Rethinking the EU - Eastern Partnership: Expectations, Incentives and Future Prospects

07 February 2014
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When it became clear that the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) had reached its threshold in appealing to the former states of the Soviet bloc (those which encircled EU’s borders), the EU embarked on a new policy initiative called the Eastern Partnership (EaP). The aim was to establish an EU partnership with six states - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus - on its far eastern margin by replacing the pre-existing outreach policy such as the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements and extending the ENP in order to focus more on the bilateral dimension.

This paper aims to analyze the “incentive gap” phenomenon in relation to how the EaP is perceived by its partners as well as the benefits offered by the EU to foster deeper cooperation with them. Cooperation between the EU and its eastern  partners’  within  the  EaP may not be as simple and straight forward due to the existence of deeply grounded emotional, geopolitical and economic issues which determine the frontiers of “acceptable cooperation”. For some countries this acts as a disincentive to seeking closer integration with the EU, whereas for others, the crucial factor may be the lack of sufficient incentives offered by the EU in comparison to other competing initiatives. On a conceptual level, despite the much touted idea of differentiation, the policy being pursued is a “one-size-fits-all” approach by basically grouping different countries under the same roof. Moreover, as the recent developments in Armenia and Ukraine have demonstrated, the existing incentive gaps on the part of the EU and its partners in order to encourage a deeper partnership have highlighted the shortcomings of a generalized approach. Therefore rethinking the raison-d’être of the EaP may seem compelling in the light of the aforementioned challenges.

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