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Future of the EaP: opportunities and struggles

The events from the failure of the Vilnius Summit up until the ongoing Ukrainian crisis have revealed the need of reviewing the EU’s current policies towards its Eastern partners. Armenia chose the Russian-led Eurasian Union over the Association Agreement with the EU; Azerbaijan remains indifferent and is not a member of the WTO, which means not even eligible for the DCFTA; Belarus is under the authoritarian regime; Ukraine achieved the signature of AA/DCFTA with the EU only through violence that is still ongoing… Russian engagement has had a negative effect on the regional and European integration of the EaP countries and the persistence of the dictatorial regimes in several EaP states demonstrates that the latest neighbourhood policy did not manage to deliver stability and prosperity in the neighbourhood.

Revising the ENP

Johannes Hahn
EU Commissioner Hahn, responsible for ENP and Enlargement Negotiations. Credit:

Against this background, the EU felt the need to come up with an even new-er response to the changing neighbourhood and the ENP is ready for an update once more. The new ENP and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn is tasked by the Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, to submit a renewed policy by the end of the year. This reform is expected not just as an iteration of the previous ENP, but as its fully-fledged sequel. At his EP hearing of the foreign affairs committee, Commissioner Hahn stated that the ENP is “no longer just about building an area of democracy and prosperity in the longer term, it is about preserving the vital European interest right now”. It seems that the ENP will no longer represent an enlargement policy addition but an exemplification of the EU foreign and security policy. It is likely that the ‘more-for-more’ principle will be abandoned in favour of a more interest-based approach. The EU seems to be moving from political idealism to realism – developing what has to be a more rational ENP formula. Yet, the EU as a normative power cannot afford admitting that its realistic interests are above its democratizing mission. The EU will have to find a golden mean – introduce an interest-based approach that would not contradict the fundamental normative principles on which the EU is funded.

Engaging with a ‘needs-based’ approach

The EU does not necessarily have to give up on the promotion of the European values in order to provide for its own security. It just needs to be more cautious with each move and should adjust the policy to each country according to the realities. The Union should try to reach out more to the people of the EaP,- work with governments where possible, but with civil society – always.

“We want to hear from all of our neighbours, and that includes hearing your views and learning from your experiences at all levels and from all stakeholders ranging from government and civil society organisations to business and academia.”
 EU Commissioner Hahn
 The EU can also support independent institution building and engage in the joint initiatives. The technocratic approach should go hand in hand with the high politics. None of this can be achieved without the EU investing more into the democratic reform processes in EaP countries. The money the Union is offering is not sufficient while there is Russia that can offer economic relief in terms of subsidies and decrease in the gas price.

More flexibility with the requirements is needed from the EU side. Whatever formula of differentiation the EU comes up with, the flexibility definitely needs to be kept in the policy. One and the same Free Trade Agreement sample cannot work for each and every EaP country: the EU should offer its partners a variety of possible partnerships from which to choose.  Respectively, those aspiring the membership also “earned” to see at least the shadow of light in the end of the tunnel.

What is more, the EU has to moderate the way it imposes regional cooperation where there is no internal drive in favour of such. The EU misguidedly made it seem to its EaP partners that the regional integration was a basic precondition for their European integration, – thus discouraging countries that did not perceive themselves in a strictly regional context (South Caucasus).


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