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1/15/16

Eastern Europe: The EU’s Benign Neglect of Eastern Europe - by Judy Dempsey

The authors from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine were asked to give a critical assessment of the EU’s policies toward their country, ranked on a scale from “miserable” to “excellent.”

The EU’s record in Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Ukraine was deemed “inadequate” (the second-lowest ranking). In Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova, it was described as “satisfactory” (the third-lowest score). Nothing stellar to boast about.

Re-reading the series—independently of the refugee crisis, which is likely to make Europe turn even more inward—one finds little scope for optimism for the lands between the EU and Russia.
To the EU’s detriment, its policy toward its Eastern neighbors is neither creating an arc of stability nor encouraging democracy. This is because the EU has been consistently very weak in dealing with post-Soviet countries (except the Baltic states) compared with the former Communist countries of Central Europe and Southeastern Europe. The latter knew exactly where they wanted to be after 1989: part of the Euro-Atlantic constellation. Joining the EU and NATO was their goal. It was about coming home to a reunited Europe.

When it comes to Eastern Europe, the EU is making fatal mistakes that leave the region without a perspective and render it even more unstable than it already was. Yet these shortcomings could be easily remedied with political will.

The biggest shortcoming is the lack of a long-term strategy toward any of these countries. Even in Ukraine, the EU has no idea what perspective to offer this big country whose political and economic stability has enormous consequences for Europe.

Even more worrying, the EU is not applying sufficient pressure on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to implement reforms. Nor is it doing what it has persistently failed to do in both old and new members as well as candidate countries: reach out, as Mikhail Minakov from Kiev wrote, “to local governments and pro-reform NGO networks.”

If the EU wants to have an impact, it is not going to achieve this by talking to the governing elites while failing to engage genuinely independent civil society movements.

Didn’t it learn anything from its misguided policies in the Middle East prior to the Arab Spring? Seemingly not.

Read more: The EU’s Benign Neglect of Eastern Europe - Carnegie Europe - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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