Can an exercise of democratic elections jeopardize a nation’s foreign relations? Not necessarily, but when combined with the non-democratic exercise of foreign policy, it probably can. The 2017 presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan, much praised as a rare case of peaceful power transfer from one elected leader to another in Central Asia, has also gained prominence for its major foreign policy implications.
If four years ago, someone suggested that a relatively small student protest camp in Ukraine, violently dispersed overnight by police , would have a profound influence on European history, many would simply laugh at the thought. For many years, EU policymakers have been walking a tightrope between integrating neighboring countries into its institutional orbit and keeping said neighbors at arm’s length, making sure that these countries do not actually “become” Europe in the full sense of the word.
The latest verse in the ballad of Misha and Petro may be the strangest one yet. The former Georgian President, Misha Saakashvili, and current Ukrainian President, Petro Poroschenko, were friends from their student days. When Poroschenko was first elected President of Ukraine in 2014, it was seen as logical that he appointed Saakashvili first as a senior advisor and then later governor of Odessa.
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit on 24 November in Brussels, represents another important milestone in Georgia’s path of European integration. After having signed an Association Agreement with the European Union that entered into force in July 2016, and having been granted visa free status, Georgia is now looking forward to seeing its position as a frontrunner in the EaP community confirmed by the EU leadership. The current challenge for the EU is to find ways to maintain Georgia committed to the agreed reforms in the absence of significant new political incentives.
Today’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels represents a never-ending question for the EU: how to retain the format’s effectiveness, and maintaining motivation among all participant states given increasing divergences in what they want from the EU. So far, the three countries that have signed Association Agreements get more benefits, especially within the EaP format, while Armenia and Azerbaijan are on track to signing comprehensive new agreements outside the scope of the EaP format, and Belarus’s stance remains less clear.
Relations with Azerbaijan represent a challenge to the EU and its Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). This is largely due to Azerbaijan’s difficult balance between its strategic importance for EU energy security, Baku’s commitment to a multi-vectored foreign policy, and the defense of normative values that underpin European integration and the EU’s external relations rhetoric.
As it was originally conceived, the EDSN project was envisioned to be a long-term endeavor that would cultivate Eurasia-focused scholars and policy entrepreneurs to advocate for Euro-Atlantic conditionality, while also making the organic case for internal reforms. Long-term success is the goal, but some more immediate evidence of impact is always nice to see.
Writing for the London School of Economics’ comment section, LSE Visiting Fellow Max Fras explores the “future of the EU’s Eastern Partnership” ahead of the upcoming EaP summit in November 2017. The analysis is worth a read, as it provides a broad and incisive review of the state of the EaP today, and how the upcoming summit is framing the initiative for the future.
Notably, the piece links to a recently-published EDSN analysis on the Eastern Partnership to advocate for an EaP focus on “highlighting and strengthening the benefits of internal reform in all EaP member states instead of moving goalposts and offering only token rewards and declarations” [emphasis mine].
A link, even from LSE scholars, a critical mass does not make. But it’s at least some evidence that EDSN is gaining traction in the community.
The upcoming Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit, which will take place in Brussels on November 24, will be filled with symbolism for EU-Armenia relations. Four years after Armenia backed away from signing an Association Agreement to join instead the Eurasian Economic Union, the two partners are finally ready to formally sign a new tailor-made agreement—a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement—and take their relations to a new level.
In Georgia’s recent local elections, Kakha Kaladze won handily in his bid to become Tbilisi’s mayor. As the nominee of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Kaladze was the strong favorite in an election where the ultimate outcome was never really in doubt. Perhaps understandably, the international media has not paid much attention to Kaladze’s victory — which is essentially a minor story in the global context — except to note that Tbilisi’s new mayor was once a football star. Headlines at ESPN (“Ex-AC Milan defender Kakha Kaladze elected mayor of Georgia capital Tbilisi”), the BBC’s sports section (“Kakha Kaladze: Ex-AC Milan defender elected Tbilisi mayor”), and Reuters (“Former Soccer Star Kaladze Becomes Mayor of Georgia’s Capital”) are all examples of this.
by Michael Cecire
With November’s fifth Eastern Partnership (Eap) summit in Brussels looming, the once-ambitious EU platform looks to be taking a back-to-basics approach towards its eastern neighbors. Launched in 2009 as a mechanism of calibrating the European aspirations — latent or overt — of Armenia Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, the EaP has seen its star fade over the years as the conceptual frontiers of realistic integration were truncated as European appetites for expansion waned. It was almost as though breakthroughs by EaP states inversely (and adversely) impacted the platform’s sense of mission and ambition.