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This contribution is aimed at situationally analyzing the interrelation between Eastern Partnership (EoP) and European Union (EU) by encompassing the projection of EU’s normative and/or geopolitical actorness within the region. Through its fundamental roots, particular components which generate the profound evolution of EaP such as its primary purposes and instruments which it has gone through while adapting to European Union.

1. Introduction

The wave of comprehensive engagement policy of European Union (EU) towards Eastern countries who are mostly being perceived as unstable member states of the alliance started on May of 2004 under the name of EU Neighborhood Policy (ENP) which has so much to offer in this sense. Outlining the framework of Eastern Partnership (EaP) who then became the very successor of ENP1; it is likely to trace the early signs of of Eastern Partnership back to this very point. However, unlike the EaP; 16 of the EU’s closest Eastern and Southern neighbours were governed within the framework of European Neighborhood Policy. After its revision in which was followed by Arab Spring uprisings; an agenda called Joint Communication has been published in 2015.

The declaration involved international organizations, social partners, partner states and last but not least; civil society within its structure.2 Although, it is safe to say that both ENP and EaP were created on the basis of the same general principles which was primarily joint ownership, positive conditionality and differentiation. Furthermore, with reference to EU’s efforts for advocating and promoting its norms beyond its borders; Neighborhood Policy served as a cornerstone for such organization to be established that was again to be supported by European Union with the aim of creating a vibrant civil associations accompanied by a stronger population, an increased economic integration, expanded trade relations and a pleasant governance within the Eastern regions. In this very process, some inital points have been taken by European Union and 6 Eastern countries which follows as Armenia, Azerbeijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine back in 2004 and 2009.

2. The Prague Summit (2009)

07.05.2009 Czech Republic, Prague. Eastern Partnership Summit. Photographer: Vladimir Weiss

The Prague Summit which is officially known by the name Joint Declaration of Prague Eastern Partnership Summit was held in 7 May 2009 within the presence of European Council, European Commission, Secretary-General of the Council of EU and High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. Deeper bilateral agreements were carried out and multilateral co-operation gained a profound vision throughout the way. Within the current agenda of the EU rotating its policies pertaining to Eastern neighbourhood and Eastern Partnersip; there was a certain priamary goal: stability. EU officials argued that the purpose of the initiative is to provide stability by also refering to the issue of modernization. Explicitly as a result of the dissension province of the South Ossetia later emphasized the urge of European Union to be engaged within a more intense affiliation with its eastern neigbors to stabilize the region, said Sabine Fischer, an expert on Russian foreign and security policy.

The main goal of the Eastern Partnership is to create the necessary conditions to accelerate political association and further economic integration between the European Union and interested partner countries.”

The deducting paragraph upon offers a deeper comprehension considering the purpose of the EaP. By fostering stability and embracing a multilateral conferance building; the participants of the Prague Summit underlied the need for a peaceful compensation. The amendment then continued as following:

“The significant strengthening of EU policy with regard to the partner countries will be brought about through the development of a specific Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy. This serves the shared commitment to stability, security and prosperity of the European Union, the partner countries and indeed the entire European continent.” 3

The significant silhoutte of the EU and Eastern Partnership engagement is quiet able to show that EU seeks to bring its Eastern neighbours closer to the European standards, promote regional relations with these countries and ensure their sustainable growth. 4

3. A Stronger Governance?: Identifying the Essential Purposes

The tightly monitored objectives of the EaP can be grouped into four main thematic divisions as: (1) democracy, good governance and stability, (2) economic integration and convergence with EU policies, (3) energy security and lastly, (4) contacts between people. These confined platforms needs to be met at least two times per year in order to conduct a review and to handle a dialogue between the EU and the Eastern partner states to check whether the reforms are aligning with the principles. On the other hand, by offering set-up permanent panels and temporary expert panels; EaP renders possible for projects and certain initiatives to take place in depth which is crucial after all.

