Archive for category Eastern partnership
Foreigners normally tiptoe around Azerbaijan. They all want something from the country, be it in the field of energy or security. The EU wants Azerbaijani oil, gas and cooperation over building gas pipelines to Central Asia. The US and Israel value cooperation over Iran. Turkey has a strategic partnership with the country. Russia wants Azerbaijan not too align too closely with the US and to prolong the lease for the Russian radar station in Gabala. In its turn Azerbaijan is rarely a foreign policy demandeur. It has lots of oil money and a consolidated authoritarian regime which does not want to take lessons over foreign policy or lack of democracy at home.
Appearances can be deceptive
Money and a careful foreign policy between various great power interests made Azerbaijan the ultimate balancer and a fairly arrogant regional player. But the Azerbaijani system is more fragile than the country’s foreign partners think. The foundations of that system are increasingly shaky for several reasons.
One key factor is decreasing oil production. Oil production peaked in 2010; it will go down by half by 2017 and two-thirds by 2019. The hope is that new gas reserves will make up for the difference in incomes. This might compensate the fall in revenues, but only partly and insufficiently. Read the rest of this entry »
Ukraine’s favourite foreign policy game is called ‘multi-vectorness’ – a constant process of ‘eschewing choice’ as this recent study explained. For years Ukraine sought to extract concessions and be treated nicely by both Russia and the EU or US not because it was sticking to its promises, but because it played sometimes skilfully and sometimes brazenly on contradictions between external actors. A simplified version of the rule of rules of the game, in its Ukrainian version, looks the following way:
- Promise both Russia and the EU everything they might want to hear (usually integration into some Russian- or EU-led initiative);
- Ask for something in exchange (market access, lower gas prices, financial assistance, opportunities for lucrative but opaque deals etc).
- Get what you asked and drag your feet on delivering on your promises.
- If either the EU or Russia is upset for not getting what they were promised – threaten that you will intensify cooperation with the other external partner.
The truth is that this has mostly worked. (Not just for Ukraine, but also for Moldova under Voronin and at times Belarus’ Lukashenko or a whole series of Central Asian states, not to mention a plethora of historical case from Italian city-states in the Middle Ages, to Nasser’s Egypt and Tito’s Yugoslavia.) Read the rest of this entry »
This will probably make boring reading, but for those with some stamina to go through typically unreadable, but important, EU-speak here is a comparison of how Ukraine and Moldova perform on their way towards a visa-free regime with the EU. The assessment is based on the recent progress reports by the European Commission on the implementation of the Action Plans on visa liberalisation by Ukraien and Moldova. (The relevant documents are here: Action Plans for Ukraine and Moldova outlining the conditions; and the progress reports for Ukraine and Moldova evaluating progress September 2011).
The progress reports are mainly concerned with legislative adjustments, which correspond to Phase 1 of the Action Plan. Evaluating realities will come next years. In order to somehow quantify the conclusions I also decided to give a ‘plus’ to the country that is ahead with some reforms, and a ‘minus’ to the country that lags behind the other (a simplified version of what ESI did with the Schengen White List project). Giving just plusses and minuses is of course quite simplistic, but nonetheless a useful exercise for a ‘quick and dirty’ look at where Moldova and Ukraine stand in relation to each other. I also decided to give additional bonuses in the form of half or full plusses to some areas which are much more important than the others (like introduction of biometric passports – a full plus, or half-pluses to having a half-functioning migration service or having implementing protocols for readmission agreements with EU member states). Read the rest of this entry »
The notion of ‘friendship’ in foreign policy is an elusive one. It is often stereotypical, yet publics and policy-makers often think in terms of ‘friendly’ and ‘less friendly’ countries. The notion of ‘friendship’ also often hides pretty unfriendly policies. It is almost conventional wisdom that countries like Germany, France, Spain or Austria are ‘friendly’ to Russia, and countries like Poland or Lithuania are not. Looking at the southern neighbourhood, France, Spain and Italy are key advocates and friends of countries like Morocco, Tunisia etc. Yet, such ‘friendships’ consist of lots of underwater currents. Many ‘friendships’ in form are pretty unfriendly in substance, and they vary hugely from one policy sector to another. Read the rest of this entry »
The revolutionary upheaval in the Southern neighbourhood and the failures of reforms in most of the Eastern neighbourhood are begging for a revised EU approach to the neighbourhood policy (ENP). In March the EU presented some ideas on ‘a partnership for democracy and shared prosperity’ with the Southern Mediterranean. Some time in May the EU will present also a full review of the ENP. A central concept of the updated ENP is the idea of ‘more for more’ – the EU should give more political and financial support to those neighbourhood countries that implement more reforms and are more democratic.
‘More for more’ stands for a more meritocratic ENP. It should lay the basis for proper differentiation between neighbours, not based on geographic criteria, but based on their performance. The concept is also supposed to change the way the EU is spending its money. Currently the EU pre-allocates most of its assistance to specific neighbourhood states (almost irrespective of their reform performance) in 7-years budgetary cycles. ‘More for more’ is supposed to make it easier to shift its more EU assistance from one neighbourhood state to another depending on their reform performance. Overall, the concept the concept of ‘more for more’ is laudable and fair, but also quite slippery. Read the rest of this entry »
Just when the southern neighbourhood of the EU is shaken by a wave of revolutionary situations that toppled consolidated dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, the eastern neighbourhood seems to be in the middle of a trend towards authoritarian consolidation. So the paradox is that whereas the Southern neighbours look like those in the East in the revolutionary years of 2003-2005, but in fast forward mode, the Eastern neighbourhood seems to look increasingly like the south a few years ago – a collection of states with increasingly close economic relations with Europe, but with centralised, non-competitive politics, which routinely afford to ignore the EU on many political and security questions. Today, every country in the Eastern neighbourhood except Moldova is less pluralistic than it was 5 years ago (though Belarus arguably could not become worse).
