Diversifying unity. How Eastern Partnership countries develop their economy, governance and identity in a geopolitical context

30-10-2019

This study analyses the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in the year of its 10th anniversary. The Eastern Partnership was set up in 2009 as a joint policy initiative aiming at deepening and strengthening relations between the European Union, its Member States and the six EaP countries of Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. While each of these countries shares a past in the former Soviet Union, they have developed over time in different directions. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have concluded Association Agreements with the EU, which include Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas. They will have to fulfil conditions laid down in the Association Agreements to make progress on reforms of governance, the judiciary and fighting corruption. Moreover, Georgia and Ukraine are seeking to integrate more deeply into the Western world order, aspiring to membership of NATO and the EU. Armenia and Azerbaijan have different ways of cooperating with the EU. Belarus is furthest from the EU because of its poor record on democracy and human rights. All six countries are to a certain extent within Russia’s sphere of influence and have to deal with several geopolitical constraints, but they have increasingly developed economic relations and national identities of their own. It will be a challenge to maintain a common perspective for the next 10 years of the Eastern Partnership and a further divergence between the countries is likely. This will not only be between countries with an Association Agreement and the others, but along multiple vectors. While further developing statehood, the eastern partners will want to decide increasingly for themselves which forms of cooperation they want to pursue in the future. They may choose international partners according to their perceived needs, including Russia, the US, China or Turkey. The EU for its part should continue to pursue its strengths of assisting in achieving better governance and democracy and strengthening economic ties, while contributing to diminishing geopolitical tensions.

This study analyses the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in the year of its 10th anniversary. The Eastern Partnership was set up in 2009 as a joint policy initiative aiming at deepening and strengthening relations between the European Union, its Member States and the six EaP countries of Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. While each of these countries shares a past in the former Soviet Union, they have developed over time in different directions. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have concluded Association Agreements with the EU, which include Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas. They will have to fulfil conditions laid down in the Association Agreements to make progress on reforms of governance, the judiciary and fighting corruption. Moreover, Georgia and Ukraine are seeking to integrate more deeply into the Western world order, aspiring to membership of NATO and the EU. Armenia and Azerbaijan have different ways of cooperating with the EU. Belarus is furthest from the EU because of its poor record on democracy and human rights. All six countries are to a certain extent within Russia’s sphere of influence and have to deal with several geopolitical constraints, but they have increasingly developed economic relations and national identities of their own. It will be a challenge to maintain a common perspective for the next 10 years of the Eastern Partnership and a further divergence between the countries is likely. This will not only be between countries with an Association Agreement and the others, but along multiple vectors. While further developing statehood, the eastern partners will want to decide increasingly for themselves which forms of cooperation they want to pursue in the future. They may choose international partners according to their perceived needs, including Russia, the US, China or Turkey. The EU for its part should continue to pursue its strengths of assisting in achieving better governance and democracy and strengthening economic ties, while contributing to diminishing geopolitical tensions.