September 27, 2010

Foreign policy transformation in Eastern Partnership countries: global impact and regional particularities

By Sergiy GerasymchukStrategic and Security Studies Group

Eastern Partnership

After the last wave of enlargement when the EU's absorption capacities were almost exhausted, Brussels started elaborating the new kind of foreign policy which was to a less scale oriented at further enlargement but rather at setting relations with the neighbors. With a degree of simplification, the EU's objectives in external relations can broadly be divided into: (1) values of democracy promotion and human rights based on either realist top-down or idealist bottom-up approaches; and (2) soft security values based on realist understandings of international relations.
By following these objectives the EU is investing its resources both of political and economic origin into forming two belts around the Union – security belt and democracy belt. While referring to value the EU is making an attempt to meet the expectations of idealists for whom the European values were the core idea of the Union, whereas by creating the belt of security the EU was following quite rationalistic and pragmatic interests of citizens and political elites.
For such purposes the EU launched new programs which should enhance promotion of democracy in the neighboring countries but also to establish efficient governance based on European values. The governance model focuses on the democratization potential of transgovernmental functional co-operation in individual policy sectors. In this perspective, technical co-operation offers the EU the possibility of promoting democratization indirectly, through the 'back door' of joint problem-solving.
The desire to create the operational mechanisms for achieving the named goals resulted in launching the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). The ENP was developed in 2004, with the objective of avoiding the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged EU and its neighbors and instead strengthening the prosperity, stability and security of all. The ENP framework was proposed to the 16 of EU's closest neighbors – Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.
Within the ENP the EU offers its neighbors a privileged relationship, building upon a mutual commitment to common values (democracy and human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development). The ENP goes beyond existing relationships to offer political association and deeper economic integration, increased mobility and more people-to-people contacts. The level of ambition of the relationship depends on the extent to which these values are shared.
Taking into account the diversity of EU neighboring countries there were some additional initiatives developed and launched with the consideration of the specific features and geo-political particularities of certain regions. Eastern Partnership (EaP) is one of such initiatives.
In May 2008, Poland and Sweden suggested to the Council to strengthen EU's relations with countries in the EU's Eastern neighborhood by setting up the EaP. It is worth to note that Poland and Sweden being long-standing locomotives of further enlargement to the East decided that the time for actively promoting EaP countries' membership of the EU was not propitious due to an increasingly hostile public opinion in many member states and an ever-more cautious, sometimes even openly unsympathetic, stance taken by national political leaders on further enlargement of the Union. Therefore a framework designed to keep the more ambitious countries' economic modernization process on track towards compliance with EU's 'acquis' would improve their chances of a future membership of the EU, while for the countries with lower ambitions, regulatory alignment to the 'acquis' would in any case assist their modernization efforts and improve on their ability to deepen trade relations with the EU.
Basically, such an idea was the way to keep the issue of the Eastern states on the table and it was obviously in the interest of new EU members, who still felt the legacy of belonging to 'socialist state' on the one hand and were intimidated by the perspective of bordering the neo-imperial space on the other hand.
Other member states reacted initially with polite support to the Polish-Swedish initiative, although there was no much enthusiasm. The critics were emphasizing that EaP might undermine ENP. Moreover, number of EU countries did not see the Eastern region as priority instead focusing on the South (e.g. Mediterranean Union).
However, the war in Georgia in 2008 clearly indicated that the existing policy towards Caucasian region does not fit the objective of guaranteeing democratic and safe neighborhood for the EU and such a situation may indirectly threat the countries on the Eastern boundaries of the EU. Moreover, Russian intervention to Georgia caused serious concerns in the Eastern European and Baltic states. Discussion of the efficiency of North Atlantic Treaty Article 5 was raised and the EU also faced the necessity of ensuring member states' public opinion in the safety of European borders and efficient mechanisms of preventing the Georgian scenario on the neighboring territories.
This fact accelerated the elaboration of the EU's policy towards the region and in a few months the Commission had produced a Communication on the EaP whose policy prescriptions were subsequently endorsed by the European Council summit in December 2008. The strategy got the final stamp of approval by the member states in a special summit in May 2009 in Prague where the EaP was officially launched.
