Moderator: Jarosław Pietras, Visiting Fellow, Martens Centre
– Željana Zovko, MEP, HDZ, Croatia
– Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsandze, MP, European Solidarity, Ukraine, former Deputy PM for European and Euro-Atlantic IntegrationJarosław Pietras Enlargment Ukraine
Panel 4 Day 1 – EU Enlargement: A New Approach
Live-streams - Multimedia
31 May 2022
The author is a WMCES Visiting Fellow and the former Polish Secretary of State in the Office of the Committee for European Integration, who was involved in Poland’s accession to the EU.
On 11 March 2022, EU leaders met informally in Versailles to discuss the Russian war against Ukraine. The question of how to address Ukraine’s bid for EU membership remained unanswered. Heads of states simply noted that the Commission should prepare an opinion on this request, the so-called “Avis”, which is part of the formal procedure. It was not a visionary response, but a technocratic one. How can the Commission assess whether Ukraine is ready for membership while the country struggles against Russian invasion? There is a need for a considered approach that would guide the EU and Ukraine into a joint post-war era.
In rather dramatic circumstances, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an application for Ukrainian membership of the European Union, a plea to determine his country’s future. No one would reasonably expect that membership could be granted immediately, but in such atrocious times, it is necessary to respond credibly. There were calls, also among EPP leaders, to grant Ukraine candidate status. As the summit approached, some diplomats felt such a move would be low-risk, as it is never clear whether a candidate will actually eventually become a member. But this argument can be reversed, too. It does not seem entirely honest to offer candidate status on the assumption that it may not necessarily lead to membership. After the unequivocal declaration of the European Commission and the clear position of the European Parliament, some countries expected that the Council would adopt a similar stance in Versailles. In this respect, the Versailles Declaration fell short of their expectations. It does not create a fast-track procedure or promise candidate status to Ukraine; however, it does include some new elements.
EU leaders unanimously affirm that “Ukraine belongs to our European family”. This goes a few inches further than the wording of the EU-Ukraine summit last October. The Versailles Declaration notes that “the Council acted swiftly and invited the Commission to deliver its opinion on this request in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Treaties”. Now, any next step depends on a competent, but dry and technocratic analysis done by the Commission. Even without a clearer commitment on the candidate status, asking the Commission to prepare the Avis means that the discussion on Ukraine’s eligibility to become an EU member is thus over.
However, the follow-up to the political response to Ukraine’s application should respect all the accession process’ requirements. Any decision must also be consistent with the approach taken by the EU towards other candidates such as those of the Western Balkans, or others countries, like Georgia or Moldova.
The process of preparing a country for accession is complex and time-consuming. Simply asking the Commission to prepare an opinion on Ukraine’s application, the aforementioned Avis, is a bit confusing at this stage. How can the Commission reasonably assess whether Ukraine is capable of applying the acquis communautaire, while Russian bombs are dropping on the very institutions which would be applying EU regulations? Could one expect to receive quickly trustworthy answers to the thousands of questions in the typical questionnaire, which is soon going to be used by the Commission for this purpose? Is it possible to judge whether the Ukrainian administration is mature and can operate stably, as EU members expect? Drafting now an typical Avis on Ukraine’s membership application following standard methodology, through a detailed review of all the chapters of the acquis, would probably lead to unconvincing conclusions, as Ukraine is not currently in the position to deliver all the detailed information required.
Therefore, I recommend a different approach, The preparation of the Avis should be divided into four distinct phases; namely, assessment whether Ukraine meets criteria to obtain candidate status, guidance towards reconstruction, assistance with implementation of the acquis, and final assessment.
During the first phase, on the basis of relatively straightforward assessment of the Ukrainian economy, legal system and administration structures and intentions of the Ukrainian Government described in the answers to the first short questionnaire, the Commission should be able to propose to the EU Member States to decide, whether, under the condition that as they are, Ukraine can be granted candidate status for EU membership.
Whenever the war ends, Ukraine will need major reconstruction. The EU should prepare to offer massive support, clearly linking this support to Ukrainian membership aspirations. It is necessary to focus on rebuilding Ukraine with the objective of integrating it with the EU. This part should therefore serve as a very solid guidance for any reconstruction effort focused on path towards the EU, indicating what should be done beyond the existing Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. For several years, there has been an intense dialogue between the EU and Ukraine to bring the Ukrainian legal framework closer to the acquis communautaire; since 2014, significant progress has been made in this respect. Thus, the Commission, and in particular DG NEAR (including the European Commission Support Group for Ukraine – SGUA – and the EU Advisory Mission for civilian security sector reform – EUAM) has a fairly good idea of Ukrainian efforts so far. But since 24 February this year, the situation has changed dramatically. Gradual adaptations based on “best efforts” principles and soft obligations with no clear deadlines will no longer be sufficient. Therefore, this part of the fully fledged Avis should focus on the required transformation and improvement of economy and trade, services and labour markets, environmental and energy standards, as well as administrative capacities, an impartial judiciary, and the rule of law. These reconstruction programmes could be arranged – as typical Avis – according to the chapters of the acquis communautaire and the necessary adaptations, bringing the country closer to the EU.
The next phase of the Avis should begin at a certain stage of the implementation of the reconstruction programme, when it will be possible to assess in detail the progress made towards adopting the EU’s legal framework. Financing reconstruction programmes can be converted to pre-accession facility with even clearer focus on integration process. In the meantime, the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, could be significantly enhanced. Additional rights for Ukrainian entities and citizens could be given, in step with the obligations assumed by Ukraine. For example: a customs union between the EU and Ukraine could be established, or the inclusion of Ukraine within the Emissions Trading System to avoid that the country is negatively affected by the proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism – CBAM.
Solid progress in implementing these programmes and transforming Ukraine’s economy and legal system would enable the writing of final conclusions of the Avis. Only then would it be possible to convincingly answer the question of whether Ukraine meets membership criteria, in general terms and in practical details. Such a conclusions would allow the EU to take a final decision on accession negotiations.Jarosław Pietras Enlargment European Union Ukraine
Ukraine’s Accession Cannot Happen Overnight, but it Deserves Due Consideration
Blog - Ukraine
12 Apr 2022
Letting Kyiv cut the line in front of five existing candidates would be “terribly destabilizing in the western Balkans,” Drea says.Eoin Drea Enlargment Ukraine
Ukraine’s Bid for EU Membership Is a Long Shot—for Now
In the Media - Interviews and Expert Quotes - Ukraine
08 Apr 2022
When Marty played Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” at the end of the cult film “Back to the Future”, he was surprised to see the crowd’s confused and resentful faces. In that moment, he realised that he’d played a rock’n’roll song just a bit too modern for a 1955 audience, and he said “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it.”
That scene reminded me of the EU Enlargement policy towards the countries of the Western Balkans, almost 30 years after the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the promise to all countries from the region to be part of the EU.
As Chuck Berry sang, “his mother told him – someday you will be a man…maybe someday your name will be in the lights, saying Johnny B. Goode tonight”. This year, those dreams went one step further for North Macedonia in March, with the European Council’s green light to begin accession negotiations, before being crushed once again. Like a déjà-vu, it was a neighbour who brought such poor news, this time Bulgaria through its use of a veto on the EU’s decision to open negotiations with the country.
Bulgarian objections over North Macedonia entering the negotiation process have little (nothing) to do with the objective, normative criteria imposed by the EU for the country’s preparedness for this process. The objections are instead of a historical, identity nature. Namely, Bulgaria claims that the origins of the Macedonian nation are Bulgarian, and the Macedonian language is actually a Bulgarian dialect. Also, the demands are that this is officially acknowledged by the state, along with a renunciation of any claims that there is a separate Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. The two countries signed a Treaty of Friendship Good-neighbourliness and Cooperation in 2017, which does not contain any of the aforementioned demands, but they were being adopted in the Bulgarian Parliament as part of a declaration after the signing of the bilateral agreement. Bulgaria also pushes towards these demands and a roadmap for the implementation for the Friendship Agreement to be incorporated in the negotiating framework, which would require an additional chapter in the framework, Number 35.
