The expec­ta­tions for the German Council Pres­i­dency as to the future shape of the Eastern Part­ner­ship from the per­spec­tive of civil society. The case of the Repub­lic of Moldova

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As part of our project “Eastern Part­ner­ship 2.0” we publish a series of arti­cles about the three EU asso­ci­a­tion states (Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova). Three authors from the region (Paata Gaprindashvili, Mariam Tsit­sikashvili, Hen­nadiy Maksak, Angela Gramada) analyse the expec­ta­tions for the German Council Pres­i­dency as to the future shape of the Eastern Part­ner­ship from the per­spec­tive of civil society.

By Angela Gramada

In its current form, the program for Ger­many’s Pres­i­dency of the EU Council is sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent from what was envis­aged in the initial plan­ning. The final plan focuses on the spe­cific goal and pri­or­ity of over­com­ing the crises caused by COVID-19 pan­demic. Germany, with an economy less affected by Covid-19 than those of many other Euro­pean coun­tries, will have to promote a foreign policy that can support the appli­ca­tion at the EU level of the prin­ci­ple of sol­i­dar­ity and demo­c­ra­tic prin­ci­ples, while gen­er­at­ing the nec­es­sary cohe­sion, and support for the view that the Euro­pean poli­cies and projects being pro­moted are fea­si­ble and will yield common ben­e­fits across EU borders.

Secu­rity, public safety, and socio-eco­nomic cohe­sion are the key pri­or­i­ties for the German EU Pres­i­dency in the next six months. These pri­or­i­ties are cross-cutting ele­ments in the German program, and in the coming months we will see how the process through which these pri­or­i­ties are placed in rela­tion to one another and imple­mented unfolds, not only within the Euro­pean Union but also beyond its borders.

Speak­ing of borders, the non-EU part­ners expect these pri­or­i­ties to be imple­mented in Eastern Europe as well, includ­ing the appli­ca­tion of the concept of civil­ian secu­rity as part of the dis­cus­sions on Euro­pean secu­rity. At issue are ques­tions like how this concept can be inte­grated intoac­tions taken to increase the resilience of public insti­tu­tions, into socio-eco­nomic reforms and efforts to make polit­i­cal dis­courses account­able, and into the strat­egy for coping with the pan­demic; how the states can address this issue in their inter­ac­tions with unrec­og­nized regimes in areas for which con­sti­tu­tional author­i­ties do not have access to data and no means ofpro­vid­ing support to their cit­i­zens. No con­ver­sa­tion about a strat­egy to mit­i­gate the impacts of various risks and chal­lenges can be pro­duc­tive without an under­stand­ing of the spe­cific sit­u­a­tion of each dia­logue partner. In the doc­u­ment “Eastern Part­ner­ship. 20 Deliv­er­ables for 2020: Bring­ing tan­gi­ble results for cit­i­zens” this concept of civil­ian secu­rity is found in several pri­or­i­ties (rule of law, reforms, secu­rity). It must con­tinue to be sup­ported, even though it is an extremely tech­ni­cal issuerequir­ing sus­tained and imme­di­ate action. Over­com­ing the pan­demic, as a pri­or­ity issue, passes from Croatia to Germany pres­i­dency. This means that more atten­tion must be paid to this area.

The “pan­demic” issue must also be addressed from the per­spec­tive ofthe other pri­or­i­ties that Germany has set for itsEU Council pres­i­dency: climate change and dig­i­tal­iza­tion. De facto, climate change and dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion are con­stant ele­ments inGer­many’s foreign policy, which pro­motes­both issues at the Euro­pean and global level. These issues­take on even greater strate­gic impor­tance in the context of a pan­demic. Progress in these areas is accom­pa­nied by increased oppor­tu­ni­ties to stim­u­late the economy, inno­va­tion and the safety of com­mer­cial trans­port, and helps create oppor­tu­ni­ties to mit­i­gate the neg­a­tive impact and risks asso­ci­ated with epi­demics or natural dis­as­ters, includ­ing that ofre­sum­ing the dis­cus­sions for grant­ing macro-finan­cial support to the Repub­lic of Moldova.

