Although the concept of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) remains the primary framework regulating policy of the European Union (EU) towards neighbour states, a French initiative of Mediterranian Union and a Polish-Swedish project of Eastern Partnership represent important changes in this concept.
The emergence of ENP required enlargement of the EU in 2004, when countries to which the enlargement policy did not relate to became its new neighbours, i. e. the countries of the former USSR. The model of neigbourhood policy apprised in March 2003 (1) and extended in May 2004 into the form of a strategical document of the European Neighbourhood Policy (2), including southern as well as eastern neighbours of the EU, gave rise to disaffactedness of the new EU members because it was accepted without consulting them, without allowing them to take part in its elaboration and without taking their interests into consideration, as well as disaffecetdness of the European members of the former USSR, because it did not define the perspective of their future membership in the EU despite the fact that Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia frankly showed their interest; at the same time it put them on the same level as the countries of northern Africa and the Near East, with no chance of becoming EU members with regard to their geographical affiliation. At the same time, it did not preassume elaboration of individual regional policies which would take into consideration specific features of the southern and eastern dimensions of the ENP. What is more, in case of relations of the EU with new independent states in the territory of the former USSR, the given framework of the neighbourhood policy created considerably narrower framework of bilateral cooperation than defined within „strategical partnership” with the Russian Federation, which presupposed establishment of four Common Space Roadmaps: Common Economic Space; Common Space of Freedom, Security and Justice; Common Space of External Security and Common Space of Research and Education, including cultural aspects (3).
Pressure of the new member states as well as escalating political tension, especially in the issue of shared values between the EU and Russia after the „Orange Revolution” in Ukraine, but also different interests in the sphere of energy security, gradually lead to a necessity to formulate independent policy towards the East European region. Moreover, by shifting the eastern EU boarder, a „grey” (or bumper) zone began to emerge in the region between the Baltic and the Black Sea, within which mingle the EU and US influences on the one hand and the influences of Russia on the other. Especially in relation to the EU enlargement and to renewal of economic and power influence of Russia, the region is becoming an object of more intensive efforts of Russia to renew the positions lost in current eastern borders of the EU in 1991, but also of growing resistance of domestic political elites, who identified themselves with gained political independence of their states. Therefore 2004 also means intensification of destabilizing processes in the region, represented also by revitalization of „frozen” regional conflicts, which – unlike in the past – are imminently related to the EU.
Re-evaluation of the original rigid approach to ENP began already in 2006, in the first place by recommendation of the Austrian EU chairmanship in the first half of the year to elaborate Common Energy Policy; the dialogue between Ukraine and Belarus as transitive states of oil and natural gas would also become its part. Other changes, allowing to deepen relations with European members of the former USSR, were the ENP-Plus concept, created by Germany and implemented during the Finnish and German EU chairmanship in 2006 and 2007, enabling to sign sector agreements with countries ENP applies to (4).
Gradually, also those EU representatives who stood by the creation of the original ENP concept as a common framework for all states that are immediate EU neighbours with the exception of Russia, began to re-evaluate their positions. Thus e. g. in November 2007, the EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner admitted that ENP includes very heterogenous countries (5). The change of the up-to-then format was signalized also by the decision of the Brussels summit or the European Council on December 14, 2007, which passed the suggestion of Poland and Lithuania enabling development of southern and eastern dimension of the ENP not only in bilateral, but also in multilateral framework (6) (7).
Polish-French Rapprochement and Reform of ENP
In the past, it was France lead by the former president Jacques Chirac that was sensed as the main obstacle of formulating more ambitious EU policy towards its eastern neighbours, while French foreign policy verbally referring to a need of formulating independent European approaches (beside other also in the sphere of foreign and security policy) acted in fact passively in European matters. Nicolas Sarkozy taking the presidential post brought number of new initiatives in the sphere. First, it was overcoming the up-to-now lukewarm attitude towars the EU enlargement in 2004 and effort to gain new rapprochement with former communist states of the Central Europe, above all with Poland (8). At the same time Sarkozy declared his interest to revive stagnating Barcelona process by formulating the programme of Mediterranean Union. Subsequently, Poland and Sweden came out with a project of Eastern Partnership (9), accepted by the European Council on their Assembly in June 19th – 20th, 2008 (10).