EaP had many strong sides comparing to ENP. Alongside the bilateral dimension of the EaP, the EU encouraged strengthening of the ties among the EaP countries themselves both to deal with the EU as a group and to improve stability and economic and social development in the region. Such approach was quite productive since it resulted in setting links between Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine on the one side and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus on the other side. First three countries, which defined EU integration as the priority could serve the locomotives for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus which had less proactive position, less level of democratic development and less willingness to meet European standards. Also in Eastern Europe it recalled the pattern of Visegrad group which proved to be success.
EaP was setting up four thematic platforms for multilateral dialogue and cooperation among officials from the EaP countries, EU member states, the Commission and other EU institutions and stakeholders on an ad-hoc basis. The thematic areas focused on four overall themes: democracy, good governance and stability (progress in this area would have meant a success of the EU's approach towards extending good governance patters to Eastern Europe); economic integration and convergence with EU policies (with the emphasize on the mutual access to the markets); energy security (this area indicated the EU's interest in guaranteeing this dimension of European soft security); and contacts among people. Besides that, the EaP included a civic society forum that act alongside the thematic platforms bringing together representatives from civil society and non-governmental organizations with participants from the Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee to give input of varying kinds to the thematic platforms and the political process.
Another strong side of EaP: bilateral association agreements offer some important advantages for the EaP countries which are not applicable in accession negotiations and were not offered to the EFTA countries in the context of the EEA: The AAs (1) are based on a promise of real differentiation between the countries as each country will be in the position to decide the extent and pace of integration with the EU; (2) differentiation will stand a greater chance of being effective as the countries will negotiate independently of each other; (3) the EU seems prepared to consider supporting specific countries beyond the EaP multilateral dimension, for instance in the area of energy; and (4) the promise to include cooperation on foreign and security policy is an indication of EU's willingness to address the region's strategic issues and specific security concerns. The letter was of significant importance for the region which hosts number of frozen conflicts, challenges of environmental security as well as significant dependence on the supplies of natural resources.
However, simultaneously, EaP contained numerous drawbacks which might be assessed as its week sides. In contrast to traditional notions of democratization that focus on changes in state institutions, the EaP is based on governance approach, which concentrates on changes in rules and practices within individual policy sectors. These changes occur as a consequence of exposure to the EU 'acquis' and administrative policy-making in the EU and its member states, and eventually consist in the adoption of the EU 'acquis'. This exposure takes place through interaction at the level of administrative experts. The vehicles of policy transfer are transgovernmental networks rather than intergovernmental negotiations between state representatives or transnational exchanges with civil society.
Two outcome patterns are easy to detect. First, there is a clear discrepancy between rule adoption and rule application: whereas the EU has been fairly successful in inducing the ENP countries to adopt legislation in line with democratic governance provisions, these provisions have generally not been implemented. Second, rule adoption is strongly correlated with the strength of codification and to some extent with the strength of institutionalization. What is even more important for the success of such approach in the EaP countries is rule of law and judicial reforms which is not always true for most of them.
Besides that good-governance approach tends to result in support for 'top-heavy political structures to manage reform processes' and institution-building programs (a rather traditional realist concern with 'state stability'), often at the expense of developing bottom-up civil society initiatives. To some extant the mentioned approach also provides partly democratic or even authoritarian state administrations with the legitimization – a kind of bless from the EU. Actually such approach was a kind of substitute to idealistic democracy promotion.
    Finally, although the EU is often seen as a postmodern sui generis polity, beyond realpolitik, it is unreasonable to assume that the 27 member state governments will find it easy to privilege non-EU citizens over and above the security concerns of their citizens (and electorates) at home. Surely it affects not only the EaP-EU governmental interaction but also people-to-people contacts, since puts under the question the prospects of visa regime liberalization

