Via Postimees comes news of a project devised by Poland and Sweden to create a loose affiliation between the EU and five nearby states: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Eastern Partnership would involve visa-free travel, free trade, and the very voluminous umbrella term of "strategic partnerships".
Brilliant. This is the first truly plausible and useful act of EU foreign policy that I've seen. Edward Lucas ought to be extatic: weary of Russian and Iranian sabre-rattling and back-room negotiations over contested membership plans, the EU begins to play sphere-of-influence games unashamedly. The EP has already received support from Britain, Germany and the Netherlands; France is expected to play along in return for approval for its own similar project in the Mediterranean and North Africa. That will also bring support from Spain and Italy.
The beauty of the EP and MU projects is that they return to the core values and competence of the European Union: economical rather than political; practical. They offer the affiliate countries the benefits of the rich, powerful, clever, established force that is Europe, without the restrictions of membership - and often those simply cannot be implemented in adjoining states even with the best of goodwill - and without the finality of taking sides, either against Russia or against the extreme bits of the Middle East. Poland, the dreadnought of New Europe, is expected to take the lead in incorporating the leftover bits of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe and the North Caucasus, while France has taken it upon itself to spearhead the EU's expansion of influence into near Arab territories, where it has a presence and a history. (While its colonial past might bother some in North Africa, France has been the neutral party in Middle Eastern affairs since the middle of the 20th century.)
The EP/MU initiative allows Europe to pursue its interests on the south-eastern bearing without getting bogged down in the quagmire of politics and offense; it will be playing against the other major entities in the region on its strengths. There is a lot for Eurocrats to get wrong here, but if they succeed, it will assert the EU not only as a common force, but undeniably as a new world superpower.