“This is heavy!” – Marty says this multiple times in the trilogy.
After 28 years, North Macedonia and Greece in 2019 managed to close a long-standing dispute over the country’s name. The process was painful, but necessary for North Macedonia to pave the road towards becoming a NATO member (which happened in March 2020) and an EU member (who knows when?!). The paradox of these two disputes is that the Greeks were very persistent on wanting to prove that there is no connection between the nations, that they are separate, the language they speak, that the cultural and historical background is different. Now, Bulgarians want to prove the opposite, that “we’re all the same”. The declared commitment of Bulgaria to have a role as a regional leader and supporter to the countries of the WB to join the EU has shifted into its purely national interest against the good neighbourly relations and EU values and principles.
The real problem here is that the EU remains powerless to overcome this stands still and deflect the Bulgarian attempt to frame this as an EU issue, not just a Bulgarian issue. The veto is a threat on multiple fronts: to North Macedonia’s EU integration, to the stability of the region, and to the EU’s credibility to fulfil their promises towards the Western Balkans region. With an open dispute and dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina over the Kosovo issue, the EU is further weakening its position in the region as a credible partner, pulling away from its interests in the Western Balkans.
For North Macedonia, it’s unacceptable to be forced into making concessions in this respect. The historical committee created to find facts on the shared history between North Macedonia and Bulgaria was supposed to work towards building trust, and has so far failed in that endeavour. Furthermore, the Prespa Agreement, which concluded the dispute with Greece, is based on the promise of the country’s EU accession. Having no prospect of this ever happening would freeze or shake the implementation of that agreement, which could lead to destabilisation in the relations between North Macedonia and Greece – another threat to regional stability. Unfortunately, it’s very likely that this will increase nationalist rhetoric on both sides, which is “the good old Balkan recipe” for neighbourly relations.
In conclusion, it’s unlikely that the veto could be lifted before the end of the year. Many harsh statements have been made, and apparently there is no goodwill for constructive talks or negotiations now. But what is of absolute necessity is that the European Commission, the European Council majority, but also the Presidency of the Council should persuade its member to pull back from the hostile narrative towards its neighbour and instead be constructive about the envisioned enlargement policy of the Union. And then Marty could say “Great Scott!”.
The blog expresses the personal opinion of the author and is a part of the Road to Warsaw Security Forum: Western Balkans Program
 The Joint Committee of Historical and Educational Issues of North Macedonia-Bulgaria is formed within the Treaty of Friendship Good-neighbourliness and Cooperation and aims to decide on the joint celebration of personalities and events in the two nations’ common history, helping to overcome various interpretations.
 The Prespa Agreement ended the 29-year dispute over the name Macedonia between Greece and North Macedonia, which was a pre-condition for the latter country to be unblocked on its path towards EU membership.Katerina Jakimovska Balkans Enlargment Integration
Back to the Future? EU Membership Ambitions Stuck in Time
07 Dec 2020
‘The Future of EU Enlargement: a New Momentum for the Western Balkans’ with Freedom and Democracy Foundation (Albania)
– Vladimír Bilčík, MEP, EPP, Chair, D-ME Delegation
– Jovana Marović, Executive Director, Politikon Network
– Genc Pollo, Former MP and Head of Parliamentary Commission for EU Affairs of Albania
– Patrick Voller, Secretary of External Relations, EPP – ModeratorSHOW LESSBalkans Enlargment
NET@WORK Day 2 – Panel 4
Live-streams - Multimedia
26 Nov 2020
Almost two decades after the European Council summit in Thessaloniki, the promise of EU membership remains unfulfilled in the Western Balkans. Although the process of EU accession is continuing, the current pace throws the Thessaloniki promise into doubt. Despite initial success, the current approach to enlargement has reached its limits, as it seems to be slowing down the integration process rather than accelerating it. At the same time, the transformative power of the EU is too weak to positively impact on democratic and economic setbacks in the region. That is why this article considers various strategies that the EU could employ to recalibrate the accession of the Western Balkans, notwithstanding the need for sincere reforms in the aspiring member states.
Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Marko Kmezić Democracy Enlargment EU Institutions European Union
Recalibrating the EU’s Approach to the Western Balkans
15 Jul 2020
The world is currently bent on its knees amid the Coronavirus health crisis. While most of the European continent is “on pause”, for some countries it has turned out to be a time of dreams coming true. North Macedonia’s NATO accession is a case in point.
The extremely difficult circumstances for Spain which is coping with the COVID-19 were not an obstacle for this momentous decision. The Senate in Madrid remotely voted and passed the bill approving North Macedonia’s accession, the last country on the path to this achievement. This completed one of the two strategic goals for the country since its independence: to join the North Atlantic Treaty.
The news from Spain was praised by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, and after the signature of the protocol by the President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski, the formal ceremony of flag-raising is set to take place in Brussels. With this, the country’s quest which began in 1995 when it joined the alliance’s Partnership for Peace program has been completed. In 2008 at the Bucharest Summit, the longstanding name dispute was a reason for Greece to push strongly NATO not to give an invitation to a then-constitutionally named Republic of Macedonia.
And that is only a part of the celebratory package. Some historic mistakes have been given a chance to be repaired. As Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez put it in his novel ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ (especially relevant nowadays), “humanity, like armies in the field, advances at the speed of the slowest.” The same can be said about consensus among EU member states.
After the hugely disappointing failure to take a decision in October 2019, the Council of the EU on 25 March adopted conclusions on the EU’s enlargement policy, giving the green light to the opening of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. In a completely unusual setting for EU institutional meetings, the efforts by the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi have been met with success.
The EU Council in October failed to decide on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania mostly due to the French position that the EU is in need of “deep internal reform and a new methodology for negotiations”. In February 2020, the Commission adopted and published a revised enlargement methodology. This new procedure seemed to appease French President Emmanuel Macron who slowly shifted his position. He raised first hopes that the French veto would be lifted after facing huge criticism by the EU’s leadership and leaders of Western Balkan countries on the “fatality” of the mistake he was making. Perhaps, as Márquez wrote in 1988, “a Liberal president was exactly the same as a Conservative president, but not as well dressed.”
The reactions to the new enlargement strategy in the Western Balkans ranged from “unimpressed” and “it will all end up as another paper-pushing exercise” to the more optimistic tone that “it will work only if used properly”.
But what really counts is that the air has been cleared on this issue after 5 months. As Márquez would say, the EU “opened the door a crack wide enough for [North Macedonia and Albania] to pass through.” The details of the negotiation process to follow have not been released yet, as the crisis triggered by the Coronavirus outbreak has created many uncertainties and a halt in many political and institutional processes. Once again it shows, when there is a political will, not even a slow internet connection can stop the dreams of some countries being fulfilled.
For North Macedonia, the utmost strategic goals in the 29 years of the country’s independence have been EU and NATO accession. The unfortunate timing is moving the celebratory atmosphere to the homes of those staying in quarantine, as the country has imposed a curfew and restrictive measures on people’s movement in an attempt to cope with the spread of the COVID-19. After all, it’s more than just a light at the end of the tunnel.Katerina Jakimovska Balkans COVID-19 Enlargment European Union
Marquez in the Western Balkans – Lifelong dreams fulfilled in the time of Corona
26 Mar 2020
We could be heroes just for one day
Though nothing will keep us together
We could steal time just for one day
“Historic mistake” is the recap of the outcome of the European Council Summit, which didn’t adopt the decision to grant the start of negotiations for EU Accession of North Macedonia and Albania. This news has toppled the hopes of both countries for becoming members of the EU family, at least in the next decade.
