Georgia and Moldova sided with the EU by signing association agreements Friday.
Ukraine signed its own political association agreement with the EU this year soon after Russia annexed the Crimea; however, Russia's other neighbors had yet to officially align themselves with the EU. According to the Wall Street Journal, the EU had planned to sign association agreements with Russian neighbors Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus; however, pressure from Moscow made all these countries drop out during negotiations in 2009.
Now the EU has strengthened economic and political ties with three countries formerly part of the USSR. All of the countries have had strained relations with Russia; however, unlike with Ukraine's recent struggle, Georgia's and Moldova's complex relationships with Russia have not been covered in the media recently. Russia occupies rebel provinces of both countries. In Georgia, Russian troops are present in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Meanwhile, Russian troops occupy the separatists Moldovan region of Transnistria.
With the countries now formally aligned with the EU, they could face economic retaliation from Russia, which cited impurities in banning Moldovan wine in September, a serious blow to the country's heavily agricultural economy. The Journal reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has threatened to strip Ukraine's and Moldova's economic benefits with Russia as part of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The agreements between the three nations and Brussels will lower trade barriers and promote democratic reforms. Signing these accords will ease future integration into the EU. But EU leaders assured Russia that the agreements will not harm Russia and that the four nations can continue with their own arrangements.
The leaders of both Georgia and Moldova praised the signing of the agreements. Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said Friday will be forever remembered as the "beginning of a great journey," according to Radio Free Europe. He also said the rebel regions will soon see the prosperity brought by closer ties with the EU.