Russian Factor

   Another source of threats which might undermine EaP is the presence in the region of a third actor which is Russia. There is no one who doubts that EU's relations to Russia have an important impact on the overall political context of the EaP as well as its more immediate implementation. Official EU documents have stated as much by pledging that the EaP 'will be pursued in parallel with the EU's strategic partnership with Russia' (Commission Communication) while the Prague summit declaration reiterated that the EaP 'will be developed in parallel with the bilateral cooperation between the EU and third states'. The summit declaration's failure to mention Russia by name may be an indication of the signatories' wish to recognize that other third countries, for instance Turkey, also have a stake in the development of the EaP or maybe out of concern to avoid the impression that Russia would be given sway over the future direction of the partnership.
    At the same time, Russia voiced its concerns regarding EaP implementation and focuses at designing its own neighborhood policy towards the same recipients – Eastern partnership member countries aimed to counterweight EaP. Basically Russia was acting within realpolitik pattern and perceived the EU's week attempts to set the rules for the Eastern neighbors as the direct intrusion into the Russian sphere of influence and this fact affected the design of Russian neighborhood policy.
In comparison to EaP Russian neighborhood policy is informal (often extremely informal), but has more substance. The EU has a strategy, but no tactics. Russia may have less strategic appeal as a long-term model of society, but it is tactically adroit. Russia sees itself as meeting an explicit challenge on 'home' territory; the EU is often not even aware it is in a competition in a neighborhood that often seems far from home.
It is interesting observation that while attempting to counterweight the EaP, Russia used the pattern of soft power influence. However striking this may sound to many in Europe after Russian invasion to Georgia, Russian power is not only hard and coercive. Russian soft power does not make any of its neighbors want to join the Russian Federation. Nor does it help sell Russia as a model for modernization. But soft power is not only about positive things such as democracy and integration. Soft power is about making others want what you want, even if that means building illiberal capitalism, not allowing the OSCE to monitor elections or sustaining corrupt cross-border networks. However, at the same time this is the weakness of Russian neighborhood policy since in comparison to the EU it has failed to offer EaP states a positive agenda. Yet the EU's unwillingness to offer a membership perspective to Ukraine seriously limits its leverage in EaP countries too.
Both policies, as well as a presence of interest of other actors in the region create the environment for designing the foreign policy strategies of the countries – members of EaP.

Foreign policy design in Eastern Europe and Caucasus


Definitely, shaping foreign policy in the EaP countries under the circumstances of competing EU's and Russian initiative and facing the impact of the US 'reset' policy with Moscow is a challenging task. It is no less obvious that EaP countries had to consider different factors of influence in their particular sub-regions. Its was not a secret that even for Visegrad countries with approximately the same neighboring environment and joint objectives of EU and NATO accession it was difficult to find a common denominator in the field of foreign policy. No less challenging is formulating of Common foreign policy agenda for the EU. The same is true for the EaP countries.
In this regard, it makes sense to differentiate them into two groups: Caucasian states and Eastern European states. The groups have some similar features. Each of them includes three countries and each country plays its specific role.

 
Eastern Europe 
Caucasus 
Belarus
Quite often the country is defined as the last dictatorship in Europe. It has close links with Russia and quite often subordinates its foreign policy to Russian priorities.
The country does not object the presence of Russian military units on its territory and depends on Russian economic support.
Civil society in the country is underdeveloped and oppressed by the regime.  
Armenia
The country has strong links with Russia and quite often subordinates its foreign policy to Russian priorities.
It is dependant on Russian economic support and military presence. It also has tenses relations with the neighbors (frozen conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and complicated relations with Turkey).
Civil society in the country is underdeveloped and oppressed by the regime.
Moldova
Due to the so called 'twitter revolution' the country managed to get liberal pro-European government and to improve democracy indicators, although dependence on Russia is high and democratic developments are still under the question.
The country also faces the threat of melting 'frozen conflict' in Transnistria – unrecognized secession region on the left bank of Dniester river, with a significant presence of Russian military units.
At the political level relations with Russia are close to confrontation.
Civil society in the country is relatively well-developed
Georgia
After the revolution of roses the country managed to get the attention of the EU and demonstrated certain progress in democracy building, although 2008 war with Russia resulted in the recognition of secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by few countries and undermined country's progress on the path of European and Euroatlantic integration.
Relations with Russia are close to confrontation.
Civil society in the country is relatively well-developed