President-elect of the EC, Ursula Von der Leyen, announced that the EU will commit to the Enlargement and integration of the Western Balkan (WB) countries. The failure to adopt a decision on North Macedonia and Albania’s EU aspirations has conveyed a message to the region which has been echoed for a very long time – NOT YET.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been the main opponent of any further enlargement of the European Union “until the Union itself undergoes a deep reform, a new methodology for accession negotiations that would make them less technocratic”. No details for this proposal have been shared. It also remains unclear whether this would apply also to countries which are currently negotiating accession, such as Serbia and Montenegro.
Another point of disagreement between the EU leaders was the decoupling of North Macedonia and Albania which would grant the start of negotiations only to North Macedonia, as Albania, according to some leaders, was “not there yet”. The French government was not alone in pointing out the enlargement fatigue and the problems with the rule of law in some of the states that joined after 2004 (Poland, Hungary). Also, France is insisting on a strict application of the criteria for membership during the negotiation and crafting new instruments to better monitor the rule of law.
In his recent visit to Belgrade, President Macron warned of “rising tension” in the region, referring to Russia’s enhanced presence and aspiration to capitalise on the still unresolved dispute between Serbia and Kosovo. A year ago, he addressed the public in North Macedonia to encourage the voters to have their say in the referendum on the name change, praising the “courage of the leaders and the central position of the Prespa Agreement in the country’s plans for the future”.
The strong positioning against enlargement in the near future pretty much contradicts this and has been perceived as hypocrisy among the public.
In the aftermath of the disappointing week, the fear of the consequences of this failure for the two countries, but also for the whole region, is rising. The slammed door by the EU to these countries has been seen as an open invitation for other actors in the East to take advantage and create further instability in the region. It’s neither new nor unknown that Russia, China, Turkey and UAE have laid their hands on the region in various forms to influence the cultural, religious, educational and economic development of these countries.
Moreover, having no prospects for EU membership is encouraging young people to leave their country to go to Europe as “EU is not coming to them”. With already devastating figures of brain drain in all Balkan countries, the poor economic development, political and social environments and shattered European dreams, the youngest generations are rapidly losing hope that they can also become European citizens.
Since the Feira summit held in Portugal in 2000, the WB countries have been considered as potential candidates for EU membership. So far, only Montenegro and Serbia have started accession negotiations, in 2012 and 2014, respectively.
Albania and North Macedonia are expecting to start negotiations (Albania has been a candidate for 5 years and North Macedonia for 14 years!). Bosnia & Herzegovina has not received its candidate status yet. Kosovo is not allowed to apply for membership under Article 49 of the Treaty on the EU, as the state is not recognized by 5 EU member states.
In the particular case of North Macedonia, it went through an extremely complicated and painful process of reaching a deal with Greece on the name issue, which was also a precondition for its NATO membership. Moreover, after the adoption of the new name into the Constitution with the votes of MPs who received an amnesty for their alleged roles in the violent storming of Macedonian parliament in April 2018, the friendship treaty with Bulgaria, it seemed that the country deserved to be given the green light into their EU aspirations. As a result, many EU leaders expressed their “embarrassment” with the EU failing to fulfil its promises and losing its credibility in the region.
With the next opportunity for discussions scheduled to take place in Zagreb May 2020, it is yet to be seen if the Council intends to legitimately discuss future steps, or is merely flying a flag of false hope to all candidate countries. The prime minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, expressing his “disappointment with the unjust decision,” has called for snap elections, which will bring more uncertainty to the future of the governing constellations, and the ensuing reform process.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government led by VMRO DPMNE publicly expressed that there are voices inside the party deliberating how to revert the Prespa Agreement if they come into power.
Embodying the frustration of the country in this seemingly never-ending process, the foreign minister Nikola Dimitrov asked the EU to be straightforward if there is no more European future foreseen for the WB countries, bluntly stating “the citizens deserve to know”.
And as we know, hope is the last to die. Because it would be a failure of a historic magnitude if the Western Balkan countries, in the eyes of the EU, would turn out to have been heroes just for one day.
Photo by Oliver Cole on UnsplashKaterina Jakimovska Balkans Enlargment EU Member States European Union
Albania and North Macedonia: heroes just for one day?
21 Oct 2019
On the 1st of May 2004, the EU was enlarged by eight post-communist countries along with Malta and Cyprus. Today, we are quite obviously asking a number of questions: what has this massive European enlargement brought to these countries? And, on the other hand, how and in what way have the new member states enriched the EU?
We should also ask what mistakes should be avoided in the future because, while the vision of Europe ‘whole, free and at peace’ has not yet been fulfilled, we are already facing the phenomenon of an East-West divide within the EU itself.
These days my country Slovakia is taking stock of the first fifteen years of its merge with the West. This is happening just before the European elections, and, since January, I have held discussions with Slovak secondary school and university students, looking together with them for answers to the questions raised above.
Slovakia is an ice-hockey obsessed country, so I borrowed ice-hockey parlance to assess my country’s membership of the EU, and I divided this fifteen-year period into three thirds.
The first third: Honeymoon with the West
In May 2004, the weather during the ceremony in Dublin was beautiful; the Slovak national flag was raised on one of the 25 flagpoles in the garden of the Irish President’s residence. It seemed as though the fair weather boosted our conviction that the future would be similarly cloudless. And, for a few years, this was indeed the case.
Enlargement euphoria and the strong desire to emulate the West of Europe encouraged us to pursue deep structural reforms that transformed Slovakia into one of the economic leaders in the region. This great commitment to changing the country was completed through joining the Eurozone in 2009.
Our strong ‘drive to score’ was also carried over into foreign policy, culminating with the Bush-Putin Summit held in 2005 in Bratislava. EU membership had consolidated our democracy and brought stability and prosperity to Slovakia, the region, and also the EU.
The second third: Awakening
Despite these auspicious beginnings, we soon woke up to the realisation that in this newly-united Europe we would not always be blessed with ‘good weather’. The first clouds had already started to gather right when Chancellor Schroeder’s government signed-off on an agreement with Russia to build the Nord Stream II pipeline.
No regard was taken of the fact that the capacity of the existing pipeline leading through the CEE countries was more than sufficient. Later on, we would have to endure further storms, like the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
The bailouts to Greece, granted in order to keep it in the Eurozone, were painful for us, the new member states. I did not understand the pressure exerted on us by the leaders of certain older member states, who failed to recognise the consequences of harsh economic reforms and structural changes in the post-communist countries.
From one day to the next, we were asked to comply with the same demands as older and significantly richer member states. Just as we had managed to overcome our own existential difficulties, we instantly became embroiled in the existential difficulties of others – difficulties we had no part in causing.
Not infrequently, the leaders of the CEE countries felt that when it came to serious decisions they were simply expected to play along, without being given a chance to influence those decisions in a more substantial way. This is how it played out in the case of the Greek loan facility, or in the case of the already mentioned North Stream II.
The third third: Disenchantment
The developments of recent years tied to migration flows have shown that these new member states are neither ready, nor willing to bear this common burden, or to put forward solutions. This status quo has no future and must be changed. The CEE countries must learn to better understand the solidarity principle.
At the same time, older and more cosmopolitan countries must learn to better understand the completely different historical experience and degree of social conservatism that exists in this part of Europe.
There are too many misunderstandings and too little real dialogue in the EU today, especially between East and West. There cannot be real dialogue if we do not acknowledge and respect of each other’s culture and history.
An important takeaway drawn from the current climate of disenchantment in Europe has been the realisation that establishing a democracy is not a one-off event, it is an ongoing project that must be protected and nurtured each day.
It is true that this does not apply only to Visegrad countries. Populism and extremism are also gaining a foothold in Europe’s advanced democracies. Therefore, the EU needs to become a true federation combining a strong but limited centre with strong members states.
