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Adrienne Warren

The EaP Four Years On: Success or Failure?

Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski hosted the Foreign Ministers of 11 European countries – Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – in Gdansk, Poland, at the end of February. The aim of the gathering was to discuss a cohesive strategy for overcoming the EU’s economic crisis, and spurning  over-all growth and global competitiveness between the Visegrad, Nordic and Baltic nations.  The representatives of 11 countries also discussed the Eastern Partnership project, with Minister Sikorski saying, “2013 could be a breakthrough year for the Eastern Partnership. I hope that we will sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine and – fingers crossed – complete negotiations on the agreement with three other EaP countries…”

Gdansk old town, author: Michael Caven, source: Flickr

Gdansk old town, author: Michael Caven, source: Flickr

This May, the Eastern Partnership will mark the 4th year since it was launched in 2009, after the project was proposed by Poland and Sweden in 2008.  The anniversary of the EaP offers a logical a moment to reflect on how the project has developed since its inception–with many asking whether it has been a success, or has fallen short of its desired goals.  Rafał Sadowski, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) commented on the successes of the EaP, saying:

“The success of the EaP is mostly related to its contribution to a change in the EU’s approach towards its Eastern neighbours and how the EU formulates its Eastern policy. The EaP has singled out Eastern Europe (Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus) and the South Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan) as subjects of European policy. Previously, these countries were not seen as a distinct region and the EU’s policy had been based mostly on bilateral level solutions.”

Sadowski explains that the mere existence of the EaP demonstrates a progression in how the EU regards the region now known as The Neighbourhood:

“The EaP is also a reflection of an evolution in terms of how the EU sees the region that has been underway since the 1990s. From a neighbouring region largely dominated by Russia in the 1990s, it has become a region which has a chance of integration with the EU. The EaP has confirmed, on the level of declarations, the willingness of the EU and the partner countries to deepen their economic integration and increase their political rapprochement….if it was not for the EaP, the EU involvement in the East would have been reduced to a much greater extent than has been the case.”

Sadowski also  highlited progress in the realm of civil society, and the Civil Society Forum, as tools for enhancing the internal situations in the Neighbourhood countries. However, Sadowski also addressed the downsides of the EaP, explaining that the EU’s role in helping to ‘democratise’ the EaP countries was not a clear cut one, as some situations had deteriorated in the last few years:

“This situation demonstrates that the EaP, but also broadly speaking the EU itself, has limited capabilities to influence the political situations in the partner countries and to stimulate their transformations and reform. The fundamental problem is not the construction of the EaP but the overall approach of the EU. On the one hand, its expectations (political and economic liberalisation) are not fully in conformity with the interests of the ruling elites in the EaP countries. For them, the current forms of their political and economic systems are, in essence, beneficial and the changes could mean a weakening of their own positions on the internal political scene. On the other hand, the offer presented by the EU is not attractive enough to persuade the elites to bear the high financial and social costs of European integration. The membership offer is lacking and, as a result, people begin to question the purpose of the adoption of the EU acquis in a situation where these countries do not have any possibility of influencing it.”

Sadowski emphasised, however, that perhaps the greatest failing of the EaP hinges on a lack of interest in the Neighbourhood countries by the EU Member States:

“…despite the changes introduced by the EaP, most of which are largely heading in the right direction, they have not been sufficient for the challenges that the EU encounters in the East. The EaP has been dominated so far by a bureaucratic approach, namely the focus is on the successive negotiation rounds of AAs and DCFTAs, or visa liberalisation and facilitation. The EU is not able to react to the quickly evolving situation in the neighbourhood. The basic problem of the EaP is its limited political importance resulting from the fact that the majority of EU member states are not interested in the Eastern Neighbourhood.”

sources: Pinpoint Politics, Eap-Csf

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Graduated in International Relations and Russian. Resident of Estonia, but a citizen of the world. Most interested in contributing to the progress and education of mankind--as the primary tool of achieving global unity.

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