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

Foto: Wire­stock Images /​

Im Rahmen unseres Pro­jek­tes „Öst­li­che Part­ner­schaft 2.0“ ver­öf­fent­li­chen wir eine Arti­kel­reihe über die drei EU-Asso­­zi­ie­­rungs­­­staa­­ten (Ukraine, Geor­gien, Moldau). Autorin­nen und Autoren aus der Region ( Paata Gaprin­da­sh­vili, Mariam Tsits­ikash­vili, Hen­na­diy Maksak, Angela Gramada) ana­ly­sie­ren die Erwar­tun­gen an die deut­sche Rats­prä­si­dent­schaft hin­sicht­lich der zukünf­ti­gen Aus­ge­stal­tung der Öst­li­chen Part­ner­schaft aus zivil­ge­sell­schaft­li­cher Perspektive.

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.