That said, there may also be light at the end of the tunnel for Slovakia. The squares crowded with people after the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée brought down the prime minister and re-activated civil society, as well as mobilising the political participation of young people.
Recently elected to the presidential office in Slovakia is a civil activist who managed to stand her ground against evil and prevailed against the odds. This trend must be fostered and encouraged by putting forward a new, attractive and forward-looking vision for the whole of the EU.
I am convinced that such a vision has the potential to inspire and motivate us in the same way I was inspired by the vision of a Europe “ whole, free and at peace” in 1998. That year, I rode my bike across the country in the name of such a vision, calling on my fellow citizens to join me on the journey.
I still remember how distant this vision seemed to me then, but the undying belief in that vision brought change to Slovakia – change for the better. In an era of similar challenges, the time has come to set out on a similar journey once again.Mikuláš Dzurinda Enlargment EU Member States European Union Leadership
The Big Bang Enlargement at 15: lessons learned vs lessons applied
30 Apr 2019
In 2014, it appeared Ukraine’s population had found the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – only with Willy Wonka being the newly elected President Petro Poroshenko and the Chocolate Factory being not only his Roshen brand, but Ukraine itself.
The window of opportunity was wide open, and many reforms were put on the table. The drive of the government, with the support and advocacy from civil society, brought some incredible results. Ukraine did not declare default, contrary to everyone’s expectations, in February 2015, actually achieving a massive macroeconomic stabilisation “close to a miracle”, making the European Commission’s bailout plan unnecessary.
Some noticeable steps have been taken in various reform fields from the military to the banking system, to public administration, to decentralisation. Corruption, one of the country’s biggest problems, has been tackled by establishing anti-corruption institutions and e-declaration systems, making Ukraine in a way “both the most corrupt and at the same time the most transparent country in Europe”.
With encouragement and conditionalities from the EU and IMF, Ukraine was on the steep, but right path to success. Privatisation, judicial reform, pension and healthcare, seemed to be heading in the right direction particularly after the initiation of the visa-free regime with the EU back in June coupled with the full implementation of the Association Agreement in September.
The reform process appears to be slowing down.
However, considering the frailty of the coalitions in the Verkhovna Rada, and the approaching parliamentary and presidential elections, the reform process appears to be slowing down.
Corruption remains the most deeply rooted problem the country faces, and despite the establishment of an unprecedented open competition to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court, most Ukrainians feel that their country is not heading in the right direction.
Anti-government protests demanding Poroshenko’s resignation have begun in Kyiv in October. The protesters have been fuelled by a former ally of the President, Mikhail Saakashvili, who returned to Ukraine after accusing Poroshenko of obstructing reforms and resigning from his position of governor of Odessa earlier this year. Saakashvili advocates for electoral reforms, the creation of anti-corruption courts, and the abolition of parliamentary immunity.
The Chocolate King is not faring well with numbers – his rate of approval, according to the latest poll by the Razumkov Center, is at 24, 8%. The truth is, people’s perception that the reform process is stalling is translating into a political risk. While Ukraine’s active civil society, one of the main advocates for change in the country, insists on more radical reforms, the majority of the population has difficulty dealing with the pace of reforms as it is.
The decision of the government to cut gas subsidies for homes and enterprises that had been in place since Soviet times led to a one-third drop in energy consumption and zero dependency on Russia and also led to increasing citizens’ dissatisfaction when people saw their energy bills double.
The government pursues reforms that activists and Western donors push for, but, as the short-term costs overshadow the long-term benefits among the public opinion, those actions erode support for a reformist government, even if they are in the long term interest of Ukraine itself.
Political opponents exploit the dissatisfaction to attack the government by calling for early elections, but a sudden change in Ukrainian leadership would only stall the progress made so far.
Even with all its weakness and slow pace, the post-Majdan government is the most reform-oriented that Ukraine has ever had.
Moreover, one should not forget, that contrary to the Western habit of referring to the situation in Donbass as a “frozen conflict”, Ukraine is fighting a real war on the eastern border with Russia. A war that so far resulted in 10,090 deaths and 1.7 million internally displaced people.
Even though a “win the war by reform” approach is largely acceptable and cheered by the EU, “It’s very difficult to do everything simultaneously” stated Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister for European Integration, Ivanna Klympush, in her recent visit to Brussels.
Even with all its weakness and slow pace, the post-Majdan government is the most reform-oriented that Ukraine has ever had. The range and number of the reforms implemented is unprecedented in the history of the country. If positive changes are not acknowledged, the loud criticism by populists will devalue all efforts and bring the state of “Ukraine fatigue” to the EU and its Member States.
This is particularly alarming in the wake of the 5th Eastern Partnership Summit taking place on 24 November in Brussels. Even though the Summit is meant to be forward-looking in bringing tangible and positive results in the four priority areas established at the Riga Summit in 2015 – stronger economy, governance, connectivity and society – there is very little doubt that the final declaration of the Brussels Summit will not explicitly include a membership perspective for Ukraine, as the reference to the EU membership aspiration of the country is opposed by some Member States.
In order to avoid an “EU fatigue” in Eastern Europe, the Union, however, has to demonstrate its commitment towards its neighbours and rethink its so-far limited offer. The most obvious way to ease tensions in Ukraine would be to increase political, economic, and material support for Kyiv. A “Marshall Plan for Ukraine” proposed by Lithuania with the aim of boosting the economic recovery with the infusion of funds linked to the revitalisation of structural reforms is a step in the right direction.
On the other hand, to keep his “Chocolate Factory” on the path to European integration- Petro Poroshenko has to do his homework. Internal political struggles and pre-election tensions must not overshadow the reform process. The Presidential administration and the government have to renew their commitment to reforms, Ukraine’s golden ticket to the EU, to demonstrate to their citizens to deserve an opportunity for another mandate in 2019.
Photo by Thomas Hafeneth on Unsplash
 Anders Åslund, Ukraine: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It, Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2015.Anna Nalyvayko Eastern Europe Enlargment EU-Russia Ukraine
Petro Poroshenko and the chocolate factory: Ukraine’s golden ticket?
Blog - Ukraine
23 Nov 2017
Emmanuel Macron’s election to the French presidency has been welcomed as a ray of spring sunlight in the cloudy skies of Brussels. It is believed to be the first salvo of a mainstream counteroffensive against the insurgent forces of populism in Europe. Since his first visit to Berlin last May, Macron made it clear that his European ambitions pass through a revitalisation of the Franco-German relationship, long debilitated by the imbalance between the two historic partners.
In the short term, Macron’s relaunch of European integration pursues three objectives: the creation of common European rules on asylum, stronger reciprocity in trade with external partners and new rules to stop the ‘social dumping’ effect of posted workers from Central and Eastern Europe.
Although Macron’s rhetorical virtues managed to present this last demand as impeccably European, in practice it can only amount to further restrictions on the free movement of services and people, two fundamental EU freedoms much resented by French – and British – public opinion.
However, we should all wonder whether Macron’s success may not turn out to be as risky for the Union as his failure.
In the long term, the President wants a eurozone budget to promote investments, a eurozone finance minister to administer it and a eurozone parliament to legitimise both. These plans may require not only changes in the EU treaties, which the President has not excluded, but also in Germany’s constitution.
A credible French leader with an ambitious European agenda is surely good news for the old continent, whose unity has shown in recent years to be very fragile and in need of new safeguards. However, we should all wonder whether Macron’s success may not turn out to be as risky for the Union as his failure. There are two serious reasons to harbour such fears.
The first is the potentially divisive nature of many French ideas about the future of Europe. Two of them, a weak commitment to the free movement of services and people and a tendency to focus on integrating the eurozone without much attention to the interests of the euro-outs, are particularly problematic.
