Iryna Solonenko, European University Viadrina/EaP Index
Boris Navasardyan,President of the Yerevan Press Club
Oleksandr Sushko,Director of Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Ukraine
Viorel Ursu,Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society European Policy Institute, Brussels
Stefan Meister, Senior Policy Fellow, ECFR Berlin
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in Vilnius will reveal how successful the EU was in anchoring its Eastern neighbours to its ambitious integration project. Two weeks before the summit, on 15 November, a panel discussion in the Berlin GIZ office chaired by Stefan Meister from the ECFR Wider Europe Programme debated in how far the EaP countries have changed since the start of the project, and in which direction the EaP initiative is moving. The overriding theme of the debate was that EU conditionality in its policies like “more for more” has been relatively effective, and the pressure about reducing benefits for non-cooperation should be maintained.
Iryna Solonenko of the European University Viadrina presented the latest EaP-Integration index (http://www.eap-index.eu/) results, which shows an overall positive trend and ranks Georgia and Moldova on top but shows also progress for Armenia. Oleksandr Sushko, Director of the Ukrainian Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, reported that the conditions in Ukraine have become more favourable for civil society. An increasing number and diversity of civil society organisations underline that trend. Of course, much remains to be done in the judicial system, which is far from independent of executive power. Positive news too from Moldova, where Viorel Ursu from the Open Society European Policy Institute highlighted that EU conditionality and IMF projects have resulted in the adoption of considerable reforms. The sustainability of this progress beyond the current regime will depend on the independence and transparency of the courts and the media. At the same time, oligarchs play an increasingly domineering role in the Moldovan politics and dominate media. In Armenia, explained Boris Navasardyan of the Yerevan Press Club, there has been progress in the election process and legal reforms have been implemented. Despite this, given Armenia’s interest in the Russian Customs Union, Europe risks losing the political leverage with which it could encourage key structural reforms and Russia has the opportunity to reverse reforms that have been achieved in partnership with the EU thus far.
The panellists agreed that expectations for the Vilnius summit are so high that a disappointment is almost unavoidable. It will be up to European foreign policy and local civil society to avoid a fall-back and to help make the Vilnius summit a first step towards a successful Eastern Partnership. Significant reform already achieved in EaP countries is being overshadowed by the pollicisation of the Vilnius summit. But key challenges have to be taken more seriously after the summit; both sides of the Partnership need to work together on the implementation of reforms, resolving the economic crisis in EaP countries and counteracting the increasing pressure from Russia.