Catherine Guicherd

The Enlarged EU's Eastern Border

Integrating Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova in the European Project

SWP Research Paper 2002/S 20, June 2002, 88 Pages

Especially since the end of the Cold War, the European Union (EU) has become a major structuring pole of inter-state relations in Europe. This will be even more so as it enlarges and makes inroads in new policy areas. The attraction of this pole is strong, as demonstrated by the eagerness of some 20 countries of Northern, Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe, including Ukraine and Moldova (plus Turkey, Cyprus and Malta) to join the club.

The EU has responded to those aspirations only partially. Whereas most countries of Central Europe are well on their way into the Union and the Balkan states have been offered a membership prospect through the Stabilisation and Association Process, the EU has given no such reassurance to countries born out of the dismembering of the Soviet Union - outside the Baltics. Rather, it has remained non-committal vis-à-vis Ukraine's and Moldova's aspirations to join, neither promising membership at any time, nor ruling it out. In this context, Belarus has remained an exception in making only ambiguous declarations as to a possible desire for rapprochement with the Union.

Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, however, will be de facto coming closer to the EU as a consequence of enlargement. By 2004-2005 the first two will be EU neighbours, as a result of Poland's, Hungary's, the Baltic States', and Slovakia's accession. Moldova's turn is more distant, but the country is also slated to border on the EU as Romania itself progresses towards membership.

How should the EU respond? Should it treat Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus primarily as former Soviet Republics, thereby implicitly comforting Russia's view that they belong to its zone of influence? Should it consider them as potential future members like any other Central, Eastern and Southeastern European state, essentially on the virtue of their domestic progress in political and economic reform? Is a third way possible? How can it take into account the fact that these countries will be neighbours, but neighbours of a special kind because of the proximity of Russia - and this in a context in which Brussels is building strong links with Moscow since the arrival of President Putin?

 

In trying to respond to these questions, the present study takes the view that, if EU policy vis-à-vis those countries must be informed by the latter's goals and means, it must be primarily tailored to the EU's own interests and capabilities. The analysis, therefore, begins with (I) the definition of those interests, from which follows (II) an examination of the behaviour, expectations, and policies of both sides, in order to measure the degree of adequacy/inadequacy between the two. From there, an attempt is made to look into the future (III), a future which will presumably be shaped by four main elements:

a) the target countries' policies and cultural/political/ideological preferences, as expressed by their elites and public opinions;

b) the neighbourhood factor, as manifested by the consequences of enlargement;

c) the Russian factor, in its dual dimension of influence in the Western NIS and the rapid development of EU-Russian relations;

d) the EU's ongoing transformation, with the 2003-2004 Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) being probably only an intermediary stage in this process.

The conclusion (IV) attempts to map out strategies both vis-à-vis each of the three countries separately, taking account of differences between them, and regionally. It explores the option of an "Eastern dimensio". that would:

a) take stock in a comprehensive manner of the impact enlargement has on the three countries;

b) place their relationship with the EU in the dual context of the narrow links they maintain with Russia and the development of EU-Russian relations.

 

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