The first principle of the main priorities of EaP occurs as stronger governance. According to EU; institutions must be strengthened within the framework of this very basis. This can be managed by allowing to adapt and change in order to move with stronger steps towards deeper alliances that may appear at one point, as reported by IFAD in 2013.5

Secondly, in order to give birth to a stronger economy to arise, a starting point may be taken as a lead of focus on the marketing opportunities and tracking the economic developments particularly. Moreover, it is a necessity to emphasize the need of EU to improve economic relations between the involved partners. As the third component appears, stronger connectivity can cover the terms of connectivity and energy efficiency.

Within this tenet, environment-based issues and the grand risk of climate change are overally discussed. In the last objective, EaP gives importance to creating a stronger society; meaning that mobility is being enhanced so that the contacts between people may take place. Following up all these implementations, the spirit of the Eastern Partnership, therefore, can be perceived regarding all the primary goals that were set.

4. Main Challanges and Opportunities in the Partnership

The reflection of the Eastern Partnership that is being attributed to European Union is quite multidimensional. The achivement of European Union in engaging all the six Eastern partners demonstrates nothing but its “regional” power projection. However, this claim would not be completely sufficient to discuss the exact role of EU. Within this part, I will be analyzing the actorness of EU by also drawing attention to three main challenges and three primary opportunities stemming from the policy in light of the current agenda.

In certain cases, many scholars still argue that the policy of Eastern Neighborhood Policy held by European Union only as an instrumental tool for pursuing its self interests in the post-Soviet area intending to weaken Russia’s traditional great power potential in the region 6 by making reference to regional actorness of the European Union. From a theory-based perspective, an accurate explanation would be as following: As European Union continues to promote its goals and competitiveness within the region can become a demonstration of its regional power projection according to rationalist approach because social actors are mainly concerned with maximizing their self-interest. Thus, their behaviour and actions are strategy-based.7 On the other hand, shaping the international environment through these means represents the fact that EU can project its main foreign policy objectives and imply them in the international area. 8

Since EU has attempted to form its eastern neigbourhood through a numerous affiliations; a continous deliberation on its implementation is still being debated. In fact, some may argue that the EU’s policy in the Eastern Partnership region could have reached to a much more concrete achievement only if Brussels and the EU member states took more lieability regarding the application of regional reforms in the area. 9 EU, particularly Brussels as an executing mechanism and “de facto capital”, was seen insufficient in providing the required restorations.

According to Jarábik & Šukytė, in such manner, EU must shift its target towards other partners as well. Otherwise, the policy will be indisputably disappear in the “trenches” of Eastern front.

Pertaining to the context of the limited democracy promotion by EU; the case of Nagorno-Karabkh has also a controversial portrait. As per the fact that it has both challengable and profitable side; it remains a bit complex. In Abkhaz and South Ossetia, EU was perfectly able to engage within an increased interaction aimed at promoting the development of Georgia and reinforcing the rehabilitation. While this is clearly an opportunity for EU to act in compliance with the principle of peace sustainability in the region according both to its norm-based and geopolitical actorness; its inadequacy to act in the same extent with Karabkh conflict demonstrates the lack of its potential in the territory. 10 No attempts have been taken in order to contact Karabkh in a discourse with Brussels which this would prove the argument where claimed Brussels’s not beingt necessarily enough to make initiations within the region.

As tier concerns, EU should have been dealing with national security and survival for the Karabakhis first and following that, democracy should have came at its best. Also, when looking at the challenges ahead, unstable conditions in Libya and Syria also seems to be in question.

It is likely to refer to Jarábik and Šukytė’s perception which claims that associated partners of EaP are trying to force EU to initiate more innovations. According to them, what EU must realize is that the reforms in the region require more time and more resources as provided in the article.

