Article by: Peter Rakowsky
In 2003, the European Commission began working on a new policy for countries bordering the European Union (EU). The 2003 EU Strategy Paper it produced bore the title, “Wider Europe — Neighbourhood: A New Framework for Relations with our Eastern and Southern Neighbours.” Many theories purport to explain why the EU decided to start working on such a vague foreign policy at this time, but it stands to reason that the EU sought a method for dealing with neighbors resentful of the 2004 enlargement. The enlargement included new EU member states, such as Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia. After the 2004 expansion, the EU wrote another document, the “European Neighbourhood Policy Strategy Paper.” This birth of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was far more complex, but the goal of this paper is not to explain the ENP’s conception, but to understand its flaws.
The case of Ukraine demonstrates that the ENP is a selfish, problematic, and contradictory policy. In this paper, I discuss the subsequent treaties signed under the ENP umbrella for Ukraine and the Eastern European region, and the EU’s broken “promises.” Concluding, I address the short falls, the broken assurances, and what should be done to fix the ENP with regard to Ukraine in particular.
What exactly is the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and why was it created? This is debated among the academic community and political elite. Scholars have differing opinions as to what the real goal of the ENP was and is. On the European External Action Services (EEAS) website, the EU claims that the ENP “was developed in 2004, with the objective of avoiding the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged EU and our neighbours and instead strengthening the prosperity, stability and security of all. It is based on the values of democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights.” This official explanation presents the EU as an altruistic and benevolent economic and political community. But is it possible that there were other reasons for the creation of the ENP? Before explaining the EU’s not-so-selfless foreign political tool, an in-depth look at the ENP is needed to understand the complex yet vague nature of this policy.
The ENP is currently aimed at 16 nations that partake in this so-called bilateral policy and they include, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. These nations are broken down into regions: North Africa, The Mediterranean, The Caucus, and Eastern Europe. Each region has differing policies and each individual ENP country has personalized benchmarks that it must pass to expand relations with the EU.
What does “expanded relations” mean? According to Richard Whittman and Stefan Wolff, expanded relations with the EU through the ENP hopes to reduce poverty, create an area of shared prosperity, expand intense political and cultural relations, enhance cross-border cooperation, and aid in conflict prevention, economic reform, judicial reform, stability, security, etc. Other scholars such as Carmen Gebhard believe that one of the major reasons for the creation on the ENP was to expand the EU’s system of shared and common values. Sven Biscop agrees with Whittman and Wolf, saying, “The best protection for our security is a world of well-governed democratic states. Spreading good governance, supporting social reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing rule of law and protecting human rights are the best means of strengthening the international border.” The EEAS website says,
Within the ENP the EU offers our neighbours 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 level of ambition of the relationship depends on the extent to which these values are shared. The ENP includes political association and deeper economic integration, increased mobility and more people-to-people contacts.
With promises to expand all of these areas (of course, with the cooperation of the signatory state), one interesting point to notice is that countries who sign the ENP, the countries who want to expand and reform the areas written above, can never become EU member states. The only thing the EU can offer through the ENP is “an increasingly close relationship, going beyond cooperation to involve a significant measure of economic and political integration.” According to the EU, the European Neighbourhood Policy is by no means an enlargement tool, but a policy designed to strengthen ties with neighbouring countries. One of Judith Kelley’s anonymous EU MP sources said, “The ENP [was] nothing more than a diluted version of enlargement policy.” The creators of the ENP used ideas from the enlargement process to create the ENP with a similar structure, but excluded the possibility of accession into the EU. This angered ENP countries, especially Ukraine, which is a European country.
Three important treaties were signed under the ENP umbrella with Ukraine and Eastern Europe. Firstly, the EU, through the ENP, creates Action Plans (AP) with each individual ENP state that are benchmarks or areas in need of change to further expand bilateral relations. Ukraine was the first ENP signatory to sign onto an Action Plan with the EU in 2005 and was to be revisited in 2008 to see what kind of progress Ukraine had made.11 The areas of reform included:
Strengthening the stability and effectiveness of institutions guaranteeing democracy and rule of law; enabling democratic elections, media freedom and freedom of expression; ensuring respect for the rights of persons belonging to national minorities; enhancing EU-Ukraine consultations on crisis management cooperation in the field of disarmament non-proliferation and regional security including a solution for Transnistria; WTO accession; gradual removal of trade restrictions improving investment climate; tax reforms; visa facilitation; agreement on gradual approximation of Ukrainian legislation, norms and standards with those of the EU dialogue on employment.