Return­ing, however, to Eastern Europe and the Repub­lic of Moldova and to the primary need to achieve the objec­tives of the program for Germany’s pres­i­dency of the EU Council beyond the exter­nal borders of Europe, one can rec­om­men­dac­tions taken to extend the prin­ci­ples estab­lished by Germany not only within the EU, but also in the rela­tion­ship withnon-EU part­ners, with the aims of:

- further encour­ag­ing public inter­ac­tions and private part­ner­ships and joint projects, in which Euro­pean expe­ri­ences and inno­va­tions or eco­nomic projects can be taken over under the legal frame­work gen­er­ated by the Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ments and the DCFTA;

- encour­ag­ing qual­i­ta­tive polit­i­cal debate as well as mech­a­nisms of coop­er­a­tion in the next finan­cial period (2021–2027) to enhance the­ef­fec­tive­nes­sof the Eastern Part­ner­ship project, which will provide the nec­es­sary frame­work for imple­mentingini­tia­tives that are­al­ready deliv­er­ing qual­i­ta­tive change;

- sup­port­ing the eval­u­a­tion and improve­ment of these mech­a­nisms at the forth­com­ing Eastern Part­ner­ship summit (planned for March 2021), without neglect­ing the impor­tance of the rule of law, good gov­er­nance, eco­nomic reforms or the mul­ti­lat­eral coop­er­a­tion in areas such as the economy, energy, and secu­rity;

- avoid­ing an exclu­sive focus on mapping issues and chal­lenges, but instead coming equipped with solu­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions for a sus­tained, con­tin­u­ous and effec­tive dia­logue on common or spe­cific issues facing Eastern Euro­pean actors that also affect the content of public secu­rity poli­cies in neigh­bor­ing states.

Germany is per­ceived in the Repub­lic of Moldova as a state with a strong poten­tial to influ­ence polit­i­cal deci­sion-making and the allo­ca­tion of finan­cial support to various projects. At the level of public opinion, expec­ta­tions are high due to the fact that the debates on the strate­gic approach tothe future of the Eastern Part­ner­ship coin­cide or overlap with the agenda of the German Pres­i­dency of the EU Council, although these are, at the same time, subject to careful scrutiny. The caution is fuelled by the way Berlin’s rela­tion­ship with Moscow is evolv­ing, but also by the dia­logue between dif­fer­ent Euro­pean part­ners on foreign policy issues, pri­or­i­ties and objec­tives, how inte­grated they are and how they might be turned into oppor­tu­ni­ties.

In recent months, the EU has shown that there is a need for sol­i­dar­ity, involve­ment and cohe­sion in pro­mot­ing common inter­ests. Even actors who had pre­vi­ously denied this have found the nec­es­sary support within the EU. The Repub­lic of Moldova was no excep­tion. Casting doubt on the cred­i­bil­ity of the project of build­ing a united Europe is still a tactic used by polit­i­cal actors explor­ing pop­ulism as a way to impose them­selves in the domes­tic polit­i­cal debate. To reduce the impact of this at the local level, which has the poten­tial for regional expan­sion, the EU itself needs to be more respon­si­ble, more ver­sa­tile and faster in respond­ing to chal­lenges, in iden­ti­fy­ing solutions.Therein lies the dif­fi­culty of Germany’s mission: to offer a tailor-made solu­tion for every chal­lenge.

In the Repub­lic of Moldova, the cred­i­bil­ity of the Euro­pean project has seen some ups and downs, and is per­ceived dif­fer­ently in the context of elec­toral periods or other current chal­lenges. One ques­tion of impor­tance here is who speaks on behalf of the EU to the Repub­lic of Moldova, what is the status of this actor and what message is com­mu­ni­cated to the part­ners. The cit­i­zens of the Repub­lic of Moldova expect the German pres­i­dency of the EU Council to take a firm stance onthe need to move forward with the imple­men­ta­tion of eco­nomic reforms, con­cern­sre­gard­ingjus­tice and judi­cial reform, the empha­sis on secu­rity and the set­tle­ment of regional con­flicts. Politi­cians are guided by other inter­ests, and seek to find inter­me­di­aries that can help them meet­their own goals. Germany must avoid being iden­ti­fied too strongly with Moldovan polit­i­cal actors. This is the only way to have a long-term impact rather than be merely a series of minor tem­po­rary suc­cesses.

Any Euro­pean project or policy under­goes periods of success and regres­sion. This is only natural given that the envi­ron­ment in which they are imple­mented is so volatile. When speak­ing of the Eastern Part­ner­ship, we must not forget the context in which this project was launched, i.e. imme­di­ately after the Russo-Geor­gian war in August 2008.Nor should we forget that most EaP member coun­tries face secu­rity dilem­mas, which amplify social and eco­nomic prob­lems. The Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Policy is not a panacea able to resolve all the dilem­mas of the states involved in it, but rather a set of strate­gies and mea­sures capable of mit­i­gat­ing the neg­a­tive impact pro­duced by a par­tic­u­lar national objec­tive or regional context, depend­ing on the issue addressed by this policy.In the asso­ci­ated coun­tries, sta­bil­ity, democ­racy and rule of law are pillars which may col­lapse in the absence of a sus­tained­in­ter­nal will to achieve objec­tives and well-defined national interests.These pillars must be supported.Only then can the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Policy argue that it is able to support the achieve­ment of the EU’s foreign policy objec­tives effec­tively.

Angela Gramada is Pres­i­dent at Experts for Secu­rity and Global Affairs Asso­ci­a­tion.