The EU’s Benign Neglect Of Eastern Europe

.

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.

Look at the EU’s policy toward Azerbaijan. As Emin Milli from Baku* wrote, “European countries allowed Azerbaijan to chair the Council of Europe in 2014 while back home the authorities shut down the country’s few remaining independent NGOs and jailed many of their leaders as well as various journalists, politicians, activists, and human rights defenders,” He added that “instead of human rights and democracy, European politicians now speak vaguely of economic engagement.” The ranking of inadequate is generous.

The EU is also fumbling in Belarus. There, the EU’s approach is either to “leave the country in a state of political isolation or to engage with it regardless of its brutal political regime,” wrote Andrei Yahorau from Minsk.*

Yet where the EU does engage intensively, it doesn’t have much to show. Over the past several years, Brussels has consistently propped up successive governments in Moldova, believing the pro-European rhetoric of the country’s political elites but at the same time blind or unwilling to address the endemic corruption among those elites. That corruption, exemplified by a huge recent banking scandal, has left the elites intact but the citizens disgusted and disillusioned with their leaders and the EU. No wonder Moldova is rich pickings for Russia.

The EU could adjust its policies toward its Eastern neighbours. It has the tools to do so. One is leverage. Why couldn’t the EU introduce smart and targeted sanctions on some key figures in the Azeri government if Brussels is that committed to defending human rights activists?

Another option would be to reach out in a much more systematic way to civil society, be it movements or individuals. That would mean engaging civil society in the allocation of EU funds and supporting independent media. It would also mean the EU breaking out of its obsession of dealing with political elites and being entrenched in the capitals while ignoring the provinces and local activists.

Then there’s the role of student and postgraduate exchanges as well as focusing on building up a strong and independent judiciary, as Nino Lejava from Tbilisi argues. The hunger for access to education through the EU’s Erasmus student exchange program is immense, with both sides coming out as winners.

Above all—and this is the EU’s fundamental failing in Eastern Europe—neither the institutions in Brussels nor the member states have considered the future status of the region. Most of the countries in the Eastern neighbourhood do not want to remain the lands in between. They want to be somewhere and something, instead of being stuck in a perpetual but uneven tug-of-war between Russia and the EU. The longer this precarious status continues, the greater the instability will be.

*Between November 6 and December 11, 2015, Carnegie Europe continued its Capitals Series. In this second phase, the focus was on the EU’s Eastern neighbours, which the bloc has so often zigzagged over in trying to establish a coherent policy toward them collectively or bilaterally. In the series, 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).

The editorial (here abridged) was originally published on Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe blog.

RELATED ARTICLES

The Sharing Economy Could Bring New Business Models to CEE

How Will Poland Approach the Brexit Negotiations?

Will a Two-speed European Union Side-line the Visegrad Four?

Where’s My Cheese? – The GREAT British Food Tour 2014

Cheese Shop

A Positive and Modern View of Entrepreneurship

Belarus-Turkey Investment Forum to increase investment and trade between the two countries

The Right to Water: Who Can Change Today’s Situation?

Young Well-Paid IT Specialists Are Making Belarus Known Internationally

Are There Differences Between How Tax Regulations in Poland and IAS Treat Intangible Assets?

History as Destiny? Institutional Erosion in Ukraine and Poland

Belarus Has To Make an Extra Effort To Change Investors’ Perceptions

FocusEconomics: Belarusian Economy to Grow in Q4 2016 and Onwards

Belarus: Changing Old Ideas And Mixing With the New in Belarus’ Export Market

Belarus US Business Relations Thrive as Conditions Improve

The Next Four Months Crucial For the Belarus-EU Relations

Belarus: On the Way to a Market Economy?

Let’s Stop Wasting Time Redefining our Place in Europe

The Morawiecki Plan Promises a Brighter Future for Poland

The Voice of European Business Must Be Heard Loud and Clear by Brexit Negotiators

Breaking trade barriers with CIS has never been easier

Belarus: The Importance Of Diversification

Finalising the DCFTA is Expected to Bring Multiple Benefits to Ukraine

Encouraging SME’s Development Will Help Build Belarusian Economy

Czech Republic Renaming Has Real Economic Costs

People Power Reminds the Government of the Rule of Law

The Capital Markets Union: a New Beginning in the European Financial Sector?

We, the Post-Communist Generation, Have the Skills to Rid of the Past And Create Our Own Future

Emerging Europe Live: CEE — The Outsourcing Destination

Polish Tax Laws — Fighting a Winning Battle Against Tax Evaders

Belarusian Economy on a Diet to Change its Financial Outlook

The Great Stone Industrial Park — Making Doing Business Easy in Minsk

Are Labour Shortages Driving Economic Growth?

China: A Giant That Is Hard to Crack

Smart, reliable and promising

The Proof of a Country’s Readiness to Attract Foreign Investors Lies in the Development of the Insurance Market

Old Fashioned Skulduggery Overshadows the Elections in Moldova

HTP: Belarus’ Engineers Are Leading a Cool Revolution

After 25 Years of Restructuring, the Romanian Power Sector Is at a Crossroad

Winds of Change for Belarus’ Reinsurance Industry?

High-Tech Park in Minsk is growing rapidly

Business Moving Forward with Cautious Optimism — Can Investors Win the Confidence Game?