Seen from Ukraine, Moldova or most of the new EU member states one of the most irritating aspects of the European neighbourhood policy is that it dumps together the Southern and the Eastern neighbours of the EU. The Eastern neighbours tend to be rather arrogant about the Mediterannean neighbours of the EU. The argument goes that you cannot approach ‘European’ neighbours of the EU and ‘neighbours of Europe’ like Morocco or Syria through the same policy lenses; Read the rest of this entry »
Throughout the 90s in Central and Eastern Europe, and later in the Balkans reformism and democracy tended to go hand in hand. Governments which were more respectful of democratic norms, also tended to be more reformist. (By ‘democracy’ I mean respect for human rights, media freedoms and opposition parties. And by ‘reformism’ I mean the implementation of reforms such as fighting corruption, cutting red tape, improving the business climate, modernising state institutions like police, customs, tax inspectorates or the border guards.)
In a sense, the 90s was a simpler world in which Meciar, Tudjman or Milosevic were undemocratic and non-reformist; whereas Dzurinda, Mesic, and Djindjic were both reformist and democratic. The good and the bad guys were obvious; the black was clearly distinguishable from the white. And the EU’s approach to these governments was shaped by this unbreakable link between reformism and democracy.
But it seems that the Eastern neighbourhood is different. There is much more grey than black and white. Categorising the likes of Yuschenko, Timoshenko, Saakashvili, Putin and Medvedev is more difficult. The link between being reformist and being democratic is much more blurred. Some are reformist, but less democratic; some are more democratic, but less reformist; and some are neither reformist, nor democratic.
Think of the following examples. ‘Orange Ukraine’ in 2005-2010 was the most democratic post-Soviet state with a vibrant media, lively parliament and vociferous opposition. But it was hardly reformist. Few deep reforms were even tried, let alone successfully implemented. Read the rest of this entry »
Behind the flow of depressive commentaries related to the appointments of Catherine Ashton and (less so) Herman van Rompuy, there are more EU foreign policy news coming – the announcement of the new Commission’s line-up. One interesting development is the merging of enlargement and neighbourhood portfolios under one Commissioner – Stefan Fule (Czech Republic). A couple of months ago I heard a murmur in Brussels saying that it is way too early to give the enlargement portfolio to a new member state. Apparently, it is not. (I also heard the Czechs would never get a substantial portfolio because of Klaus’ foot-dragging on Lisbon.)
More importantly, I never thought that enlargement-wary EU member states would ever accept the merging of the enlargement and neighbourhood portfolios under one commissioner (though formally, Barroso is in charge of the distribution of portfolios). For many in the EU this would send all the wrong signals to states like Ukraine and Moldova that want to join the EU. It is equally true that for many this would send all the right signals (as well as the right framework for approaching relations with the EU’s neighbours). I thought the EU needs a separate commissioner for the neighbourhood, but I did not think it was politically feasible to have a commissioner for “enlargement and neighbourhood”. I proved wrong. Read the rest of this entry »
An Armenian acquaintance recently noted that Armenia is apparently the only Eastern Partnership (EaP) country that is really satisfied with the policy – all the other partners want either more, or less from the EU. Of course this highlights Armenia’s limited (or realistic) ambitions vis-a-vis the EU. But also the fact that Armenia, instead of constantly complaining that the EU is not doing enough (like Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia often do), pragmatically tries to benefit from what is on offer from the EU.
At the beginning of this year Armenia became the first country of the Eastern neighbourhood where the EU deployed a mission of eight advisers across a whole set of state institutions. Because the project was considered a success the EU is about to send an additional six persons. Read the rest of this entry »
For almost two decades the driving force of EU foreign policy was the idea of the EU as a transformative power. “Transformation” was achieved by enlarging the union and exporting its acquis, values and prosperity. The EU managed to successfully transform Central and Eastern Europe (though the business is still unfinished) and push the Balkans in the right direction. Then the EU tried to transform the Eastern neighbourhood through a similar policy mix of dialogue, economic assistance and exporting the acquis, though all in reduced doses.
But after 7 years the European neighbourhood policy the EU discovers that its policies are failing to even prevent the drastic deterioration of the situation in the Eastern neighbourhood. Even the fact that the EU tries to relaunch its neighbourhood policy on an almost annual basis (ENP Plus, New Ostpolitik, Black Sea Synergy and now the Eastern Partnership) is proof of a lingering dissatisfaction of how things stand. In the last years every single eastern neighbourhood country went through a series of major political, economic or security crises: Georgia cracked down on demonstrators in November 2007 and ran into a war with Russia in august 2008; post-electoral violence in March 2008 in Armenia left at least 10 persons dead; Moldova recent post-electoral protests lead to riots, the burning down of the parliament, and then a crackdown against the protesters Read the rest of this entry »