The Eastern Partnership: the Summit is Over. What‘s Next?

By Vadim Volovoj, expert of the Centre for Geopolitical Studies, Doctor in Political Sciences

Recently one could hear quite many statements that European Union Eastern partnership (EP) Programme is ineffective and has no future. Yet Ukraine‘s approach toward the Association Agreement demonstrated that the EP initiative has proved successful.


The EU made Moscow „tense the muscles“ -  the next step might be provocation of civil war in Ukraine. This encourages to pursue work but there is no guarantee that the EU will expand development toward the East. It requires a strong will and money, yet these are the major problems.  


In the EU,  Europeanisation of  Eastern Partnership is supported only by Lithuania and Poland, whereas for other presidencies of the European Council the Eastern Partnership is not a priority. The EU can say that historical borders of Russia‘s geopolitical sphere of influence are being restored. The war with Georgia moved toward this idea, and a deadly Kremlin‘s attachment to Kiev can make it come true.


But even if there is a will to compete with Moscow in the post-Soviet space, it is necessary to be prepared to spend money, yet this is one of the major problems in Brussels. The grimace of dissatisfaction appears simultaneously with the talks on financial support: you should be happy that we talk to you. It is not fair. It is not enough to have enthusiastic partners. Enthusiasm should be stimulated.


Russia seems to have accepted Tbilisi’s estrangement. There is practically no room for strategic reconciliation; the EU will hardly accept Georgia, and the accession to  NATO has also been postponed. But the Kremlin has not yet finished the fight for Chisinau.


Some time ago Russia has become especially suspicious toward labour migrants from Moldova. Finally the idea on Moldova‘s federalisation emerged: we help you unite the country, and you consider seriously the idea of the Eurasian Union. Although pro-Western forces still prevail in Chisinau, they need support: economic situation in the country is bad, and nobody knows what happens if Russia starts serious pressing...


Is Brussels ready to financially support Moldova? The country’s needs are not as high as Ukraine’s, but for Europe this could be too much as well. We can only expect that Europe has taken into account the failure in Kiev and that it will take more determined actions.


And what about other participants of the Eastern Partnership Programme? Belarus has already joined the Customs (Eurasian) Union. Armenia has also made its choice. Azerbaijan doesn‘t need Europe‘s money: it needs more active EU’s engagement in considering the Karabakh conflict, but the EU is not ready for that. Thus, there still are Georgia and Moldova which can help retain the EP initiative.


What about Lithuania? Fiasco? Not at all. Maybe the only mistake made by Vilnius and highlighted by experts was the development of a successful perspective. On the one hand, it was necessary, for you can’t accomplish a goal without believing in success. Everybody believed, but the „bride“ run away at the last minute.


One more unpleasant episode: irresponsible behaviour of the Seimas Speaker. She tried to teach the President foreign policy but turned out to be a weak diplomat. Consequently, the state‘s image has also suffered a blow.


On the whole the credit should be given to our diplomats. Jose Manuel Barosso congratulated them for the contribution in developing Eastern and European partnership. According to the member of the EP Leonidas Donskis, „Lithuania managed to accomplish the task which in the American movie is referred to as the „mission impossible“. When mission was impossible Lithuania did everything it could. Although the Association Agreement was not signed, Lithuania is still the winner of the game and can back out with its head held high [...] The country taking over the presidency will not have to work as hard as Lithuania. Brussels will also have to take the initiative. Lithuania did everything it was supposed to: informed, educated, analysed, intrigued, mediated etc. The only things missed were flexibility of the EU and Ukraine‘s determined actions“.


Before the meeting one could hear astonishing statements by Dalia Grybauskaitė’s advisor on the unions established by means of uncivilised measures which cannot be long-lasting. Actually, it was a normal geopolitical (geoeconomical) fight and one should be able to accept the defeat and to further pursue the goals. The number of objectives didn‘t decrease. Ukraine will soon have presidential elections, the fight for Moldova is also ahead. Lithuania‘s task is not to forget pro-Western forces of these countries and not to allow Europe forget that. Mission impossible? It doesn‘t matter: let’s continue to inform, educate, analyse, intrigue and mediate.