Ukraine’s Reputation for Cheap Labour May Not Ring True in the Long-term

“e-Belarus”: Embracing the Internet and its Possibilities

Changing Perspectives and Showing That True Romania is a Vibrant Innovative Country

New investors interested in Belarus’ Great Stone Industrial Park

Emerging Europe and the EBRD host the Outlook on Belarus conference in London

The Deep Roots of Currency Crises in the Former Soviet Union

Prepare for a New Europe

A Bosnian Referendum Shows Russia’s Influence in the Balkans—As Well As Its Limits

The Netherlands’ Objection to the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement could be Costly to Europe

Belarus Has Set an Example for Others to Follow

Belarus Is Making the First Steps onto the International Finance Floor

Outsourcing in Germany: Stop Talking at and Start Talking to

Examining How a Strong Swiss Franc Could Single-Handedly Topple Poland’s Economy

Poland’s Confusing GDP Growth

CEE — Do We Need a Launch Pad For Our On-Site Tech Intelligence in the Silicon Valley

Business Opportunities in Belarus Encourage Outside Interest

Italy and Belarus: A Relationship Based on Complementarities and History

Falling into Old Ways in 2017? Ukraine’s Struggle for Functioning Economic Institutions

Brexit: Let’s Learn the Lesson and Hope a Better Europe Will Arise

The Global Outsourcing Industry — the Rise of the Phoenix

Foreign Investors: Belarus Offers Opportunities But Further Improvements Are Needed

Big Fish, Small Fish, Where to Fish? On the Eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

International Women’s Day — Let’s Take Action And Then Celebrate

OECD: Belarus Has to Find Its Own Belarusian Model to Emerge

Long-time Neighbours Need to Share Awareness, Plus Trade & Investment

Belarus: Navigating the geopolitical storm

Foreigners choose Minsk and Gomel as Belarus’ most attractive FDI destinations

A New Division Between Eastern And Western Europe?

World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2016 Resume For Emerging Europe

LGBT in CEE — A New Acceptance Is Being Born From Migration

Belarusian Tech Companies Lead a Global Technological Advance in Outsourcing and Product Development

Central and Eastern European Consumers Are Joining the Global Trends for Change

European Volatility Makes Economic Development Slower for Ukraine

The EU Is Encouraging Belarus to Join the World Trade Organisation

Innovation Brings Great Opportunities to the Belarusian Economy

Poland: Is it Ready, and is it Time to Adopt the Euro?

Germany and Belarus: Thinking Globally Acting Locally

The GREAT London Food Scene

Bakery in London

January Kicks Off an Exciting Year for Emerging Europe

The Belarusian Banking Sector Moving Towards Modernisation Despite Some Challenges

The essence of the Customs Union is protectionism

Emerging Europe Live: Life in Belarus As Seen by Foreigners

Falling Student Numbers and Declining R&D Result From Lack of Funds

Belarus Is Ready to Begin With Venture Capital Investments

Belarus and Singapore Share the Same Factors for Economic Success

Belarus Is Where the New Silk Road Heads For Europe

Central And Eastern Europe At the World Property Market

The EU’s Choice: Fundamental Reform Or Disintegration

The Competitive Edge in Central and Eastern Europe

SOFIA BULGARIA - MAY 5: View of the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia on May 5 2016. Sofia is the largest city and capital of Bulgaria.

Will European Business and Institutions Bolster the New Trends That Have Appeared in Belarus?

Measuring Growth of Societies with GDP Alone Shows an Incomplete Picture

PandaDoc — Rolling Sales Procedures Together So Everyone Succeeds

Romania Surviving the Waves of Recent Political Tsunamis in Europe

Belarusian Economic Recovery May Downgrade Intended Reforms for Competitiveness

Not All Quiet on the Eastern Front

Global Expansion in the Digital Age

Belarus 2020: Turning the Vicious Circle Into an Upward Spiral

Lukashenka seeks to avoid commitment to Russia’s geostrategic goals

The Long Tail of Global Expansion

Brexit Is a Great Opportunity to Attract Foreign Investors to Belarus

The Shopping Experience Is Set To Go Global in Belarus from 2017 Onwards

Invest in Belarus: looking beyond politics to the future

Belarus is the most creative EEU country

Germany Is Not Letting Belarus’ Small Downturns Put it off Looking for Investment Opportunities

Europe Needs To Be More Proactive In Embracing Armenia

The CEE Region Is Making Advances in Prioritising Waste-to-Energy Projects

Why Is Belarus Tech Booming?

United or Divided? Europe in the Face of the Challenges of Tomorrow

Resignation in Ukraine: War, Revolution, Crisis — Some Things Never Change

Belarus’s Election Tests the EU’s Global Strategy

The Belarusian real estate market is on the up

Will the New Five-day Visa-free Regime Encourage More Visitors to Belarus?

Fiscal Policy Predictability in CEE — It’s Time for Change

Veni, Vidi, Vici, Or My Personal Experience of Doing Business in Belarus

Could the West At Least Help Ukraine To Insure FDI Against Political Risks?

Europe at Odds over OPAL and Nord Stream 2

Breaking With Imitations of the Past

‘No’ To a Monetary Union With Russia

The Belarusian Financial Sector: An Industry in the Process of Restructuring

Poland’s Unicorn, Slovakia’s Flying Car and the Future of Europe

The Belarusian Economy: The Challenges of Stalled Reforms

Belarus Is One of the Top Outsourcing Destinations of 2016

The UK and Belarus: A Partnership to Introduce the Real Belarus to Europe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *