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EU-STRAT - The EU and Eastern Partnership Countries: An Inside-Out Analysis and Strategic Assessment

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EU-STRAT (EU-STRAT - The EU and Eastern Partnership Countries: An Inside-Out Analysis and Strategic Assessment)

Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2019-04-30

The European Union’s (EU) Eastern neighbors – Belarus, Moldova, and above all Ukraine – have recently been in the center of turbulent geopolitical strife. Why has the EU fallen short of its ambition to create peace, prosperity and stability in its Eastern neighbourhood? What can be done to strengthen the EU’s transformative power in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries?

EU-STRAT provided a strategic assessment of the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy. By analyzing the countries’ dynamics and matching EU policies to them, our research supported the advancement of societies towards more open and inclusive societal and political orders. The project took an inside-out perspective: rather than focusing on EU policy, it assumed that democracy and economic development are primarily advanced in the domestic arena. This approach highlighted the importance of domestic actors, political economy and institutions. Then, EU-STRAT explored how relations between EaP states, societies, and international actors can constrain or support the development of democracy and markets in a contested European region.
• We constructed a typology of different kinds of limited access orders in the region enabling a comprehensive analysis and understanding of their dynamics. These hybrid social orders combine different degrees of political and economic access maintaining current equilibria or providing openings for change.
• We developed the idea that certain types of state capacity can act as stabilizers for closed, authoritarian orders while other types can support opening and universal access to institutions and services. Assessing state capacity in Belarus and Ukraine, we found dynamic opening through reform combined with administrative problems in Ukraine and stability and stagnation in Belarus.
• We identified the (domestic and external) actors and processes involved in the stabilization or transformation of the EaP countries: dominant political coalitions, local networks linking politicians and businesses in Ukraine, interdependencies with Russia, EU, Turkey, and China and international organizations. We conclude that interactions between domestic actors are at the core of progress towards opening or closure, while international actors and interdependencies play a varied role depending on the domestic context.
• We investigated the EU’s and Russia’s communications and how they are reflected and perceived in domestic media. We traced differentiated EU discourses towards Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine and analysed the main concepts in the official foreign policy discourses of Russia. We identified domestic actors reinforcing both. In Ukraine and Belarus, we found pro-European actors focusing mainly on norms and democratic governance, in contrast to pro-Russian actors emphasizing exclusive ethnic and religious identities. Survey experiments showed that it is difficult to influence citizens’ support for cooperation with the EU and that this support depends on how beneficial they already believe the EU is for their countries.

• Our investigation supports the implementation of Association Agreements (AAs) in various ways. We assessed the compatibility between European integration and the engagement with the Eurasian Economic Union for Armenia and Belarus. We made a detailed analysis of legal approximation in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine in different sectors. We studied the development of AA-linked regulatory bodies constrained by different levels of state capture.
• Analyzing the EaP’s ‘20 Deliverables for 2020’ agenda, we highlighted some of its problematic aspects, such as its supply rather than demand-driven nature and the potential to widen the gap between AA and non-AA countries.
• We advanced strategies and instruments for scientific cooperation to foster better understanding between the EU and EaP countries. We found that international collaboration has provided a lifeline to science in the region. Scientific cooperation has had a positive impact in terms of participation in networks, advancement in research methodology, mobility opportunities, transfer of technologies and (management) know-how. We proposed that the broader societal and policy impact of collaborations, which remains limited for now, might be enhanced by including a broader set of institutions in joint projects.

• We built a sustainable network of researchers and practitioners from EU member states and the EaP countries. Through our collaboration, we established long-term relations across participating institutions and with practitioners from the EU, policymakers from the regions, experts, and civil society members.
• We disseminated our findings among policymakers, stakeholders and citizens using innovative outreach strategies. The EU-STRAT website was frequently visited, activities were reported on Twitter, Facebook and our YouTube channel to an increasing number of followers. We engaged with various audiences through working papers, policy briefings, newsletters, policy comments and knowledge clips.

Main implications and dissemination activities:
• Different degrees of political and economic opening in the EaP region call for different actions on the EU side [‘Governance’ article, policy brief]
• EU support for reforms strengthens both stabilizing and universalizing features of state capacity [Knowledge clip, policy briefing in Minsk]
• Given the different dynamics of domestic orders and different levels of vulnerability and sensitivity to external influences, the EU should strengthen its emphasis on good governance, transparency and especially civil society participation in the policy process [Policy briefing in Chișinău, knowledge clip]
• The findings from TV monitoring and survey experiments suggest that to resonate better with citizens, the EU should tailor its communications to use human interest stories and focus on the tangible benefits of economic, governance, and security cooperation for citizens in the region [Policy brief, knowledge clip]
• The EU has learnt many lessons from enlargement and introduced institutional innovation to deal with the complexity of the AAs. However, the EU still needs to develop the tools to prevent misuse of core state resources and institutions by rent-seeking elites [YouTube video, policy briefing in Kyiv]
• The EU’s main challenge in developing alternative engagement strategies is the dilemma between fostering a political engagement along a connectivity platform or prioritizing European values, governance and anti-corruption reforms, which may lead to loss of influence [Report, knowledge clip]
• Enriched the theory of regime transformation with innovative conceptual frameworks explaining dynamics of social orders, the role of state capacity, and interactions between domestic and external actors
• Offered new rich empirical data (e.g. interviews, survey experiment, TV monitoring) and structured datasets with secondary data (Database)
• Established a strong international network of scholars and experts

Societal and policy:
• Engaged with policymakers, local experts, media, and civil society in the EaP countries through policy briefings, meetings, and workshops
• Enhanced our understanding of the constraints within which the EU operates in the EaP countries and offered recommendations regarding refining and altering strategies in the domains of communications, conditionality, and state capacity reforms.