A new impulse for the Eastern Partnership?

The summit of V4, Nordic, Baltic countries took place in Gdansk, Poland.

Questions:

1. Four years after the launch if the Eastern Partnership what are the pros and cons of this project in your opinion?

2. Summit I mentioned is V4, Nordic, Baltic countries meeting. It is definitely good to have good contacts but would you say that this kind of platform could be somehow important in the EU beyond the family photo?

Answers:

Elżbieta Kaca, Analyst, Polish Institute of International Affairs

1. Four years of the Eastern Partnership existence can be compared to a period of a very early childhood when mum (the EU) would like to behave its child according to its rules while meeting at the same time misunderstanding and resistance of a baby. This initiative still needs years to build on what has been achieved till now. I mean here the significant progress in contractual relations we faced under EaP since 2009, what is definitely an advantage. Currently all EaP countries beside Belarus are negotiating the association agreements with the EU (Ukraine has finished the negotiations). Some of them as Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia are going to sign new types of trade deals (DCFTAs) meaning substantive implementation of EU law. In terms of visa deals Moldova and Ukraine are in a process of negotiating visa free regime (both obtained option of Western Balkan similar Action Plans containing conditions to fulfill in order to have visas lifted). Georgia awaits to enter similar process. Even Armenia and Azerbaijan progressed in migration field as Armenia signed a re-admission and visa facilitation agreement, and Azerbaijan is negotiating such agreements.

Acceleration of the contractual relations is possible as the creation of EaP has given the Eastern Europe region more political angle what is the next advantage of this initiative. For the first time this region has been separated from North African countries in the scope of the European Neighbourhood Policy and obtained its own mark and structures under Eastern Partnership. Regular summits at the level of heads of state and meetings on ministerial level, all it means that in practical terms it is easier to prioritize this region in the EU external relations and push for EU actions. One should remember that from the perspective of EU institutions and 27 Member States Eastern Europe is not the first priority what is the case for instance of BRIC countries or USA.

The major challenge to address in EaP future will be the implementation of association agreements and DCFTAs. Numerous examples in EU external relations show that it is easy to sign agreement but much harder to execute EU norms. The lack of membership perspective decreases significantly reform process at the EaP side. It is a fairy tale to tell EU can have serious impact on neighbour internal situation if it does not enter the accession process. Notably it relates to the sphere of democracy. Such misunderstanding in this field is wit by Ukraine example who neglects EU calls of releasing Timoshenko and Lucenko even though EU has frozen the signature of association agreement.

Having in mind that no further enlargement process will take place soon and there are Eastern partners of different level of ambitions the EU should take more pragmatic approach – it should focus on areas of common interests between the EU and EaP countries, primarily trade and migration. In case of those countries willing the transformation (i.e. Moldova) EU should work on improving EU offer in order to help implement neighbours negotiated EU conditions, what is not the case now.

2. The families photos are important to know who belongs to your family what is not evident sometimes. V4, Nordic and Baltic states have been traditionally supporters of EaP. However they differ in their opinions on certain issues as for instance in case of signature the association agreement with Ukraine. Some countries think it is not possible to enter this deal unless Ukraine release Timoshenko and Lucenko, while others claim for quick signature in order to have the impact on Ukraine through legally binding agreement. It is important therefore to have one line at the level of this block of countries in terms of EaP notably for the reason the Lithuania Presidency is approaching (II half of 2013). Lithuania has given the EaP a priority and this time should be used to develop the EaP further. In November 2013 a third EaP summit will take place and there is need to have strong political coalition of MS for progressing EaP.

Dominik Tolksdorf, Center for Transatlantic Relations, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University

1. The EU hopes that the intensification of the relations with the countries in the Eastern neighbourhood will in general lead to more democratic systems, more energy security and intensified trade with those countries that should eventually lead to the gradual integration of their economies into the EU’s Single Market. As lately seen in the conclusions of the EU foreign minister’s Council meeting, the EU regularly emphasizes that the pace of reforms in the partner countries will determine the intensity of cooperation with the EU and ultimately the benefits of this relationship for the partner countries. This demonstrates that the EU still sticks to a top down-approach in its relations with the “partner countries”. However, the basic problem remains that in fact, the EU in many ways lacks leverage on most EaP countries. Elections will be held in 2013 in all three south Caucasus states, but there is not much hope that they will lead to any democratic change in Azerbaijan. Similarly, since the EaP has been established, we did not see any change in Belarus. Many EU member states remain disappointed about the political developments and rule of law in Ukraine. These examples show that the EU’s carrots and stick approach has not led to significant changes in its neighbourhood – at least not to changes that are in the interest of the EU and its member states. Finally, there has been no tangible progress in the resolution of the frozen conflicts, for example in the Caucasus; rather worrying, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh seems to intensify again.

On the other hand, there is reason for slight optimism: The EU hopes to complete the negotiations on Association Agreements with some EaP countries (Georgia, Armenia and Moldova) until the EaP summit in Vilnius in November 2013. The completion of these agreements could set a good example for the other neighbourhood countries that participate in the EaP and thus revitalize the policy. In addition, the EU governments will carefully follow the developments in Ukraine. If the Yanukovich government agrees to the EU conditions, the Association Agreement can be ratified in the EU. If this really happens, it would be hailed by the EU as a success of the transformative power of the EU and the effectiveness of its ENP and EaP instruments shortly before the November summit.

2. Although the EU foreign ministers today reaffirmed the importance they attach to the Eastern Partnership, many member states are currently rather focusing on the southern dimension of the European Neighbourhood, particularly Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and of course Syria. It’s safe to say that the focus on developments in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood is not among the priorities of EU foreign policy at the moment. The Eastern Partnship today enjoys less support across the EU member states than in 2009, and if the NB8 and V4 countries do not take the initiative to “revitalize” this policy field, nobody in the EU will. Thus, the initiative of the Polish V4-Presidency and the Swedish government is certainly meant to shift the relations between the EU and the Eastern neighbours more into the focus of EU foreign policy again and to prepare for the Eastern Partnership Summit in November 2013.

Nathaniel CopseyCo-Director, Aston Centre for Europe, Reader in Politics, Aston University

1. The advantage of the project is basically its multi-lateralism. That said, it does not appear to have achieved all that much to-date, although apparently there has been some easing of tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Belarus remains in the cold – and is getting worse. Ukraine has slipped behind too. This is not to blame the EAP – more to underline its limitations. There are not enough resources and the EU is consumed with the eurozone crisis.

2. Well all these countries are important for the EAP and relations with the East. It would make sense for them to work together on relations with the eastern neighbours. Whether this will happen is harder to say. In many ways this would be a continuation of existing policy and politics (think of PL, SE and the EAP).

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