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European security issues

6 - Response to Russian actions in the eastern neighbourhood

Grade: B+
Unity 5/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 6/10
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2010/11: C (8/20)
Scorecard 2012: C+ (10/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2014: C+ (9/20)

The eastern neighbourhood countries’ right to tighten ties with the EU is the crux of the EU’s current standoff with Russia. The EU is searching for ways to address the challenge.  

The right of the countries in the eastern neighbourhood to choose their own path and move closer to the EU if they so wish is at the heart of the current standoff between the EU and Russia. The EU aims to help Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova move along the path envisaged in the Association Agreement, to stop the conflict in Donbas, and to prevent Russian aggression from spreading.

All three countries have now signed the Association Agreement/DCFTA with the EU. Ukraine signed the Association Agreement in Brussels on 21 March and it signed the DCFTA alongside Georgia and Moldova on 27 June. However, in September, it was agreed at President Petro Poroshenko’s request to postpone the implementation of the DCFTA until 2016. The EU made the right move in unilaterally granting Ukraine the sort of access to its markets foreseen under DCFTA. However, the postponement and especially the trilateral negotiations involving Russia – part of the EU’s attempt to address Russia’s concerns and also probably an attempt by Poroshenko to gain time – need careful handling. They may help Ukraine by preventing a full-scale trade war with Russia, but Russia should not be given a veto on the implementation of a bilateral agreement between the EU and Ukraine.

Moscow is still trying to squeeze Georgia and Moldova. Ahead of Moldova’s November elections, seen as a choice of orientation towards Europe or towards Russia, Moscow banned some food imports, stepped up information warfare, and may have tried to influence the elections by funding candidates as well as “street protesters”. Georgia is worried about the implications of a new defence treaty between Moscow and Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia, as well as similar treaties planned with South Ossetia.

The EU is ready to help financially as well as diplomatically, but it has not yet found ways to properly address the countries’ economic and especially security-related vulnerabilities vis-à-vis Russia. Meanwhile, Russian pressure puts a drag on the frustratingly slow reform processes in the countries concerned.