The former is an old thorn in France’s relationship with the EU, at least since the bogeyman of the ‘Polish plumber’ contributed to its rejection of the constitutional treaty in 2005. Since then, no pro-EU politician in the country has really been able to convincingly defend free movement without adding a plethora of qualifications about ‘social dumping’ and ‘fairness’ that are difficult to digest in Central and Eastern Europe. Emmanuel Macron is no exception here.
The latter stems from the French tradition of economic ‘dirigisme’, which makes the notion of a ‘depoliticized’ currency based on constitutional rules and market discipline incomprehensible to the French way of thinking. Hence the insistent demands for a ‘managed’ currency, one complemented by an economic government responsible for promoting investment and, in the long run, harmonizing social standards in order to prevent, once more, ‘social dumping’ and enforce ‘fair competition’.
Like it or not, Central and Eastern European countries instinctively distrust centralisation, dislike differentiated integration and are especially attached to the Single Market and its four freedoms.
Those are highly divisive ideas that will prove potentially difficult to reconcile with the pursuit of unity among the EU27 – not just the EU19 – after Brexit. Like it or not, Central and Eastern European countries instinctively distrust centralisation, dislike differentiated integration and are especially attached to the Single Market and its four freedoms.
The second reason is the geopolitical implications of France’s ambition to restore the Franco-German axis to its former role as the engine of European integration. French elites have gradually understood that there are structural reasons why Germany has come to play a more central role than France in Europe. Its good economic performance is one of them, and the economic and demographic consequences of reunification are another.
However, the main reason is the geopolitics of the 2004 enlargement: Germany is the pivotal player because it is the guarantor of Central and Eastern Europe’s participation in the European project and because the EU membership of this region has given it a much larger playing ground on which to build its coalitions. This was a momentous change from previous decades: as long as the European project was limited to a small group of Western and Southern European countries, France was inevitably the pivotal partner of Germany.
The most far-sighted French observers have long understood that the Eastern enlargement was bound to make France more marginal and Germany more pivotal in Europe. Mitterand, who was certainly one of them, tried to counter this tendency by proposing to include countries newly freed by the communist yoke in a broad confederation within which the European Community would have retained its inner balance.
Today the only way for France to regain its geopolitical centrality is for the European project to be recentered on its western and southern core. This is well captured by Macron’s plans on the future of Europe, which de facto amounts to de-emphasising the single market, limiting free movement, and investing much political capital on integrating the euro zone.
The most far-sighted French observers have long understood that the Eastern enlargement was bound to make France more marginal and Germany more pivotal in Europe.
If French demands are taken up by Germany, the risk is that the project will tacitly refocus in a direction that weakens, not strengthens continental unity. Germany’s historic mission is to lead the continent towards a model of unity that is sustainable and acceptable to everyone. The adoption of Macron’s agenda implies the exact opposite.Federico Ottavio Reho Eastern Europe Enlargment EU Member States European Union Leadership
Federico Ottavio Reho
Macron’s vision will split the EU, not unite it
08 Jun 2017
Everyone has the feeling that the UK referendum on EU membership was more than just merely a referendum. In search of the way out from what is now seen by many as a disaster, possible scenarios have been become blurred amid diverse and sometimes wild speculations, including the reversal of an actual Brexit process, dismantling the EU via ‘referenda spill-over’ by political extremists, equipping NATO with a new ‘European role’, among a multitude of other prospects.
Still, one thing is clear – the referendum has already profoundly affected the world’s political landscape, including that of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, which are analysed much less in relation to the mess created by a potential Brexit. So how has the referendum influenced developments in EaP countries Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia?
First, the EU now even more dominated by the rather asymmetric German-French leadership will most probably demonstrate more caution regarding any radical change of the status quo. It will have less enthusiasm on enlargement and greater engagement with the Eastern neighbourhood. Populists play not only with the fear of migration, but also enlargement.
Furthermore, the new security strategy of the EU simply pays lip service to the notion of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). An astute eye can see in this that the Union has given up on the application of its transformative and democratising effort, and instead opts to increasingly rely on the resilience of the EaP countries. In other words – they have to take care of themselves.
Second, despite Putin’s denial that he had nothing to do with the results of the Brexit referendum, hardly accepted for face value by anyone after so many lies and deceptions, there is little doubt that, whether genuine or opportunist, Russophiles gloated over the referendum’s outcome. The leverage of pro-Russian forces is also expected to rise in Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, as the EU’s soft power is weakened.
In the case of Georgia this would also mean the strengthening of pro-Russian parties, for Ukraine this would mean strong disappointment on part of the public who would realise there is now even less probability of the full implementation of the Minsk Agreement, not to mention the return of Crimea; Moldova most probably will intensify its ‘normalisation’ process with Russia in reality leading to rapprochement, as the country is in urgent need of financial support.
Third, Britain’s departure will not be a zero-sum game but will mean an essential economic loss for both the EU and the UK. Financial resources at the disposal of the EU will diminish, therefore the Union will have to reconsider the scale of financial support to the EaP countries. The remaining 27 countries will be more cautious if not parsimonious in spending money for such programmes, and sooner or later EU development cooperation instruments for the EaP will be revisited and revised, although most probably not towards an increase.
Fourth – the security of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia will become an issue. Brexit implies the loss of EU credibility in particular in the eyes of its neighbourhood, but also the reduction of its influence and leverage. Therefore a feeling of insecurity will rise among these EaP countries, which host an unfortunate burden of frozen conflicts, such as Transnistria (Moldovan territory – a self-declared state at the Ukrainian border), Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Georgian territories occupied and recognised by Russia) and Crimea – relatively new but not the final adventure of Russia.
On all these conflicts where Russia has her grip, this is expected now to tighten further, in addition to testing NATO’s vulnerable points and resolve in other places.
Finally, the Brexit referendum has put a big question mark on the political rationale and attractiveness of democratic transition and the Europeanisation process in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. The rivalry between the modernisers still believing in the European model, and the traditionalists and pro-Russian reactionaries pointing toward the failure of the European project, might turn dangerous.
However, in the case of the three EaP countries the situation may become even worse due to the deeply rooted mistrust toward the political class and massive anti-western propaganda that has now gained the new fodder with the Brexit.
While being in the middle of democratic transition, if they feel that the EU has given up on its transformative power and withdrawn, this may unleash an unhappy scenario when Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia might find themselves abandoned in the ‘middle of nowhere’, while under the permanent threat and pressure for the resurgent and increasingly imperialist Russia.
To sum up, the Brexit scenario, even before it happens, may damage and hurt the three aspiring pro-western states in the Eastern Neighbourhood, leaving them more insecure, with less support, and even worse, with less public enthusiasm to continue to move along the path of Europeanisation.
This will have a rather negative impact on both their internal policies in these countries, weakening the appeal of democratic, free-market, European model of development, and on the other hand, on their foreign policies, as they will have to look for ways of how to deal with the existential threats emanating from Russia.
The only hope is that on one hand a reformed EU will still care to help its eastern neighbours; and on the other, that the US and NATO, as well as the UK (whether within or without of the EU) will do their best to compensate for potential losses in terms of support and security.Teona Lavrelashvili Brexit Eastern Europe Enlargment Neighbourhood Policy
Brexit: five ways it might affect the Eastern Partnership countries
12 Jul 2016
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatseniuk, along with a number of ministers, came to Brussels this week for talks about ongoing reforms in Ukraine, the Association Agreement and the security situation. Ukraine now has a new parliamentary coalition and therefore, a new government. Hopefully, we will now see real reform.
But the long process of negotiation between the parliamentary elections on 26 October and the actual appointment of ministers has left many with a somewhat ambiguous impression. Before anyone actually started to get to work, the whole process became mired in intrigue. All of us remember 2005 and the ensuing unraveling of the Orange Revolution. Nobody wants to see that story repeated.
