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13 November, 2013 19:39   ▪  

Amanda Paul: If Association Agreement with Ukraine is not signed, it would have a knock-on effect on Moldova and Georgia

For Putin, ‘losing’ Ukraine would be particularly humiliating, so he will accelerate Russian pressure on Kyiv. However, if Ukraine gives up, it would influence the position of the countries which still expect just to initial the agreements with the EU, says Amanda Paul, a Policy Analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, in her article for EPC website.

The optimal outcome of the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit is to sign the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine as well as initial agreements with Georgia and Moldova. However, Amanda Paul admits, the real challenge will come thereafter. Ukraine will need to start the process of implementation, which will be costly and difficult, while Moldova and Georgia – which are not due to sign until the autumn of 2014 – will face an uncomfortable ten months as Russia endeavours to coerce them into joining the Russian-led Customs Union instead.

“Russia views its Western neighbourhood as a strategic imperative and sees the Eastern Partnership as a tool for containment, accusing the EU of trying to undermine the relations of the peoples living in Russia and Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries,” the expert claims.

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“If the agreement with Ukraine is not signed, it would not only have a serious impact on EU-Ukraine relations but also a significant knock-on effect on Moldova and Georgia. A geopolitical lynchpin, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Ukraine and Russia as odin narod – one nation. For Putin, ‘losing’ Ukraine would be particularly humiliating; therefore, it is not surprising that Russia has accelerated pressure on Kyiv. Yet Russia’s threats have backfired as they have served to regenerate Ukraine’s EU-demanded reform effort,” Amanda Paul says.

While Russia sees its Western neighbourhood strategically, as Amanda Paul underscore, the EU has suffered from a lack of strategic vision, rather viewing it as a technical process. 

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While nobody is expecting the EU to put a European perspective on the table, there is clearly an urgent need for greater support and solidarity. A serious effort should be made to speed up the technical process. This would, at the very least, allow for an earlier signing of the agreements with Moldova and Georgia, which would have a positive impact psychologically.

Financial support also needs to increase. Eastern Partneship states are being asked to carry out painful reforms almost identical to those demanded of candidate countries, but without access to the same EU funds. This is not sustainable. 

“The Vilnius Summit should be used as an opportunity to consolidate EU support for its partners,” the expert claims.

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