Expert Workshop: Projecting Stability beyond the policy of enlargement – the ENP and the case of Ukraine

Am 5. Oktober 2009 folgten zehn Wissenschaftler und Experten aus Berliner Think Tanks, Universitäten und politischen Stiftungen der Einladung des Instituts für Europäische Politik (IEP), um das Forschungsprojekt der SPES Stipendiatin Iryna Solonenko „The EU’s transformative power beyond the policy of enlargement: Has the European Neighbourhood Policy made a difference in Ukraine?“ zu diskutieren. Der Workshop fand im Rahmen des Study Programme on European Security (SPES) statt, das von der VolkswagenStiftung finanziert und vom IEP durchgeführt wird.

After a short presentation of the research project, Dr. Susan Stewart, researcher at the German Institute for Security and International Affairs (SWP), Berlin and Prof. Dr. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Professor of Democracy Studies at the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin commented Solonenko’s paper.
As an introduction, Dr. Susan Stewart stressed that Solonenko’s paper is an important contribution because it goes beyond current studies in that it analyses the EU’s impact not only on the Ukrainian political elite but also on civil society and bureaucracy showing existing dynamics on each level. Taking a closer look at the European Union’s (EU) support of civil society Stewart emphasised the tendency to focus on the promotion of NGOs, and thus, on the development of a civil society elite. Solonenko confirmed this observation for the case of Ukraine by identifying a cleavage between the civil society at large and a very small and active group of Europeanized NGOs. Concerning Ukraine’s impact on Russia, Stewart advocated a rather critical point of view and contested Solonenko’s argument. In her eyes, the assumption that a democratizing Ukraine will cause a domino effect with consequences for the Russian political system is disputable. Similarly, it is doubtful whether the EU would put pressure on Russia as this might jeopardize EU-Russia relations.

Prof. Dr. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi approved Solonenko’s empirical findings by stating that the ENP is a very helpful tool in promoting civil society. However, the EU is hardly having any impact on political parties and elites. Mungiu-Pippidi proceeded by comparing the reform process in Ukraine to the one in Central and Eastern Europe prior to EU accession. First of all, in contrast to the Central and Eastern European countries, there is no public consensus over the benefits of EU integration in Ukraine. Second, the greatest changes in Central and Eastern Europe took place before the countries had been invited to join the EU, and thus, at a similar stage at which Ukraine finds itself today. This observation casts doubt on the efficiency of conditionality, a mechanism used by the EU in its enlargement and neighbourhood policies whose effects are controversially discussed in academic circles. According to Mungiu-Pippidi, the reform processes in Central and Eastern Europe were not undertaken due to EU incentives but driven by the domestic will for transformation.
The comments were followed by an intense discussion that touched upon several issues. One major aspect was the EU support to civil society in its Eastern neighbourhood. The experts stated almost unanimously that the major contribution of the EU is not so much the use of instruments and specific programmes but simply being present in Ukraine at all and acting as an ally. What is considered problematic, however, is how the Ukrainian population perceives the EU’s attempts to promote a bottom-up approach to democratization. As Solonenko put it, many civil society actors do not seize existing opportunities as they are often not aware of them. Moreover, there is no sense of urgency to complement the cooperation on an official state level with civic participation in EU projects.

The experts also discussed Ukraine’s allies within the EU. Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and the Scandinavian countries were identified as supporters, whereas the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal were mentioned as opponents of Ukraine’s accession to the EU. Interestingly, while some EU member states are rather passive in promoting Ukraine’s membership perspective, the very same countries support Ukraine’s Europeanization through concrete programmes. This behaviour might however be traced back to economic interests in the Ukrainian market rather than to altruistic motives.

Subsequent to a very fruitful discussion Mariella Falkenhain, project coordinator of the Study Programme on European Security, stressed that the format of expert workshops is going to be continued in the framework of the study programme since it opens up a space for an informal exchange of points of views and leads to highly interesting insights for all participants.