Before the election, President Poroshenko had hoped that he would be able to nominate a government of his choosing. But that became impossible with the unexpectedly high electoral support for “Narodnyi Front”. Its leaders, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov, led Ukraine through the complicated period of spring 2014 and their party has thereby gained a degree of national sympathy.
The composition of Poroshenko’s political group was not helpful for the President. The “Poroshenko Bloc” contained a number of candidates of a less than savory variety. Poroshenko’s triumphant presidential campaign before 26 May also appears to have bred a sense of complacency and inertia. While Ukrainian society has changed rapidly, politicians have simply not caught up.
A similar complacency could yet come to haunt Arseniy Yatsenyuk. He received the trust of the people and must not squander it. It is integral that he repays this trust with action beyond mere public criticism of his government partners.
Raised in an environment of endless talk shows, Ukrainian politicians appreciate the media component of their work too much, assuming a good speech on television to be more important than dozens of specific actions. We are living in an information era where the appearance of action without substance becomes a more and more difficult juggling act by the day.
Last week, the Ukrainian Prime Minister presented a governmental action programme which aroused a lot of discussion in Ukrainian society and within the coalition itself. The programme was eventually changed with the addition of one significant sentence: the current coalition agreement was identified as an integral part of the governmental action programme. Why this detailed agenda of reforms and legislative initiatives designed by politicians and civil society representatives together was not deemed a sufficient action plan for government in its own right is anyone’s guess. We are now left with numerous contradictions between the Government’s plan and Coalition agreement with no agreed method for resolving them.
Successful reform requires not only good law but also effective implementation. Here are some of areas of reform identified in the Coalition agreement:
– Constitution: A proper political framework of checks and balances cannot be designed by one of branches of power, so a Constitutional Assembly should be created. According to the Agreement, a special working group in the Parliament will select delegates to constitute the Assembly.
– Anticorruption: So far anticorruption is the brightest example of reform in Ukraine. The October 5 anti-corruption law has been adopted by the Parliament. The creation of a register of real estate owners allows for the tracking of those who bought “New Mezhyhirya” and for questioning of suspicious landlords. It is a great success for the Minister for Justice. Beneficial owners legislation is another triumph, it allows for finding the ultimate holders and those who legally or illegally profit the most.
– Judicial: The “On restoration of confidence in the judiciary” law obligates checks on the general jurisdiction of judges and the prosecution of those who violated the oath or committed a criminal crime. In addition, a new law on prosecution has to change the paradigm of this institution from civil surveillance to actual prosecution. Those two laws have been adopted but they met natural resistance from the whole Court and Prosecutor system.
– Decentralisation and public administration: The main challenges faced by decentralisation are efficiency and authority. Hanna Hopko, a newly elected deputy registered a project of law that promotes quality deputies and leads to the cutting of unnecessary costs in the maintenance of local councils. The next step is to make amendments to the Constitution to steer duties from Kyiv to local and regional communities and it should be done before the New Year. This reform will boost the real transformation from a post-soviet to a democratic state.
– Economic development and growth
– Regulation, Business and competition
– Financial sector
The real indicator of reforms in economic and financial sector is the Budget 2015. When the Government presents it we will see what rule-set the Prime Minister has chosen: the old (crisis) or the new (reforms).
The previous Yatsenyuk government is not remembered for reformist solutions even within the government and administration itself. And Yatsenyuk, despite loud statements of his willingness to sacrifice his career, seeks to share responsibility for unpopular decisions with other political forces. Maybe he believes that will help him to become President himself one day. In other circumstances, this could be understandable. After the killing on Maidan in February and amidst a drawn out war in the East – it is not.
Yesterday Petro Poroshenko has appointed Oleksandr Turchynov as a Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. The president wanted to send a clear signal that there will be no war between him and Yatsenyuk. His signals are transparent. Turchinov is a bridge in relations between Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, a sign of mutual trust. Poroshenko gave a member of Yatseniuk’s team a position in his territory. This move shows understanding from the President that Ukraine’s future depends the Parliament and the President working together.
In general, the Governmental programme in concert with the Coalition agreement look promising; let’s see if there is enough political will to make it happen.Viktor Artemenko Democracy Eastern Europe Enlargment Ukraine
Ukraine’s Reforms: Real or Fake?
Blog - Ukraine
17 Dec 2014
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (PL), Vice-President of the European People’s Party, is known for his clear and often controversial opinions on Europe’s relationship with Ukraine and Russia. In this interview he offers his views on the Eastern Partnership program. He also explains why the Euromaidan movement that he nominated for the Sakharov prize should win this prestigious award (the winner will be announced on October 21st).
Is the Eastern Partnership a successful project?
The project was first drafted when Europe’s relationship with Russia was approached within a different paradigm. The design was right, but our assumptions were wrong. We wanted to be encircled by a ring of friends whereas it is now apparent that we are in fact encircled by a ring of fire. Eastern Partnership is a geopolitical project – had it been perceived as such from the beginning we wouldn’t have the current problems. As signora Mogherini said during her hearing: ‘There is no such thing as strategic partnership with Russia.’ When diplomacy fails, the time comes to act, so we should now move from appeasement to containment. We need to move from the paradigm of ‘Russia first to Russia next’. When we are eventually successful in our Eastern Partnership, I believe that we will also achieve change in Russia, because that nation doesn’t deserve the today’s situation.
How should we reform the Eastern Partnership project?
The goals should remain as they are: to provide our Eastern neighbours a chance to achieve European standards in society, economic life and the rule of law. But we should move from the current state-centric approach to a citizen-centric approach. The project should be also enshrined by the European Union as public. Unfortunately it was seen in the beginning as a purely political project and the public wasn’t involved.
How can we involve the public?
By encouraging EU civil society to engage with civil society in our Eastern neighbours. We should provide financial assistance directly to civil society and not through intermediaries. Also, gates of programs like Erasmus+ should be opened as wide as possible. Nowadays, Ukrainian students can participate only in Erasmus Mundus program. And as was already achieved with Moldova, we should have a visa-free relationship with the Eastern Partnership countries.
Why should the European public care about these countries?
We should care because European values in our neighborhood mean more security and prosperity for us. Countries like Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are not distant. They are closer than we imagine.
Should the aspiration of the Eastern Partnership be accession to the European Union?
At this stage, no: because there is no agreement among the member states about enlargement, so we should stick with the position enshrined in all the documents of the European Parliament that based on Article 49 of the European Treaties these countries may apply for membership only if they fulfill the prescribed conditions. But at this stage we should focus on the association stage, which is very robust already. It means wide opening in political and economic terms, but also meeting most European standards.
Is Georgian or Azerbaijani accession realistic, even in the distant future, considering that they don’t share a border with the EU?
They do share a border – the Black sea. In the more distant future they are potential members, but at this stage raising this debate is counterproductive.
How will the situation develop after the elections in Moldova and Ukraine that are taking place in October and November?
It depends whether Russia will continue its warfare. It is highly probable that it will continue and we should be prepared to help those countries resist Russia by raising sanctions and by helping them to arm .
You nominated Euromaidan, represented by four people: Mustafa Nayem, Ruslana Lyzhychko, Yelyzaveta Schepetylnykova and Tetiana Chornovo, for the Sakharov prize. Do you think Euromaidan is deserving of this prize?
To the highest degree. If Sakharov was alive he would surely give his vote to Euromaidan as the very embodiment of the values for which he fought for.
Isn’t it just a political decision? Wasn’t there also violence on Euromaidan? And can it succeed in a competition with such candidates as a Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, who treated over 30 000 women raped by war criminals?
