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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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.