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Pass or Fail? Grading the Eastern Partnership

In anticipation of the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, the latest issue of New Eastern Europe contains a strong focus on the progress (or lack of) in the countries of the Eastern Partnership. The issue includes op-eds by Carl Bildt (Foreign Minister of Sweden) as well as Radosław Sikorski (Foreign Minister of Poland).

October 15, 2013 - Example Author - Articles and Commentary



This issue of New Eastern Europe also includes the results of a survey that NEE conducted with ten experts from across Europe.

Competitve exam image by Shutterstock

The experts graded the Eastern Partnership programme by completing a scorecard with a series of categories for each of the six EaP countries (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia). The aim of this scorecard is to present their assessment on the progress (or lack thereof) in the region, as well as shed light on the areas that need further attention by public officials, policymakers and leaders in both the European Union and the Eastern European states.

We are publishing the short version of the results online. To see the full results please purchase or download New Eastern Europe Issue 4(IX)/2013

The head of the class

Not surprisingly, Belarus scored the lowest, while Georgia has scored the highest.  Ukraine scored below the regional average with an overall score of 2.5 (with 3 being “fair”); while Moldova and Georgia are the only two countries that scored above the average. Armenia scored higher than Azerbaijan, but by only two-fifths of a point.

Looking at the regional average; the development of civil society is graded the highest among the categories with a score of 3 (fair) while progress in regards to human rights is the lowest scoring category. More precisely, the average score for Belarus and Azerbaijan in regards to human rights is around 1.5 (between very poor and poor) and 3.1 for Georgia, which received the highest score. Analysing progress in the rule of law and the justice system, the experts graded Ukraine with an average of 1.8 – only slightly higher than Belarus and Azerbaijan. Ukraine’s average grade of 1.6 in its fight against corruption is tied last with Azerbaijan (and lower than Belarus).  

Overall, the experts believe that progress in the EaP countries is not overwhelmingly positive, which is reflected in the 2.6 average grade for the whole region. Beyond this, the scorecard also illustrates the diversity of the countries of the Eastern Partnership. It reflects the need to perhaps consider a more individualised, bilateral approach between the European Union and those countries that have progressed the most in their integration with Europe, versus those that have progressed the least.

With or without

Assessing the situation in Ukraine, 60 per cent of experts believed that if Ukraine does not meet the European Union’s criteria before the Vilnius summit on November 28th and 29th 2013, the EU should not sign the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. Among the reasons why these agreements should not be signed experts point to the community losing its credibility, setting a bad precedent for the EU External Action Service and sending a signal to EaP states of the EU’s commitment to its values. Being realistic, some experts also noted that even if the EU and Ukraine do sign the agreement, there are no guarantees that Ukraine will implement its commitments under the AA/DCFTA.

An overwhelming 80 per cent of the experts believed that the EU’s policy of more-for-more (and less-for-less) was a fair component of the EU’s neighbourhood policy, cautioning that it has to be used carefully and in a flexible manner. Many also indicated that the policy of “less-for-less” doesn’t necessarily exist seeing it more as a variety of the “more-for-more” forms. Experts who shared this opinion would often point to EU assessments as being political decisions. Arguing this viewpoint, one expert noted:  “The main problem is that the EaP countries are getting ‘more for less’ or ‘less for more’; depending on the relations between the political elites of EU and EaP countries. The only way that would make the more-for-more policy effective would be creating different criteria for different states since they differ in various fields, such as economic development, rule of law, democracy-autocracy, etc. However, as such, having different criteria would mean that the EU selects the favourites and outsiders of the partnership, thus bringing some tension.”

Much work to be done

All the experts conceded that there is still much work to be done in regards to engagement in Eastern Europe. This opinion, however, did not contradict their belief that the Eastern Partnership has a high potential for serious change in the region. Support and resources should be only increased on the side of both partners. Successes include progress made in the trade and association agreement negotiations, visa facilitation, energy and defence cooperation, and the increase in awareness of Eastern affairs in the EU. However, lack of political will and resources remain the biggest challenges. Several experts also noted that Russia’s “unprecedented intervention” in the region will remain one of the key challenges to the success of the EaP.

Summing up, one expert emphasised the importance of the EaP as “a litmus test for the EU and its seriousness as a global political actor. The EaP countries’ experience of negotiating and implementing the DCFTA agreements can be a crucially important future model of EU’s cooperation with the southern neighbours (such as countries of North Africa and Middle East).” Another expert concluded that: “The matrix of engagement developed by the EU for the EaP region is excellent; however what is still missing is how to connect with partners on the ground to ensure legitimacy and implementation.”

New Eastern Europe Expert Panel

Laure Delcour – Institut des Relations Internationales et Stratégiques (France)

Dominik P. Jankowski – Casimir Pulaski Foundation (Poland)

Vytautas Keršanskas – Eastern Europe Studies Centre (Lithuania)

Elena Korosteleva – University of Kent (United Kingdom)

Vahur Made – Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership (Estonia)

Stefan Meister – German Council on Foreign Relations (Germany)

Rafał Sadowski – Centre for Eastern Studies (Poland)

Iryna Sushko – Europe without Barriers (Ukraine)

Paweł Świeżak – National Security Bureau (Poland)

Andrew Wilson – European Council on Foreign Relations (United Kingdom)

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