All of the nominees are excellent people deserving this award. My candidate is Euromaidan because of the precedent it sets in nature, size and courage of the people. For the first time in history, people were dying under the European flag.Democracy Enlargment EU-Russia
MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski: “On Russia, we should move from appeasement to containment”
21 Oct 2014
As Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine finalise association and free trade (DCFTA) agreements with Europe today (27 June), these Eastern Partners, together with the EU, are proving that while geography is destiny, history does not have to be so.
The EU’s Eastern Partnership policy is the bridge which connects Europe to countries which were left out of the cycle of peaceful development brought to post-WWII by the European project.
Even as the voice of increased scepticism towards the EU rang loud and clear in the latest European elections, the citizens of these advanced Eastern partners still believe the European project offers them the best way forward.
They have proven ready to pay a heavy price for their European choice, in the knowledge that no sacrifice is too great for the sake of freedom.
The EU and its three Eastern Partners have come to this point against all odds. Russia failed to force these countries, considered to belong to its “privileged sphere of influence,” to give up on Europe in favour of joining the Eurasian Economic Union.
Neither political and economic pressure, nor direct military intervention, have managed to compete with Europe’s soft power.
While the agreements signed today will not automatically force open the doors to European accession, they are paving a way towards it. The road ahead, however, is a difficult one.
The immediate challenges will be to implement the agreements and to withstand continued Russian pressure.
The Kremlin is unlikely to bury the hatchet. The warnings from Russia have been crystal clear all along, most recently with Russiaan foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declaring that his country will take the necessary “countermeasures” in response to the EU accords.
If history is any point of reference, the Russian response might defy both the letter and the spirit of international law.
Additional Russian economic pressure can still have an impact on the economies of all three Eastern partners. Our voters have high expectations for the benefits of the agreements, but the positive socio-economic impact of the DCFTAs will not come immediately.
Knowing full well the value of predictability and stability for the international investors which these DCFTAs ought to attract to the signatory countries, Russia is unlikely to abandon its chosen policy of exporting instability.
As European integration will not deliver immediate prosperity, the Kremlin’s likely tactic is to foster growing disappointment of the public in its European choice.
The role of the Church
By offering to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine the way forward towards a more democratic, secure and prosperous future, the EU still has a much stronger hold on the hearts and minds of their citizens than Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
But the future support of our voters cannot be taken for granted. Further success of the Eastern Partnership will depend on securing continued support for democracy, as well as for the European choice of the public in these countries.
In the short term, helping Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to cope with the implementation of the DCFTAs the and speedy introduction of visa-free travel for Georgia and Ukraine will be instrumental.
As the prospect of Nato membership looks less and less likely for any of the Eastern partners, enhancing the framework of co-operation between them and the EU in terms of security will be another important challenge.
A broad engagement with the citizens, supporting democracy and building solid constituencies for Europe, reaching out to the most influential opinion-makers in these countries, will also be key to success.
In some cases, the potential opinion-makers might be outside of the regular realm of civil society and include influential religious organisations or figures. Religion has started playing an increasingly important role in Russia’s current confrontation with the West. The authority wielded by the religious establishment in some Eastern partners is a sign of weak civil society and needs to be addressed in a medium and long term prospective.
In the immediate future, the Church will continue playing an important role in determining the public attitudes in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The EU needs to find ways to engage with the relevant players to counter Russian influence.
The successful transformation of the three advanced Eastern Partners can be managed only through a European policy which has clearly defined objectives.
Next year, the Riga Eastern Partnership Summit should offer concrete deliverables for each of these countries, aiming at enhanced contractual relations with the EU. Most importantly, it should deliver a membership prospective in the long term and the chance to join a Common Economic Area in the immediate future.
Today marks yet another important achievement of the EU’s transformative power, but Europe needs to be ready for the challenges ahead.
Injecting a new momentum into the Eastern Partnership Initiative, building on today’s success, will rectify the historical injustice which deprived the people of the Eastern Partnership countries of the chance to develop as democratic and prosperous societies for almost a century.
But it will also send an important message to the increasingly sceptical European voters about the magnetic pull of the European project for those, who, so far, have been left out of it.
[Originally published as a guest editorial in EUobserver: http://euobserver.com/opinion/124781 ]Salome Samadashvili Democracy Eastern Europe Enlargment EU-Russia Foreign Policy
The magnetic pull of Europe’s soft power
30 Jun 2014
In 2004 ten new members from Central and Eastern Europe joined the EU. At the time member states were concerned about the potential of the free movement of people from these countries to seriously undermine their economies by increasing unemployment and reducing wages. How would labour markets support the millions of new workers expected to arrive from the new states? To protect workers against the arrival of cheap labour, the majority of member states restricted labour market access. Ireland, Sweden and the UK were the only member states to allow unrestricted access from 2004 on.
One decade later and it is clear that the free movement of workers to Ireland has had a hugely beneficial impact on the economy and Irish society generally. Census figures show that in 2002 there were just 4000 Poles in Ireland but by 2010 this number had jumped to 120,000. The Poles have officially become the largest non-Irish group in the country. The census shows a similar trend for non-Irish residents from other 2004 accession states such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In fact the Irish census figures record a steady increase in inward migration from both European and non-European countries in recent years. Surprisingly this trend does not appear to be changing in spite of the significant economic difficulties Ireland is experiencing.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Poland’s accession to the EU the Polish Embassy in Ireland released a video, entitled ‘Thank You Ireland’, in April 2014. The video thanks the Irish people for their ‘openness and kindness’ towards Poles in Ireland over the last decade. Many of the young Polish workers that came to Ireland immediately after accession have remained. They have become part of rural and urban communities across the island. Their children have been born in Ireland and attend local schools. They have joined local sport clubs and formed theatre groups. Increasing numbers of Polish people have opened businesses in Ireland; from the obligatory ‘polski sklep’ selling Polish groceries to hairdressers, garages, beauty salons, computer and software businesses. Ireland will have a local election later this month and there are many non-Irish candidates, standing as independents or as members of Irish political parties.
Ireland has always been a self-proclaimed emigration nation. In a recent address Taoiseach Enda Kenny told his audience that there are 70 million Irish abroad. In the last 20 years Ireland has had to transition from a predominantly emigration nation to one that welcomes immigrants. To counter populist and Eurosceptic arguments we must continue to support this societal transition. As we get closer to the European elections and are increasingly being bombarded with negative immigration messages from groups such as UKIP, it is important to highlight the positive integration message from Ireland. There are examples from across the EU that the free movement of people, a core tenet of our Union, is a success story and will continue to remain one in the years ahead.
[Photo source: flickr.com]Kathryn O’Donovan Eastern Europe Economy Enlargment EU Member States Immigration
‘Thank you Ireland’: A Success of Free Movement in the EU
13 May 2014
With world attention fixed on Ukraine, the referendum on Sunday (2 February) in Gagauzia, a part of Moldova which few people have heard of, did not get much attention.
The Gagauz – some 150,000 people, who are Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christians – voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining Russia’s Customs Union instead of EU integration.
EU neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele had recently visited the region. He spoke of the potential benefits of closer EU-Moldova ties, highlighting prospects for EU visa-free travel. His intervention did nothing to change the outcome, however. As Gagauz envoys explained on a visit to Brussels last week, they want easier access to the Russian labour market instead.
Sunday’s referendum also had a question about Gagauzia’s right to declare independence from Moldova. Again, an overwhelming majority wanted the right to secede. The referendum has no legal consequences because Moldovan courts have ruled it illegal. But it does have the potential to revive recent protests against Moldova’s plan to sign an EU association and free trade treaty. More dangerously, it has the potential to enflame separatist tendencies.
Moldova already has one breakaway region, which has become a de facto state and a source of long-term instability: Transniestria. The business interests of the Transniestrian elite are becoming increasingly tied to the EU, however. The region has no border with Russia, and it is does not depend on Russian markets or subsidies to the same extent as other breakaway entities in the former Soviet territories.
