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Analysis

Seeking the Eastern Partnership’s greatest integer

In many regards, the 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels illustrated that the “old normal” has disappeared. Instead, another disenchanting reality – crisis as the “new normal” – needs to be reckoned with.

The next Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in 2019 will mark the tenth anniversary of the project as a joint initiative involving the European Union, its member states and six Eastern European partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Perhaps it is for this event that the partners are keeping their solemn and ambitious statements. And, moreover, they are right to do so. After surviving the Riga Summit in 2015, the 2017 Brussels Summit became a sobering moment – and not a celebration. It was the summit where mesmerism met discernment, aspiration met disenchantment and one reality met another reality.

February 26, 2018 - Andriy Tyushka

The redrawing of the Eastern map

Over the past five years a counterintuitive picture has emerged in the Eastern Partnership. On the one hand Moldova, which was praised for its exemplary progress in adopting EU sanctioned reforms, has been on a downward spiral. Georgia, on the other hand, has now arisen to the status of peak performer in the region.

The most striking result from last November's Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit, held in Brussels, has been the EU’s contrasting approaches to Moldova and Georgia. The EU signalled displeasure with Moldova by withdrawing its latest funding that was intended for reforms, whilst rewarding Georgia’s progress with an increase in funding. That outcome might be because the EU has seen Georgia as the region’s last hope, with Tbilisi’s willingness to put shared values into practice through the implementation of reforms. By granting the country financial support, the EU has been able to ensure Georgia’s continuation as the role model, despite some shady performances, especially its behaviour regarding ongoing internal conflicts.

February 26, 2018 - Nina Lutterjohann

Eastern Partnership and the final frontier

Since ambitious geopolitical objectives are not necessarily available for the Eastern Partnership in the foreseeable future, it is worth prioritising economic activities. One instrument which supports such development is the Earth Observation for Sustainable Development programme being carried out by the European Space Agency and which has its own Eastern Partnership component.

The European Union is looking to provide assistance to countries that in the past found themselves in the exclusive sphere of Soviet influence and continue to struggle today with incessant provocations or pressure from Russia. This is precisely the aim of the EU’s active Eastern policy within the framework of the Eastern Partnership (EaP). One innovative opportunity for the countries in the region has emerged: a new programme called Earth Observation for Eastern Partnership (EO4EP). This project aims to closely co-operate with the Eastern Partnership countries so that they can better manage agricultural and environmental programmes. It is envisioned that better management in these sectors could help strengthen public management in other sectors as well as supporting the ultimate aims of the EaP.

February 26, 2018 - Paweł Ziemnicki

New German government will need to engage more deeply in the Western Balkans

Germany is a reluctant leader within the EU, even more so in external affairs. Nevertheless, it has become clear that Balkan leaders look to Berlin, rather than Brussels or other European capitals. With a new coalition government on the horizon, it is important that Germany expends some political capital on bringing the remaining Western Balkan countries further into the EU’s orbit.

February 20, 2018 - Robert Ledger

The dragon in the room

Despite China's assurances that Baku-Beijing-Tbilisi relations are to be based on the principle of equilibrium, with economic gain being the sole motivation, the impression of political dominance is hard to avoid. It is estimated that the old patterns of regional rivalries will further change with China’s expansions westwards, with China becoming a regional stabiliser.

January 30, 2018 - Małgosia Krakowska

Ukraine in 2017: A summary

The situation in Ukraine, at first glance, looks good: the military conflict is frozen, the macroeconomic stability has been achieved, the economy has started to grow, and the West continues to support the country. Despite the successes, however, Ukraine has failed to meet the expectations of its citizens.

January 25, 2018 - Valerii Pekar

Czech presidential election: A vote on Europe

The results of the January 26th and 27th Czech election will determine the relations between Central and Eastern Europe and Brussels: If Zeman wins, nationalistic positions will prevail in the region. If Drahos is elected, Central and Eastern Europe will not present a uniformly Eurosceptic front. In future struggles over individual freedoms and European funds this will be of importance.

January 23, 2018 - Cyrille Bret

Regional power shifts in Central Asia

Uzbekistan has a geopolitical potential to be the region's leader and solve its most pressing problems like water scarcity. Its central location makes it easy to reach out to all the Central Asian states. The future regional dynamics will depend on the relations between Tashkent and Astana, which geopolitically define the shape of Central Asia.

January 17, 2018 - David Erkomaishvili

Eurasian Economic Union: Between perception and reality

The EAEU is primarily a limited customs union, which managed to harmonise the external customs tariffs, abolished the internal customs borders, and transferred the decision-making about the tariffs to the Union level. However, it is unlikely to achieve higher levels of economic integration, as there are too many disagreements between member countries.

January 9, 2018 - Alexander Libman

The growing religiosity of Kyrgyz youth

The once Soviet-controlled atheist societies like that in Kyrgyzstan, which for 70 years were subject to forced secularisation, have been rediscovering Islam after the collapse of Soviet Union. This is especially true for young people, who are increasingly more religious.

The early morning call to prayer woke Kairat up. He got up with haste, as he was anxious not to be late. He wanted to make it to morning prayer in a community mosque located 700 meters from his home. As he put on his coat and heads out of the house on a chilly, late-November morning, he could not resist the feeling of guilt that he almost overslept. He returned from Bishkek quite late the night before and was very tired.

In Bishkek, Kairat and others were discussing sublime ideas of how Kyrgyzstan’s youth view the country changing by 2030. Their visions could easily be applied to Kairat’s home village of Kolduk in the Issyk-Kul region. “We are living in changing times,” he thought. Back in the Soviet times his village had not had a single mosque and today there are four in the tiny community. He and others believe that the growing religiosity in Kyrgyzstan is an issue that needs to be addressed.

January 2, 2018 - Keneshbek Sainazarov

Playing for high electoral stakes in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan likes to portray itself as Central Asia’s only democracy – but dog-whistle politics and dirty tricks deployed in the October 2017 presidential election muddied its democratic credentials.

“It’s like a game of poker,” said Medet Tursaliyev, a young man emerging from a polling station in Bishkek, the leafy laidback capital of Kyrgyzstan. “They’re playing all in – for high stakes.”

As Kyrgyzstan went to the polls on October 15th last year, Tursaliyev had hit the nail on the head: it was a high-stakes political battle of a type never witnessed before in Central Asia. His country made history by staging the first ever truly competitive presidential election in a region ruled by strongmen who usually cling to power for decades.

January 2, 2018 - Joanna Lillis

Long live Kim Jong-un: how Russia helps the dictator thrive

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there is an estimated 40,000 North Koreans working in Russia today, with some assessments indicating that this number will continue to grow. Human rights activists describe these workers as modern slaves, whose working conditions are harsh under the pressure to complete preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Kim Jong-un's North Korea is now at the centre of international news with its nuclear tests and reported preparations for more missile launches. Last autumn Kim Jong-un promised to complete his nuclear programme, despite new sanctions imposed by the West. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has rejected US calls for new sanctions on Pyongyang, claiming that it would be a counter-productive “road to nowhere” and may trigger a “global catastrophe”. This statement could be interpreted as an act of solidarity with the North Korean regime, since Putin's friends and senior officials are also under western sanctions.

However, upon closer examination this is not the only explanation. One of the major proposals of the sanctions package against North Korea is to cut off sources of foreign currency, limiting its ability to continue developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. This would signify a major shift for Moscow, as it would have to stop employing cheap North Korean labour.

January 2, 2018 - Artem Filatov

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