The Battle for the Black Sea

7597085908_703d2e2b99_oRussia’s moves in Crimea are ominous for other Black Sea nations considering E.U. ascension.

By Cristina Maza.

As the situation in Ukraine continues to unfold, there is fear in Georgia that their negotiations with the E.U. could provoke repercussions from Russia.

In the Ukraine, a process as outwardly mundane and bureaucratic as the signing of an Association Agreement with the European Union was catapulted into the international spotlight, gaining continuous media attention for months on end. In late November, when Ukraine’s government—erstwhile led by the six-foot-six convicted robber Victor Yanukovich—made the decision at the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius not to move forward with the signing of an Association Agreement, it sparked a series of events watched closely by international media: the protests that rocked Ukraine for months on end, leading to the death of over 70 protesters, the disappearance of hundreds more, and the subsequent occupation of Crimea by Russian troops.

Despite the very real and tangible economic reasons for which the country’s government decided not to sign an Association Agreement (A.A.) with the E.U., protesters have been so adamant about their desire to move towards E.U. integration and so determined to stand up for their right to choose their country’s path that they forced many of Ukraine’s top government officials to resign and President Yanukovich to flee the country. In fact, the security situation in Ukraine has become so dire that government leaders have begun sending their family members abroad. But while the drama continues to unfold in Ukraine, people in those Eastern Partnership countries that have not yet reneged on their plans to sign the A.A. with the E.U. are watching Russia nervously, waiting for their dominant neighbor to turn its gaze and set its sights on them.

Will the European Union be able to provide enough incentives to assure these countries that moving forward with their commitments to Europe is a safe and viable option, or will the situation in Ukraine repeat itself in Georgia or Moldova? This is the question that weighs on the minds of many in Georgia today, where the current government of Georgian dream-President Giorgi Margvelashvili remains firm in its commitment to sign an A.A. by August.

What is an Association Agreement? When a country’s leadership decides that joining the European Union is its goal, the E.U. requires that the country fulfill certain commitments to bring it closer to the E.U.’s norms and standards. Once these commitments have been met, the country takes the first step towards E.U. membership by signing an A.A. There are four main chapters of an A.A: one that covers common foreign and security policy, one that outlines necessary reforms to the country’s judicial system, a chapter (applicable only for Eastern Partnership countries) on the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), and a chapter that includes everything from the environment to education. Not exactly the most headline-capturing topic; however, following recent events in Ukraine, many spectators are coming to realize that when the …

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