By 2008, Ukraine managed to pass several of the EU’s benchmarks. That same year, the EU held an EU-Ukraine Summit, which “defined Ukraine’s the terms of an Association Agreement.” Right after the summit, Ukraine began having many internal problems, especially between then President Viktor Yushchenko and then Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. The quarrels between these two gentlemen, and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and parliament’s lack of action and disobedience, hindered the speed and implementation of further and necessary ENP, AP reforms.
Eventually, Ukraine managed to move forward and met more of the EU’s necessary reforms. In 2013, the EU revised the Ukraine Action Plan in Luxembourg. The new plan, “EU-Ukraine Association Agenda: To prepare and facilitate the implementation of the Association Agreement,” is a 27-page document similar to the 2005 version of the Action Plan. The major sectors that Ukraine must reform include but are not limited to:
Strengthening the stability, independence and effectiveness of institutions guaranteeing democracy and the rule of law; Ensure the independence of the judiciary and the effectiveness of the courts and of the prosecution as well as of law enforcement agencies; Ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms by comprehensive cooperation on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, covering both individual cases and issues concerning international law instruments on human rights; Promoting the legal and administrative framework necessary for the enjoyment of freedom of expression with a particular emphasis upon the mass media and the rights of journalists; Ensuring respect for the rights of persons belonging to minorities; Ensuring respect for Children’s Rights; Ensuring Respect for Trade Union Rights and Core Labour Standards; Ensuring implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption and the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption; Further strengthening convergence on regional and international issues, conflict prevention and crisis management; work jointly to make multilateral institutions and conventions more effective, so as to reinforce global governance, strengthen coordination in combating security threats and address development related issues; Further developing co-operation in addressing common security threats, including combating terrorism, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and illegal arms exports…….etc.
These clauses are just a few of the hundreds of changes Ukraine would have to make in order to sign the Association Agreement. A careful reading of the document shows that many agreements that the EU forced Ukraine to sign are not being upheld by the EU itself. I discuss these issues below.
The next major agreement between Ukraine and the EU was the Eastern Partnership Agreement (EaP). In 2008, Sweden and Poland heavily advocated for the creation of a regional partnership agreement in the Eastern neighbourhood. The current European Council President and former Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, spoke out in favor of solidifying economic, political and social ties with Eastern Europe, considering this to be of invaluable importance for peace, security and economic prosperity. The EEAS website explains that,
“Launched in 2009, the Eastern Partnership is a joint initiative between the EU, EU countries and the eastern European partner countries. It enables partner countries interested in moving towards the EU and increasing political, economic and cultural links to do so. It is underpinned by a shared commitment to international law and fundamental values – democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms – and to the market economy, sustainable development and good governance.”
The EaP was a major stepping-stone, especially for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, which had the best relationships with the EU among Eastern European countries. This arrangement laid the ground for future cooperation through an Association Agreement (AA) and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). Just like in the initial ENP agreement, the EaP does not allow possible accession into the EU for countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Many of Ukraine’s political elite were not happy about this just like it was not happy when it signed the ENP and Action Plan in 2005. Regardless, Ukraine signed the agreement, hoping to create stronger political and economic relationships with the EU.
The last major treaty is the Association Agreement. The EaP and the Action Plans that Ukraine signed with the EU eventually led to the creation, signing, ratification, and delay of implementation of an Association Agreement (AA) with Europe. The AA would make Ukraine a strategic trading partner with the European Union. In brief, this agreement will strengthen “Political Dialogue and Reform, Political Association Cooperation and Convergence in the Field of Foreign and Security Policy, Justice, Freedom and Security, Trade and Trade-related Matters, Economic and Sector Cooperation, Financial Cooperation, with Anti-fraud Provisions, and Institutional, General and Final Provisions.” But, due to the current undeclared war of aggression in Eastern Ukraine, the EU was influenced by the Russian Federation and told Ukraine that the AA will not be implemented until 2016. Some argue that this is better for Ukraine because its fragile economy would not be able to handle the shock of European goods flowing into the country. Others, myself included, believe that the EU only thought about its own personal interest in delaying the implementation of the AA to try and appease one of their biggest trading partners, Russia. Preparations for the implementation of the AA in Ukraine will fill 2015. To what extent will Russia try to block the implementation of the AA is unpredictable. In all likelihood, the EU will continue to falter on its stance with Ukraine and Russia will continue to use any means necessary to stop Ukraine moving westward.
