The EU should stop rewarding its eastern neighbours’ promises and anchor its aid on reforms delivery.
The mixed enthusiasm with which its target countries greeted the EU’s Eastern Partnership offer has prompted a mirror response from the EU: for much of the past six years, Europe’s resources and political attention have shifted and zigzagged in the region, depending on which country was at the time seen as being the most pro-reform or pro-European. While this approach has still managed to bring some tangible benefits, it has also ensured that the EU’s overall picture of the region remained hazy. Its fragmented focus has undermined its ability to act pro-actively and strategically, and the broader context, including Russia’s changing role in it, has often escaped attention. The region’s vulnerabilities – political corruption and authoritarianism, dependence on Russian energy deliveries and market access – will not disappear overnight. Nor will Russia’s rejection of what it perceives as an unwanted Western hegemony over the norms and values that should guide the pan-European order. But the crisis in the neighbourhood should make the EU more, not less, resolved to address the challenge. In doing so it should also stay true to its own values, if it wants to preserve (or, in many cases, rebuild) its credibility with the region’s population. The EU should stop rewarding its eastern neighbours’ promises and anchor its aid on reforms delivery. To the front-runners it should provide more assistance where it is due and insistence where it is necessary, while the three less ambitious countries should be offered qualified support.
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The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.