Yesterday, 1 April, NATO members ordered military commanders to draw up plans for reinforcing NATO’s defenses to shore up confidence among the Eastern European members, including the Baltic States and Poland. Also, all civilian and military cooperation with Russia is suspended. Foreign Ministers of the 28 NATO members gathered in Brussels for the first time since the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development party (AK-party) gained a substantial victory in the Turkish nationwide local elections on Sunday 30 March. Embattled Premier Erdogan has been accused of authoritarianism and corruption after a string of scandals. The local elections have become an unofficial referendum on Erdogan’s government.
Afgelopen weekend organiseerden wij een training voor onze partner in Moldavië, de Democratische Partij. Nieuwe leden van de jongerenorganisatie van de partij kregen een training ter voorbereiding van een belangrijke verkiezingscampagne: in het najaar vinden er parlementsverkiezingen plaats in Moldavië. Alle trainingsdeelnemers zullen actief betrokken zijn bij deze campagne.
At a meeting of the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, Member of the European Parliament Monica Macovei said Moldova should sign the political part of the Association Agreement with Europe first. Macovei, who is the co-chairwoman of the committee on behalf of the EU, responded to fears for Russian aggression in the region on Tuesday 25 March. Moldova has sounded the alarm on Russian pressure on the government coalition in response to its European-integration agenda.
Today, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk signed the political part of the Association Agreement. An Association Agreement is EU's main instrument to bring the countries in the Eastern Partnership closer to EU standards and norms. It comprises four general chapters: Common Foreign and Security Policy; Justice and Home Affairs; the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA); and a fourth chapter covering a range of issues including the environment, science, transportation, and education. The trade part of the EU accord, which is the bulk of the treaty, is to be signed after May.
General elections of a new parliament in Bulgaria have been held on May 12th 2013. The results were that the number of parliamentarians in the former leading party GERB (which stands for Citizens for an European Development of Bulgaria) declined from 117 to 97 persons, whereas the number of socialists (BSP) more than doubled to 84 parliamentarians and the Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS) consolidated its position with 36 members.
Following a referendum on Sunday 16 March, Crimea declared itself an independent state on Monday 17 March. The newly formed Republic of Crimea formally applied to join the Russian Federation the same day. The West claims the referendum to be illegal and says it will impose new sanctions.
In Turkey, tensions soared on 11 and 12 March when tens of thousands of people took to the streets and gathered to mourn the death of Berkin Elvan. He died after being in a coma for nine months. Last June he was hit on the head by a tear-gas canister while going to buy bread during the protests against the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He was a symbol for the police brutality that, among others, caused the Gezi-protests of last year to escalate. These protests started as a relatively small environmentalist movement to save Istanbul's central Gezi Park but evolved into a nationwide wave of protests against Erdoğan, who is seen as increasingly authoritarian.
On Wednesday 12 March, the European Parliament agreed on a framework for sanctions against Russia. The sanctions would impose travel bans and asset freezes on people and firms Brussels believes to have violated the integrity of Ukraine. The EU is prepared to take harsher measures such as arms embargo’s and trade measures, if need be.
The parliament of Ukraine’s southern region, Crimea, has voted unanimously in favor of joining Russia. The vote coincided with an announcement that a referendum on Crimea's status was being brought forward to March 16. The question to be put to voters will be whether their region should enjoy autonomy within Ukraine or join Russia.