This section and the rest of this article will explain why the ENP is an inefficient foreign political tool based on lies and empty promises. The EU, like any economic entity, thinks about its own personal interests over the interest of others. The EU needed a mechanism to control its neighbours with a proverbial carrot-and-stick method to expand their own economic gains. The EU also needed to know that its borders were secure, because a secure region will lead to more economic prosperity. This carrot-and-stick method would bait bordering countries to ‘Europeanize’, to ‘westernize’, to ‘become like us, but not one of us.’ It would force these countries to follow European policy, without actually being an EU member state, and having no possibility of ever becoming one.
The idea that any ENP signatory has no prospects of ever becoming an EU member state is absolutely unacceptable. One issue is that the EU is seemingly drawing the borders of who is actually European and who is not.17 The question of who and what is Europe has long been contested, but because of its size and power, the EU is able dictate who is European. Former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk, once declared that “Ukraine is not a neighbour of the EU, but [the] center of Europe” and the ENP is ‘an EU rather than Ukrainian policy and a cosmetic repair job without legal basis.’ What he meant by that was, the EU dictates everything that Ukraine must do in order to build stronger relations with Europe. Ukraine has very little say in what it feels should be done to strengthen relations with its massive neighbour. The ENP
goes to extraordinary lengths to invoke the commonality and shared nature of its goals, interests and underpinning values – these are already predetermined within the ENP. There is no means or mechanism by which the neighbors might formally interrogate or amend the agenda of the ENP better to reflect their assessment of the ‘sacred and common’ interests that are held between the patterns.
Instead, the ENP is very much more the creature of the Union’s own proximate interests- and, particularly, its security interests.
Europe claims that it wants bilateral economic prosperity, security, etc. But the ENP is “asking a partner to engage in a particularly expensive and troublesome process of normative and legislative approximation, while the reward set out to them in return is all but clear, and absolutely non-committal.” Why should Ukraine even engage in all of these reforms knowing that the EU is dictating everything and not actually listening to what it needs to become a prosperous European neighbour? Is the carrot that the EU dangles in front of Ukraine a real carrot? Once Ukraine ‘westernizes’ and passes all of the EU benchmarks, will the European Union actually accept Ukraine as one of their own? At this point in time, the EU is incredibly divided on what to do with Ukraine and how to do it. Even if President Poroshenko manages to overhaul Ukraine completely, the Association Agreement with the EU will not be implemented until 2016. The President also publically stated that his biggest goal is to make Ukraine a EU member state by 2020, but according to the European Neighbourhood Policy there is no chance Ukraine can achieve this. The EU guaranteed Ukraine so much, but when the time came to follow through with their promises, the EU shriveled in fear because Russia, their biggest energy supplier, threatened to cut the flow of gas into Europe.
Another aspect of the ENP’s failure as a political tool is the promotion of peace and security. The EU claims that an incentive of the ENP is “intensified cooperation to prevent combat security threats” and “offers the incentive for greater political engagement in conflict prevention and crisis management.” They also claim that it aims to solve and prevent frozen conflicts around its borders. In 1997, the EU signed the Treaty of Amsterdam, which “expanded the range of tasks of the Union to ‘humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking.” In 2007, the EU signed the Treaty of Lisbon to “promote an international system based on stronger multilateral cooperation and good global governance. In particular, it confirms the EU intention to develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness.”
All of these things that the EU strives for sound benevolent and neighborly, but none of these promises can be seen in Ukraine. If it values peace and conflict prevention/resolution, then why didn’t the EU send peacekeeping forces with high tech weaponry into Crimea when the “little green men” began slowly taking over the region? The only thing the EU (as well as the rest of the world) did was proclaim their ‘deep concern,’ and ‘commitment to stand with a united Ukraine.’ Where was this commitment? Where is the commitment to uphold human rights promises, especially as the Crimean Tatars now face ethnic cleansing? The EU asserts that it wants to prevent frozen conflicts, and yet it advocated for President Poroshenko to sign a peace treaty with the Russian proxy fighters in Minsk this past September. The EU effectively helped to promote and create a Ukrainian version of Transnistria. Acting out of concern for its own economic interests, the EU could not follow through with their promises and desires for regional security. The EU does not want to sanction Russia for fear of losing a lot of business and money. Many European member states rely on Russia for more than half of their energy. Others rely on Russia for imports and exports. This is clearly the reason for Europe’s lack of unity and action in Ukraine. The EU’s failure to deliver on its promises jeopardizes the ENP, calling its entire raison d’être into question.
