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
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.