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

What is the European Union’s impact on internal devel­op­ments in Ukraine since the launch of the European Neigh­bourhood Policy (ENP)? Has ENP made a difference in Ukraine or has it largely failed? On Monday 5 October 2009 several experts from Berlin-based think tanks, univer­sities and political founda­tions came together at the premises of the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP) to discuss these questions and the corre­spondent research project of Iryna Solonenko, Director of European Programme, Renais­sance Foundation, Kyiv. The expert workshop was part of the Study Programme on European Security (SPES), which is conducted by IEP and supported by the Volkswagen Foundation, and was designed so as to contribute to Solonenko’s research stay in Berlin.
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 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 a 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 as 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 when it comes to promote 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.