The EU’s lack of commitment to Ukraine and the hypocrisy of the ENP extend to Europe’s stated aim of promoting shared and common values. Carmen Gebhard correctly stated that, “the EU has managed repeatedly to project its rules, norms and values extra-territorially, most notably democracy, rule of law, human rights and the market economy, and to shape its neighbourhood accordingly and in its own interest.” This is evident in Ukraine today. Since Euromaidan, Ukraine has been doing everything it can to pass EU benchmarks. The country has been constantly trying to prove that it is a European nation that shares common values with the EU. Yet, the EU is not backing up its claims to expand shared and common values. If Europe truly believed in exporting the European system of morals, it would have intervened in Ukraine long ago. The EU is fighting an internal struggle to decide whether economic prosperity or Western democratic values are of more importance. Before the first round of sanctions on Russian, the EU was twiddling its collective thumbs deciding what was more important to them. It took the murder of 298 people in the worst airplane crash since 9/11 to wake the EU from its stupor. Even after the attack on the Malaysian aircraft, the EU was painfully slow to accept and admit that Russia was directly involved in this terrorist attack. Why was the EU so slow to respond? It was not because it wanted to confirm that the Russian terrorists were the actual perpetrators. Rather, it was deliberating on how it should act and possibly let Vladimir Putin save face. The EU was also deciding on more sanctions and how these sanctions would affect their collective economic interests. Inaction on the EU’s part is truly destroying the credibility of the ENP, yet the EU does little to save itself from a humiliating blunder in Ukraine.
The examples above have highlighted the EU’s lack of credibility as honest neighbours, but another area where the EU has completely failed to come through with its promises is crisis management. The reason the EU is incapable of managing any crisis is because it relies on NATO to make decisions on how to act. In 1999, the EU and the heads of state of each member “agreed on the Helsinki Catalogue.” This agreement ensured commitment by member states to make available “50,000-60,000 military personnel deployable within 60 days and sustainable for 12 months; establishment of coordinating political and military framework structures within the Union’s single institutional framework; and development for cooperation with NATO and third states.” This treaty means that the EU has the ability to rapidly respond to and manage conflicts within and around its borders. Yet, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War and the current turmoil in Ukraine are two examples of the EU’s failure as a conflict manager. The EU is incapable of making the decision to collectively respond to difficult situations and relies on NATO to make difficult decisions. Sven Biscop argues, “the EU is best placed to negotiate a package deal with Moscow, precisely because, unlike NATO, EU-Russia relations cover much more than security. The EU is thus, forced to improve its strategy with Russia.” This applies to conflict management for a number of reasons. The EU is currently dealing with a Russian-created conflict in Eastern Ukraine. The EU is incredibly biased when it comes to Russia since it depends on Russia economically. Thus, the EU not the best choice to negotiate peace deals with Russia.
Given Russia’s possession of the biggest nuclear arsenal in the world, the Russo-Ukrainian War is a complex and difficult situation to handle. But there comes a point in time when values and morality need to take center stage over economic prosperity. If the EU cannot come to a collective decision on how to manage difficult situations, why even have the European Neighbourhood Policy? Why should any country sign onto an agreement filled with empty promises?
A final and major reason why the ENP is a weak treaty is because of the vagueness of incentives via the Action Plans that Ukraine signed with the EU and the ENP itself. Gwendolyn Sasse21 said it best, “the ENP is built on a “conditionality-lite – the incentives and the commitment on the side of the ENP country as well as the EU are vague and limited. By definition, the open-ended nature of the ENP rules out clear-cut effects.” The EU seems to lack foresight when it comes to making agreements with ENP signatories to truly benefit both the EU and Border States in the long-term. Europe looks for short term economic goals that benefit themselves more than the bordering nations.
Finally, consider this statement from the “2006 European Parliamentary debate on enlargement,” in which German President in residence said, “neither geographers nor historians will be of any use to us in the political decisions that we have to take, what will decide the issue will be the people themselves.”26 The people of Ukraine have voiced their position by the millions. They want a European life but they have yet to receive any actual aid and assistance from Europe because Europe is selfish, and only cares about its own economic prosperity.