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Adrienne Warren

Is the EaP On the Edge of Adulthood?

PISM, the Polish Institute of International Affairs, released a report entitled “A Competitive Two-speed Policy: The Eastern Partnership beyond 2013”. The report stresses the importance for the Eastern Partnership to be re-defined, particularly following the November EaP summit in Vilnius, if the EaP is going to increase its competitiveness and multi-lateral effectiveness. According to PISM, the much-talked about Summit is only the beginning of a long process, which needs to be deeply reassessed in the coming months…

Vilnius morning. author: flavijus. source: Flickr

Vilnius morning. author: flavijus. source: Flickr

The report explains:

“The Eastern Partnership, directed at strengthening EU relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, has reached a decisive moment. By the time of the milestone Vilnius summit, organised by the Lithuanian presidency on the 28–29 November, it will be clear with which countries the EU will initial Association Agreements including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs), and if such a deal will be signed at all with Ukraine. After four years of existence, the Eastern Partnership (EaP), is thus at a stage where it must solve its first mature dilemmas. It must become more competitive and political, not least by working out different policies towards two distinct groups of neighbours, one which has chosen deeper economic integration with the EU and the other, which prefers closer relations with Russia or even China.”

Authors Elżbieta Kaca, Kinga Dudzińska, and Karolina Zubel elucidate on exactly why these two different policy directions are so important:

“Russia is ready to enlarge its Customs Union formed with Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2010,2 and to counterbalance the conclusion of the DCFTAs with Ukraine, Armenia and Moldova by aggressive means (misuse of energy pricing, artificial trade obstacles, threats to withdraw security guarantees of or threats to withdraw military cooperation, and ‘the instrumentalisation’ of protracted conflicts). Due to the existing regime for the free movement of people, as well as language, cultural and religious ties, Moscow is better positioned than the EU to attract the majority of EaP societies.”

And of other key player, China:

“China, meanwhile, is developing its activities on the basis of tied credit, loans granted for infrastructural projects and the creation of joint ventures, along with the acquisition of local firms and a low level of direct investments. Economically, both Russia and China are well-placed trade partners for EaP countries—Russia is amongst the top three trade partners
in almost all EaP countries (besides Georgia), while China is amongst the top five trade partners for Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus and Georgia.”

In order to stay competitive and attractive, the report has identified four key areas in which the EaP must adapt: EU diplomacy, creating a two speed partnership, enhancing multilateralism, and reaching the EaP societies.

An interesting comparison is offered by Iana Dreyer and Nicu Popescu, in their Institute for Security Studies report, “A solidarity package for the eastern partners”.  The report also stresses the need for certain reforms and adaptations in the EU-EaP relationships. Dreyer and Popescu explain the reasons behind the needed changes:

“The year ahead will be a crucial one for the success of the Eastern Partnership (EaP). While Ukraine and the EU work towards the eventual signature of an Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November, Moldova and
Georgia will only initial the Agreement, and are not due to sign it until autumn 2014. Since the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) will only become a legal reality for them towards the end of 2014, between now and then they will be vulnerable to external pressures – diplomatic, commercial or energy-related – aimed at disrupting the signing of the agreement.”

The report continues:

“The recent U-turn by Armenia (which chose to join a Russia-led Customs Union rather than sign up to the DCFTA), as well as rising trade pressures on Ukraine and a new wine embargo on Moldova, probably mark just the beginning of a longer escalation of trade-related hostilities. The aim of these pressures is to either divert some of the eastern partners from their EU association agenda, or drastically increase the costs of pursuing this option and weaken the political forces behind proEU moves. As a consequence, they will start paying the economic and geopolitical price for association with the EU well before they start reaping the benefits of it.”

Dreyer and Popescu also highlight five key competency areas which may assist the EU in navigating the sticky triangular EU-EaP-Russian relationship:

“Given this context, the dilemma for the EU is how to keep the Association Agenda on track without engaging in a tug-of-war with Russia. To this end,  the Union might consider launching an ‘EaP interim solidarity package’ to offset potential economic losses incurred due to external pressures.”

Namely: Fast-tracking visa liberalisation, unilaterally rolling out DCFTA trade concessions, financial assistance, accelerating energy-integration, and dealing with Russia in the WTO.

The future of the EaP may well rely upon this, as Dreyer nad Popescu stress:

“The question is whether and for how long Moldova and Georgia – two fragile, small and poor states, riven by bitterly divisive politics and unresolved secessionist conflicts – will be able to withstand a sustained external assault on their foreign and economic policy choices.”

sources: PISM, ISS

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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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