Another instance would be the ability of EU to make renovaitons with regard to the macro financial stability in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine which it clearly generates an opportunity. However, the provisionally applied Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between EU and Ukraine in 2016 based on the principle of mutually opened markets for goods and services 11 and Association Agreements (AA) remain as huge challanges considering the occurrence of distinct lines. This stems from EU’s effort to addhere the partner countries to its self economic area of influence. Such understandings and perceptions are yet to be discussed.

5. A Brief Conclusion

The concrete embodiment of EaP by the EU illustrates the actualization of EU’s norms, aspirations and moreover, its identity. Within the historical context, EU was able to project its actorness in regional and international terms. However, while European Union can be determinent to project as a rational geopolitical power; it still can remain committed to its normative performance by being loyal and committed to its foundational values and principles that generates its own identity.

Ergo, this is to imply that the EU can indeed operate as a rational geopolitical power and in the mean time, still carry out its norm-based reform agenda. However, in the process of doing so, a number of unavoidable challenges and opportunities may come along. NGK problem, the inequal distribution in focus of EU within the partner countries, inability of Brussels to take more concrete steps and the need for EU to pursue its self interests within the region constitutes the main challenges while there exist a lot of opportunities to provide secure, stabile and healthy relations between European Union and the successor of European Neighborhood Policy: Eastern Partnership.

1  Özçelik, A. & Zandaradze, S. 2000. “The Impact of the European Union East Partnership on Georgia” Marmara University Journal of Political Sciences. Vol:8 (Retrieved from: https://dergipark.org.tr/en/download/article-file/1032475)

2  European Commission Website, 2020. “European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations” accessed in 2021. (Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/neighbourhood/european-neighbourhood-policy_en)

3  Council of the European Union, 2009. “Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit” Brussels, 7 May 2009. 8435/09, Presse 78. (Retrieved from: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/31797/2009_eap_declaration.pdf)

4  Rauluskeviciene, J., Makuteniene, D. 2014. “Possibilities for Integration of the Eastern Partnership Countries’ Export into the EU Markets” Aleksandras Stulginskis university, Lithuania. Vol.10, No.2.

5  Anyonge, T., Jonckheere, S., Romano, M. & Galina, A. 2013. “Strenthening Institutions and Organizations” IFAD, Synthesis report. Pp,6.

6  Valiveya, K. 2016. “The EU’s Eastern Partnership: normative or geopolitical power projection?” Eastern Journal of European Studies. Centre for European Studies, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, vol. 7, December. (Retrieved from: http://ejes.uaic.ro/articles/EJES2016_0702_VAL.pdf)

7  Risse, T. 2005. “Social constructivism and European integration” in: Wiener, A. and Diez, T. (eds.), European integration theory, New York: Oxford University Press.

8  Manners, I. 2006. “Normative power Europe reconsidered: beyond the crossroads.” Journal of European Public Policy, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 182-199.

9  Jarábik, B., Šukytė, D. 2017. “Eight Years of Eastern Partnership: Hidden in the Trenches” Op-Ed. New Eastern Europe.

10  Simão, Licínia. 2012. “The problematic role of EU democracy promotion in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh” Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal. Elsevier.

11  European Research Executive Agency REA. 2021 “Deep and Comprehensice Free Trade Areas (DCFTA) of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement” accessed in 2021. (Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/chafea/agri/en/content/deep-and-comprehensive-free-trade-areas-dcfta-eu-ukraine-association-agreement)

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Eastern Interest Team.

Hazal Günal
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Hazal Günal was born in 2000 in Turkey. She completed her high school education in Istanbul and currently, she is studying her senior grade in the degree of International Relations at Hacettepe University. She got involved as a mobility student in Portugal and studied in the Faculty of Economics at Coimbra University for 8 months. The author, who voluntarily took part within a number of organizations whether in translation offices and social responsibility platforms is now writing particularly about the European affairs for European Student Think Tank. Her main areas of interests include but not limited to human rights, social policy studies, Eastern-EU relations, discourses and practices in Europe, migration and literary studies. She has a genuine passion to learn more about international law.

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