Ukraine at a Crossroads: Four Truths about European Neighbourhood Policy

Written by | Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Eastern Ukraine currently seems to be at a crossroads: the region now finds itself between a fragile and often-violated cease-fire among pro-Russian rebel forces and Ukrainian government soldiers, and escalating conflict in the region. It is clear that albeit under the control of anti-Kiev forces, eastern Ukraine is not independent. According to an interview recently published by Euronews portal, a representative of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic stressed that the separatist in fact do not intend to take over Mariupol in order to gain autonomy. “At this very moment, we are just working according to the Minsk agreement,” said Denis Pushilin and added that “And the Minsk agreement memorandum of September 19 talks about a demarcation line. This demarcation line does not include Mariupol and Severodonestsk.” Pushilin’s works could thus be interpreted as that the rebel strongholds in this conflict-torn region do not intend push the boundaries or seeking independence.

Meanwhile, a recent commentary published in Euractiv news portal has criticized the EU’s Neighborhood Policy for being “back to zero, a second time in less than four years”.  Gabriele Schöler and Stefani Weiss the Bertelsmann Stiftung argue that “In theory, having a policy strategy that guides your relations with your immediate neighbors is certainly a good thing to have.” However, they point out that “all theory is grey. As well intended the EU’s Neighborhood Policy (ENP) might have been thus far it has not been able to deliver. Instead of being surrounded by a “ring of friends” all we are witnessing is an “arc of crisis and instability” stretching from the European Union’s eastern borders down to the Mediterranean basin.”

Then, they outline what they call ‘four truths’: Firstly, the EU´s neighborhood is less and less homogeneous, which means that the 16 ENP countries cannot be dealt with a one-size-fits-all approach. Secondly, the EU has to pay much more attention to the deep dividing lines between political elites and the societies in these countries. Thirdly, the EU has to pay sober regard to the geopolitical constellation within which it operates its neighborhood policy and become much clearer about its own interests. Fourthly, while most of the EU’s neighbors are either victim of “frozen conflicts” or outright civil wars, the future ENP cannot be a stand-alone policy mostly shaped and administered by the EU Commission but it should rather be successful as part of the EU´s overall foreign and security policy.

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