Much less similarities might be found between two more states of the region – Azerbaijan and Ukraine.
Oil-rich Azerbaijan deserves special consideration, as a pivotal country with the largest population in the Caucasian region. Today this Muslim state has close contacts with the Islamic world, while it is simultaneously influenced by neighboring Christian countries oriented towards Western culture. Its position on the junction of the West and East has enabled Azerbaijan to develop a synthesis of the values of both cultures. In other words Azerbaijan is equally eager to benefit from EaP and to impose Russian-like model in its internal policy (e.g. Azerbaijan replicates the Russian discourse on 'sovereign democracy' – albeit under local brand name 'responsible democracy' in Azerbaijan. Immediately after Medvedev proposed in November 2008 that Russia move to a six-year presidency, pro-government forces in Azerbaijan started to do the same).
Moreover, Azerbaijan is implementing the policy of balancing not only between Russia and the EU but also between Iran, U.S. and Turkey. While Ankara is strongly backed by Washington, Tehran and Moscow collaborate in the military and political realms in their attempt to resist growing Turkish and American weight in the Caspian basin. Turkey has chosen Azerbaijan as its strategic ally, and Iran, in turn, collaborates closely with Armenia, whose relations with Turkey are hostile.
However, the ground for maneuver is guaranteed by the natural resources which are at disposal of Baku.
Currently, Azerbaijan uses the possibilities to export oil and gas via the Baku–Supsa oil pipeline to Georgia, the Baku–Novorossiysk oil pipeline to Russia, via the main export oil pipeline Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) to Georgia, Turkey and the world market and the Baku–Tbilisi–Erzurum (BTE) gas pipeline to Georgia and Turkey, where it connects to the Turkish gas network through which Azerbaijan can deliver natural gas all over Europe. Due to this input in providing European energy security Azerbaijan gets certain toleration of its internal autocratic policies, particularly changes to the constitution allowing for a lifetime presidency in Azerbaijan. Basically, in the EU – Azerbaijan relations realistic approach prevails and the EU is quite satisfied with the fact that cooperation with Baku does not foresee any tensions with Moscow and at the same time provides Europe with the additional sources of energy and additional routes for it transportation.
Therefore, among six countries of EaP Azerbaijan can afford itself the position of 'armed neutrality'. On the one hand it is close to the EU and US since provides its natural resources to the European market. On the other hand it quite realistically assesses the impact of Russia on European policies and avoids any confrontation with Moscow, although does not express any willingness to develop such close relations as Armenia and Belarus have.
The situation is a bit different with Ukraine. Like Azerbaijan in the Caucasus Ukraine is the biggest country among three Eastern European countries of EaP. As the result of 'Orange revolution' the country gained visibility in Western media and declared pro-European and pro-NATO foreign policy.
However, a weak and corrupt judiciary and a distinct lack of good governance constitute further problems for Ukraine's democratisation process. Large industrial-economic groups prefer to secure their economic interests via links with politicians, not by empowering the judiciary as an impartial arbiter. The fact that the Ukrainian parliament is home to some of the richest Ukrainians does not encourage the independence of the judiciary, but instead makes it a tool in a daily political and economic dog-fight. Similarly, the public sector is highly politicised and subject to far-reaching patronage. This results in a low institutional capacity and bad governance in general throughout Ukraine, as is confirmed by various international indices.
Moreover, the results of president's elections 2010 demonstrated that Ukraine's foreign policy priorities were not irreversible. Sustainability of the foreign policy of Ukraine was interrupted by the significant decisions to freeze the relations with NATO at the existing level and to reorient foreign policy to Moscow instead of both pro-Western (at least in rhetoric) policy typical for Victor Yushchenko presidency and multi-vector policies typical for his predecessors.
Short analyses of foreign policy of EaP states' priorities give a possibility for another kind of grouping them.
Armenia and Belarus are dependant on Russia, however with the absence of any alternative they conduct Russian-oriented policy and perceive such kind of dependence as beneficial protectorate of a 'great power'. Simultaneously Ukraine is moving at the same direction.
The mentioned behavior of the named three countries is supplemented by Russian soft power operations aimed at limiting the expression of the alternative agendas, invigorating the sentiments towards 'common glorious history', inserting into educational process the formulas typical for the Soviet Union etc.
Georgia and Moldova have a different approach. Both countries faced the challenge of fighting with the Russian troops on their own territory. Both countries, with the direct Russian interference faced the problem of separatism and frozen conflicts. In such circumstances it is quite difficult for Russia to exercise soft power and to counterweight the negative image of invader. However, in particular in case of Moldova, another instrument is exercised – Russian orthodox church. By now it is difficult to assess how successful such approach might be. However, the very attempt of using the faith as a uniting idea deserves mentioning.
    One observation is that the only country out of six which avoids confrontation with Russia but is not dependant on it is Azerbaijan – the only EaP Muslim country rich in natural resources.  

