2. Taking stock of the the Eastern Partnership
Germany Europe Russia Belarus Ukraine Ex-USSR Polska
*From Prague to Riga and backwards
Developments in Eastern Europe have received renewed attention in the EU in the past couple of years. With Russia’s intervention in politics of its neighboring states, the EU’s role in the region is now seen differently and so its previous policy requires reassessment. This paper will take stock of the EU’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy.
Thus, the intrinsic flaws of the EaP coupled with the exogenous political factors have resulted in the Partnership gradually losing its significance. Some experts argued that after the Riga Summit the EaP would start to slowly dismantle until it eventually transforms into six bilateral tracks of relation
EU in Belarus: A Toothless Value Diffuser?
Out of all of the EaP countries Belarus is the least integrated in the European fora. It is not a member of the Council of Europe and its engagement within the EaP is very basic. The EU has never ratified a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Belarus and thus the country was included neither in the ENP nor in the bilateral track of relations within the EaP. This in turn means that there has been no continuous dialogue with the EU about political, institutional, or economic reforms in Belarus.
Even the visa facilitation deal that has been negotiated since 2014 is still pending.
The EU’s financial support to Belarus is even more telling. In 2014 the EU allocated around EUR 19 million of bilateral assistance to Belarus and pledged between EUR 129 million to EUR 158 million for the period of 2014-2020
In comparison, Georgia received around EUR 131 million in 2014 and Armenia and Azerbaijan who also demonstrated little progress on democratic development received EUR 34 million and EUR 21 million respectively .
Well before the ENP and EaP were launched, the relations between the EU and Belarus had already seen ups and downs. After the 1996 constitutional referendum that had vested crucial executive and legislative powers solely in the hands of the President, Belarus’ authoritarian turn became crystal clear. In the aftermath of the referendum, Brussels imposed on Minsk a package of sanctions, thereby expressing its discontent with the political developments in the country.
While traditionally it is assumed that the EU’s foreign policy is based on a normative liberal approach, Ian Klinke contends that Belarus has been an exception to this rule. Therefore, an image of the EU as a ‘toothless value diffuser’ is flawed, as it presupposes that the EU’s primary interest in Belarus is to spread democracy. According to Klinke, the EU has always viewed Belarus in rather realist terms. It has considered this country to be in Russia’s sphere of influence and the only goal of Brussels in Belarus has been to secure a ‘hard’ border with its neighbor and ensure political stability in Minsk. Klinke concludes that the concept of ‘strategic non-engagement’ would therefore be more appropriate to describe the EU’s policy towards Belarus.
This paper sought to demonstrate why the EU’s policy in its Eastern Neighborhood has been unsuccessful. I argued that the main reasons for this failure were the inconsistencies of EU’s approach with regards to its incentives-based policy in the EE countries, lack of understanding among the EU bureaucrats of the Eastern European region, a rather one-sided approach to agenda setting, despite the claims of ‘joint ownership,’ insufficient incentives as compared to the Central European states that had been promised EU membership if they had fulfilled certain criteria, and strong Russian influence on the post-Soviet space that Moscow considers to be in its legitimate sphere of influence.
With regards to the EU-Belarusian relationship within the EaP, no one could summarize it more concisely and diplomatically than the European Commission did: ‘With Belarus, the EU is deepening its critical engagement in carefully calibrated mutual steps.’. In other words, there has been little to no progress in the EU-Belarus relations and this is not going to change any time soon. As Yauheni Preiherman notes, elite formation is a crucial process for the former Soviet countries today , so even simply engaging in dialogue with the Belarusian society might have a significant impact on who the leaders of this country might be in future.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: .e-ir.info