Although the Eastern Partnership does not represent a denial of the up-to-then concept of European Neigbourhood Policy, its acknowledgement is rather a success of the new EU states, especially of the states of the Visegrad Four (V4). While in 2003 the proposal of the „eastern dimension”, unofficially presented by the V4 countries through think tanks close to official institutions (11), in the states of the „European Fifteen” (i. e. in the at that time 15 EU memeber states) in fact ignored, at present it did not meet any considerable disagreement, despite concerns what would be the reactions of Bulgaria and Romania, fearing that the Black-Sea Synergy programme would be marginalized (12).
The most important elements of the new initiative are following facts:
Development of independent eastern EU policy ceased to be a definitely exclusive matter of interests and engagement of the „new members” of the Union. Through the participation of Sweden and support of Germany, also the „old members” actively entered the project.
The eastern EU policy was recognized as individual policy towards its southern neighbours.
The states of the Visegrad Four and other new EU member states acquired the first opportunity to take part actively in conceptualization of the eastern EU policy, in opposition to the years 2003 – 2004, when the fudamental ideas of the European Neighbourhood Policy were acknowledged without their presence.
Open Questions of the EU Eastern Partnership
Although the eastern dimension was accepted as an individual part of the EU external relations policy, which represents a substantial change in the conceptualization of ENP and especially of the EU relations with their eastern neighbours, several questions that were a subject of reservations of the new EU members and namely the V4 states remain open and the framing Polish-Swedish document does not receive an answer to them:
The main question will be the manner of decision passing. On the one hand, the „Eastern Partnership” will remain an integrated policy of integrated European Union. At the same time, it is obvious that especially the states of southern Europe are involved in its development only to limited extent, while the countries of Central Europe, Baltic states and Germany will take part more actively. The concept of the Eastern Partnership presupposes increase in financial responsibility from the side of the EU member states involved. Therefore the tension between a principle of decision making on communitary level and a necessary specific contribution of national states will raise problems during implementation of the Eastern Partnership policy.
The European Council representatives declared that the Eastern Partnership and the Mediterranean Union have an equal position within the European policy, i. e. the rivalry between both dimension of the ENP will continue. So far the Eastern Partnership does not create any new institutional means for their participants, especially from the perspective of future EU membership.
– Relation between regional and bilateral approach and question related to future of the European Neighbourhood Policy itself will remain the subject of discussion. At present, the Eastern Partnership does not exceed the institutional ENP framework and unlike the Mediterranean Union, it does not create new institutios either, like e. g. in form of own secretariat. It neither brings intensification of bilateral relations between individual states of Eastern Partnership and EU, which raises concerns of Ukraine (13). Therefore discussions about the content of Eastern Partnership will go on and if the EU members directly engaged in Eastern Partnership also reach the common platform for development of new initiatives, the final decision stays in the hands of the whole EU. Thus the states which apply for gaining a perspective of EU membership in the future, similarly to the representatives of democratic opposition, will also henceforth have to communicate not only with states as Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia or Germany, which are actively involved in development of the „eastern policy” of the EU, but they will also have to develop their contacts with states as France, Spain and Portugal with the aim to persuade on the need of more active approach to EU interest in its eastern boarders.
– Certain conflicts can occur in relation to the existence of competing projects, for instance the Union of Black Sea Synergy, the project of the Party of European Socialists (PES), which is including Russia and Turkey and which apprised the project of Black Sea Synergy (14). On the other hand, similar initiatives can often substitute already existing organizations and can reduce to replicas of the Central European Initiative instead of transforming to conceptional political EU strategy .At the same time if the relations of EU with Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova or Southern Caucasus will be developed within the same framework as the EU-Russia relations, it will threaten the chances to transfer the “Eastern dimension” to the part of the EU-enlargement policy.
– A change in comparison to the up-to-now approaches within the ENP is opening of the Eastern Partnership project also to Belarus, according to the acknowledged proposal on the level of experts. It creates space for dialogue with lower and medium structures of Belarussian establishment, which can overcome the international isolation Belarus has found itself as a consequence of the policy of president Alexander Lukashenko.
– However, Eastern Partnership should at the same time create an oportunity for intensified dialogue with the representatives of Belarusian democratic oppositions and civil society, which would exceed the framework of the programmes for supporting democracy within the EU, realized for instance in the format of European Neighborhood Policy Instrument (ENPI). Civil society representatives can be integrated into several policies within the Eastern Partnership as equal partners, or participate in them at least on the level of observers, as already happened e. g. at negotiation of the ministers for culture of the V4 in Cracow in September 3rd – 4th, 2006 (15).