The prospects of Foreign policy transformation

    Current situation in the region and the existing trends in defining foreign policy objectives give the floor for further forecasts of foreign policy of the EaP states.
    The less probable are the changes in the foreign policy of Azerbaijan since now it fits into the niche of the state which manages to balance between local and world leaders and by exporting energy supplies benefits from cooperation with the neighboring countries and avoids domination of any country. The only reason which might lead to significant changes of Azerbaijani foreign policy might be raise of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh. Such a situation might lead to confrontation with both Armenia and Russia. However any assumption about the probability of such scenario seems to be groundless. Although negotiations process on the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh frozen conflict is not fruitful, there are no reasons for the escalation of conflict.
    Moreover, realistic approach in relations with the EU, mutual understanding of interdependence on the energy resources market also gives the ground for the optimistic development of the EU – Azerbaijan relations.
    The likeliness of changes in the foreign policy of Armenia is low as well. Its dependence on Russian economic support and alliance with Russia in Nagorno-Karabakh settlement makes any foreign policy twists improbable. Any tensions with Azerbaijan would only lead to closer ties with Russian Federation whereas lack of desire to join European Union and relatively low progress in approaching European standards prevent placing European integration on the top of agenda of Armenian foreign policy.
    There are no prerequisites for the changes in the foreign policy of Georgia as well. After 2008 war with Russia and de-facto annexation of Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia the probability of normalization of Georgia-Russia relations is low. At the same time, the war is preventing Georgia from accelerating its efforts in European direction as well, since the EU in order to avoid any further tensions with Moscow is assessing country's progress very cautiously and does not want to play the role of Russian counterbalance. Therefore it is quite probable that Georgia will get the status of the state 'lost in transition': neither able to join the European 'concert of nations', nor eager to 'reset' relations with Russia.
    The situation is a bit different with Belarus. The EU suspended all relations with Belarus in 2006 and introduced economic sanctions but has lately taken steps towards engaging the Belarusian regime on an expert level.
In the course of 2008 and 2009 an increasing number of EU officials voiced their concerns that the Union's policies towards Eastern Europe cannot succeed without the participation of Belarus. Besides that, Belarus' relative isolation has not protected the country and its ruling elite from the impact of the global economic crisis. Russia has stopped buying many traditional Belarusian products, while refined oil products sold to the European Union are bringing in less revenue due to falling prices. The crisis is prompting the country's eccentric leader, Alexander Lukashenka to pursue a policy of economic liberalization. Greater openness towards Western institutions is seen as the quid pro quo for the latter throwing a lifeline to the country - and to Lukashenka. Since the crisis puts his very political existence at risk, his reaction might be a radical shift towards the EU.
However, both lack of political and economic reforms and Moscow's unwillingness to loose control over Belarus will lad to the fact that Belarus will move to the group of states which are executing pragmatic relations with the EU but are still dependent on Russia.
The likeliness of changes in the foreign policy of agenda in Ukraine is also low. Current 'honeymoon' in the relations with Russian Federation accompanied by Russian infiltration into humanitarian and educational spheres would definitely have a long-term impact. The existing trends give the floor to speculate that Ukraine will rather approach Belorussian pattern than change its priorities and reorient towards Western states.
Finally, the most interesting case is Moldova. Actually, after so called 'twitter revolution' the state is following the same route that Georgia and Ukraine passed. Its pro-European government declares the priority of European values, invests its hopes into the prospects of European integration, supports the objectives of EaP.
However the same experience have Georgia and Ukraine and as one can see in one case it resulted in confrontation with Russia with no significant revenue from the EU, in other case in loss of support by pro-European politicians, who could achieve no results in the field of European integration and therefore were replaced by pro-Russian political forces.
With the high level of probability the same might become relevant for Moldova. Due to the political crisis and realistic approach of the EU ruling Alliance in Moldova has the chances to be replaced by the coalition of much more moderate politicians and this will result in moderate politics towards Russia, accompanied by Russia-oriented model of further development.
On the regional level such a situation will lead to increase of Russian dominance and prove that Russian tactic-based approach may be converted into power. At the same time the situation will definitely reflect the fact that whereas the EU based its EaP on the necessity of creating security and prosperity neighboring belts, lack of commitment by the EU member states, slow and complicated procedures, good-governance priority over grass-root initiatives cause impotence of EaP.
Moreover, with the high probability the implementation of the named scenarios will result in redesign of EaP's objectives and exclusion of its value-based component in favor of hypocritical support to autocratic regimes for the sake of preserving the illusion of security belt around the EU.

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