If Moldova-Transniestria relations mend, the Gagauzia referendum is an alternative source of instability. Some pro-Russian politicians in Chisianu are already calling for similar votes in other parts of Moldova.
As a former Georgian ambassador, I can tell you that these processes can, in the worst case scenario, spiral into armed confrontation. This is what happened in Georgia in the 1990s. Our civil wars began with autonomous regions deciding, via referendums, to stay in the USSR.
The Gagauz development clearly serves Russian interests. There are rumours the referendum was funded by Russian oligarchs of Gagauz origin. Some low-level Russian MPs frequented the region recently and Russian media have increased pro-Customs-Union content in Moldova. But there is no hard evidence of a Russian destabilisation campaign.
Whether or not the Gagauz vote was a spontaneous event, the EU needs to maintain a watchful eye. It should step up its public diplomacy in Moldova, with high-visibility economic projects that benefit local people and more high-level visits, including to local municipalities. It should speed up preparations to sign the association and free trade pact. It should also start a dialogue with Russia to avert the kind of crisis which unfolded in Ukraine.
Russia, which knows the nooks and crannies of its former empire better than EU diplomats do, also knows how to make pro-EU reforms falter. It would be great if the Kremlin understood that the spread of stability, democracy, rule of law, and the prosperity they bring, are in Russia’s own interests. But it seems we are still a long way from reaching this point.
[Originally published by EUobserver on 04.02.2014: http://euobserver.com/opinion/123000]Salome Samadashvili Democracy Eastern Europe Enlargment EU-Russia
Gagauzia: A new attack on the Eastern Partnership?
05 Feb 2014
It is necessary to accept the fact that there is a new political reality in the European Union and a pragmatic approach should be applied. The future of the European Union depends on an adequate response to the realities of the 21st century and on the ambitions how to move integration forward. Overcoming contradictions, disputes and differences on specific issues and challenges posed by the real life can only be achieved by a strong motivation to build a genuine union. In this sense, the future of the European Union depends on several basic preconditions, expressed in the ability to develop the economy of knowledge, to meet the challenges of energy dependence and population aging, the ability to compete on the global market, the ability to be flexible in order to find the right combination of active labour market policy, flexibility, effective training and social protection; the ability to strike the right balance between openness and protection, the ability to think big, not only in a European but also in a global dimension. We need to strengthen the Union, having a fresh look and new approach.Education Enlargment Future of Europe Neighbourhood Policy
The Call for More Europe: Ambitions and Realities
01 Dec 2021
Seven consecutive enlargements, spanning over half a century, have provided geopolitical stability in Europe and facilitated trade and economic growth. Currently, the EU is considering further expansion towards the Western Balkans and Turkey. In this process, the EU is weighing fundamental values against security concerns, public scepticism in some member states and past experience of letting in countries that were not prepared.
In addition the economic, security and refugee crises are making the EU more cautious about enlarging further. The present paper considers options for further EU enlargement, including ending enlargement altogether, offering a reduced membership status (‘membership minus’) and keeping enlargement alive under strict conditions.
It argues for the third option, under which the EU institutions must make sure that candidate countries not only align their legislation with that of the community but also respect fundamental EU values in the economic, political and legal spheres. Giving a viable prospect for membership is vital to enabling the candidates to maintain reform momentum and their attachment to the West. It is also in the interests of the EU and its member states.Balkans Enlargment Foreign Policy
The Long March Towards the EU: Candidates, Neighbours and the Prospects for Enlargement
19 Apr 2016
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) Initiative is the bridge which connects Europe to the countries in its eastern neighbourhood. Those countries were left out of the cycle of peaceful development, which the European project brought to the continent following the Second World War. It aspires to transform these countries into more democratic and prosperous societies. Over the last five years, the EaP has achieved more in some partner countries than in others. Structural policy weaknesses and different socio-economic realities of the partner states notwithstanding, the main challenge to the success of the EaP has come from Russia, which chose to view this policy as a zero-sum game for geopolitical dominance in its shared neighbourhood with Europe. This paper argues that in order to achieve the desired transformations, the EaP needs a fresh start, focusing on different players, methods and political technologies. Failure of the EaP to achieve its goal could deprive another generation of Georgians, Moldovans, Ukrainians and others in the EaP countries of an opportunity for a better life.Brexit Democracy Eastern Europe Enlargment EU-Russia Neighbourhood Policy
Building a Lifeline for Freedom: Eastern Partnership 2.0
07 Oct 2014
The book presents results of a collaborative study conducted by a team of authors from different Belarusian think tanks, as well as experts from Germany who are familiar with the problems associated with EU integration and enlargement. The study aims at analyzing the status of Belarus’ governmental, economic, social and legal situation, vital information in order to identify the measures which will be necessary for the country to reform and for its structures to become more compatible with the European Union. The path towards more democracy and freedom passes through a greater cooperation with the European Union. At the same time, the study suggests that closer ties with Europe will make wide-ranging political, economic, social and legal reform in today’s Belarus absolutely essential.Enlargment Integration Neighbourhood Policy
Belarus and the EU: from Isolation towards Cooperation
07 Nov 2011
Mart Laar was the Prime Minister of Estonia for two terms, from 1992 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2002. His role in the successful democratic transformation of Estonia made him an internationally recognized expert in “democratic transition”. “The Power of Freedom” tells the gripping story of the journey of Central and Eastern European countries “back to Europe”. It maps the history of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe in times when Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain. On the western side people enjoyed freedom, democracy, the rule of law and successful market-based economies, while those on the other side suffered at hand of violent totalitarian regimes and the socialist planned economy. These regimes destroyed economies and provoked an environmental disaster. The book offers a detailed analysis of the transition to democracy and successful integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. It looks at past achievements, current political, social and economic developments, as well as the challenges ahead – and concludes that the transition has been a true success story. Mart Laar also provides several examples of how the reunification of Europe brought stability and prosperity to Central and Eastern European countries through sound economic policies and democratic political engagement.Baltic Democracy Eastern Europe Enlargment
The Power of Freedom: Central and Eastern Europe after 1945
31 Jan 2011
The mission and aim of this book is to reflect on values of centre-right parties. It provides a clear view of the history, intellectual basis and values of selected member parties of the EPP. This volume provides the first overview of the binding fundamental values as well as the traditional elements of the EPP. It includes portraits of the EPP parties from Sweden Poland Austria, Hungary, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Italy, France and the special case of the British Tories show the varying traditions and approaches of the individual member parties. The parties presented in this publication provide an insight into the different historical and ideological development of the individual EPP members. The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 made it possible for new democratic parties to be established and historical ones revitalized in Europe’s formerly Communist countries.Enlargment European People's Party Values
The European People’s Party: Successes and Future Challenges
02 Dec 2010
This paper focuses on the political and economic impact of the ‘Big Bang’ enlargement of 2004, and discusses the question of the capacity of the enlarged EU to cope with the financial and economic crisisEnlargment EU Institutions European Union
Six Years after the 2004 Enlargement: Taking Stock
01 Jun 2010
European views on Turkey’s membership in the EU have been split between those in support of its full integration and those advocating a privileged partnership. To the extent that many of the latter proposals imply that Turkey will be partially integrated within Europe in certain areas, the question of Turkey’s accession is probably not about ‘if’, but about ‘how much’ integration there will be within the Union’s structures. The purpose of this book is not to offer a definitive response to this question. The book aims instead to examine the complexity of the issues pertaining to Turkey’s prospective EU membership by presenting several, often divergent, accounts of the political, security and socio-economic dimensions of the entire process. The book provides a forum for an exchange of views among distinguished scholars and researchers from different national backgrounds in order to contribute to the ongoing public discussion of Turkey’s accession.Enlargment European Union Foreign Policy Integration Security
Turkey’s Accession to the European Union: An Unusual Candidacy
05 Jan 2009