In relation to the fact that new EU states, especially the V4 coutries, were in the past some of the main critics of the ENP concept and asserted recognition of independent eastern dimension of the EU (16), at present, after the decision of the European Council in June 19th – 20th, 2008, gained an opportunity to take active role in creation of new eastern EU policy. Eastern Partnership will strengthen their role and responsibility in the sphere of conceptualization and implementation of future eastern EU policy. Together with the Baltic and Scandinavian states and with Romania, they will bear the largest share of responsibility for the success of the project. That is a reason why the Eastern Partnership content and the form of multilateral cooperation of EU members involved should become the subject of joint discussion.
Another question is readiness and ability of the new member states to bear the responsibility for realization of new eastern EU policy, e. g. in the sphere of financing. Certain example can be the readiness to take part in its financing as was shown in case of supporting the Neighborhood Investment Fund, when so far among the V4 states only Czech Republic and Hungary apprised their financial contribution (17), while politically most active states in the sphere of the eastern EU policy – Poland and Lithuania – did not support the new fund.
Eastern Partnership could also become a subject to intensified cooperation of the V4 states, which can make profit of their positive experience in cooperation with Ukraine in this sphere and extend them to creating means for similar cooperation with Belarus and Moldova on political, but also civil level, for instance within the Visegrad Fund.
(1) Wider Europe— Neighbourhood: A New Framework for Relations with our Eastern and Southern Neighbours. Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament. Brussels, Commission of the European Communities 11. 3. 2003.
(2) European Neighbourhood Policy. Strategy paper. Brussels, Commission of the European Communities 12. 5. 2004. http://ec.europa.eu/world/enp/pdf/strategy/strategy_paper_en.pdf
(3) European Commission. External Relations – Russia. http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/russia/index_en.htm
(4) Duleba, Alexander: Nová Ostpolitik sa nekoná, veci sa však pohli. Zahraničná politika, 21. 9. 2007. http://www.zahranicnapolitikask/index.php?id=271
(5) Ferrero-Waldner, Benita: „Die EU und ihre östlichen Nachbarn – Sicherheit und Wohlstand durch Vernetzung.” Ost-Ausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft. Berlin, 15 November 2007. http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/
(6) Presidency Conclusions. Brussels European Council, 14 December 2007. 16616/1/07. Brussels, Council of European Union 14 December 2007.
(7) Wschodnia polityka Unii Europejskiej nabierze nowego wymiaru. Warszawa, Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów 14. 12. 2007. http://www.kprm.gov.pl/s.php?id=1512
(8) Pawlicki, Jacek – Pszczółkowska, Dominika: Francuskie otwarcie. Gazeta Wyborcza, 28. 5. 2008. Saryusz-Wolski, Jacek: Jeszcze nie czas na euforię. Dziennik, 2. 6. 2008.
(9) Eastern Partnership. Polish-Swedish proposal. Euractiv.com, 23 May 2008.
(10) Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council (19 – 20 June 2008), nr. 11018/08. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressData/
(11) Pelczynska-Nalecz, Katarzyna – Duleba, Alexander – Póti, László – Votápek, Vladimír: Eastern Policy of the EU: the Visegrad Countries’ Perspective. Thinking about an Eastern Dimension. Warsaw, Center for Eastern studies 2003.
(12) Cianciara, Agnieszka K.: „Eastern Partnership” – opening a new chapter of Polish Eastern policy and the European Neighborhood Policy? Analysis & Opinions, No. 4, June 2008. Warszawa, The Institute of Public Affairs 2008, p. 2.
(13) Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine regarding the development of the Eastern dimension of the European Union foreign policy. Embassy News. Brussels, Mission of Ukraine to European Communities, May 26, 2008. http://www.mfa.gov.ua/eu/en/news/detail/13105.htm
(14) Socialists propose „A Union of Black Sea”. European Parliament, The Socialist Group in the European Parliament, 29. 5. 2008.
(15) Meeting of the Ministers of Culture of the V4 in Kraków, Poland. 03-04/09/2006. http://www.visegradgroup.eu/download.php?ctag=download&doc
(16) Pelczynska-Nalecz, Katarzyna – Culena, Alexander – Póti, László – Votápek, Vladimír: Eastern Policy of the EU: the Visegrad Countries’ Perspective. Thinking about an Eastern Dimension. Warsaw, Center for Eastern studies 2003.
(17) More funds for vital investment in EU’s neighbourhood. Reference: IP/08/709. Brussels, European Commission, 5 May 2008.http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/