EASTERN PARTNERSHIP FROM PRAGUE TO VILNIUS. WHAT WENT WRONG?

Grant MIKAELIAN


Grant Mikaelian, Research Fellow at the Institute of the Caucasus (Erevan, Armenia)


ABSTRACT

On 28-29 November, 2013, Vilnius hosted the 3rd Eastern Partnership Summit, at which several former Soviet republics were expected to ascend to a higher institutional level in their relations with the European Union. Belarus and Azerbaijan preferred to step aside, while two other members (Armenia and Ukraine) left the program in the fall of 2013 when the talks were over. Georgia and Moldova initialed, but did not sign, the Association Agreement with the EU. This means that four-and-a-half years of this highly ambitious program produced very modest results, to say the least, very much due to the fact that Ukraine, the regions biggest player, excused itself from signing.

This did not put a full-stop to the relations between the Eastern Partnership (EP) members and the EU, however the Vilnius Summit marked an intermediate finish of sorts. The old strategy ran into a dead end, leaving Brussels without a new strategy for its relations with its Eastern neighbors. To move forward, the EU should try to find out what went wrong.

We should analyze what has happened and why. Here I have tried to comprehend how the relations between the EU and Soviet successor-states developed under the project to provide (probably delayed) answers to the following questions:

1. Did the summit fail because Russia was very skeptical about the results of European integration for its neighbors?

2. Why did this problem come to the fore in mid-2013 rather than in 2008 when it all started?

3. Why did the Russian factor (described as an imminent threat to the European programs on the post-Soviet space) remain neglected?

To correctly understand the motivation of what has been done and to avoid unsubstantiated assessments, we need to look at what happened in Vilnius from the perspective of Brussels, Moscow, and the post-Soviet capitals involved.

I will rely on the chronology of the EP project divided into three key periods:

from May 2008 when the program was announced to May 2009 when it started;

repeated actualization of the program, which stretched from the summer of 2010 to the summer of 2011;

speeding up the talks in preparation for the Vilnius Summit and the zero sum game between Russia and the EU (2013).

Keywords: Eastern Partnership, the European Union, Customs Union, Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova.


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