Content

The EU as a Neighbour in:

Anna Steiner

Enhanced Relations - Protracted Conflict(s)?, page 45 - 63

The EU's Non-Recognition and Engagement Policy (NREP) towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia

1. Edition 2019, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4304-2, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7236-3, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783828872363-45

Series: Wissenschaftliche Beiträge aus dem Tectum Verlag: Politikwissenschaften, vol. 82

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
45 The EU as a Neighbour The EU entertains contractual relations in bilateral or regional form with almost every country in the world (cf. Oproiu 2015: 26). These relations vary from equal partnerships to asymmetric relations, where the EU can pose demands on the contractor. A special focus of the EU’s external actions lies on the immediate neighbourhood of the Union, which is mirrored the EU’s Global Strategy as well as by the European Neighbourhood Policy. The Global Strategy The High Representative of the European Union and Commission Vice President (EU HRVP) Federica Mogherini presented the EUGS to the European Council for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on 28 June 2016. It is the first EU Global Strategy and can be seen as a further development of the – first and only – European Security Strategy (ESS) that has been established by the EU High Representative Javier Solana in 2003 (cf. EU Council 2003). Between the two strategies, the EU has adapted the UN’s concept on Human Security to its own Foreign and Security Policies29 (cf. Martin/Owen 2010: 216-219), which is also mirrored by the EUGS. Both ESS and EUGS have to be understood within their historical context. ESS was created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and at the peak of U.S. unilateralism, when the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the diverging opinions on the question “to be or not to be with the US” (Tocci 2017: 488) split the Union, in particular, the UK and German-Franco positions. The 2003 ESS was held in an optimistic style and aimed at creating an “effective multilateralism” in order to overcome the transatlantic and intra-European disagreement (cf. ibidem). Content-wise, the ESS was ambitious in creating “a ring of well-governed countries” to the EU’s borders (EU Council 2003: 12). The ESS in this respect lay the ground for “[t]he seeds of what became the European Neighbourhood Policy” (Tocci 2017: 495). However, EU HRVP Mogherini acknowledges in the EUGS’s foreword that the Union’s “wider region has become more unstable and more insecure” (EU HRVP 2016: 3). This time, there was not only one topic that split the EU, like the second Iraq war did in 2003. By the time the EUGS was produced, there were multiple discords and crises within the EU and on its borders: Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine, the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen, the migration crisis, the economic crisis as well as terrorism and 29 The EU’s study group on human security defined the concept in its 2004 Barcelona Report as “a departure from the state as the referent of security, and towards an emphasis on protecting individuals and communities” (cf. Martin/Owen 2010: 217). 46 Brexit30 that clearly showed disintegration could turn into a reality (cf. Tocci 2017: 488-489). The new U.S. President (Donald Trump) had not yet been elected by the time the EUGS was published, but from a current perspective could be added here as a destabilising factor. The 2016 EUGS recognises the “existential crisis facing the Union within and beyond its borders” (EU HRVP 2017: 489) and is thus phrased much less optimistically than the ESS. Being circulated among the member states right after the Brexit referendum, the timing of the EUGS publication was widely criticised (cf. Techau 2016; Tocci 2017: 490-491). However, after negotiating for two years and finally finding a common voice on Russia, migration and European defence, Mogherini’s decision can also be seen as a “due act of political responsibility” (Tocci 2017: 461) by demonstrating unanimity in times of crises. Tocci (cf. 2017: 492) describes that the EUGS demanded a much more comprehensive and complex preparation than the ESS. This was partly due to the fact that the process was carried out by more actors – which was, on the one hand, due to the greater number of member states after the enlargement, and on the other hand because, after the Lisbon treaty, not only the Council but also the Commission was tasked with preparing it. The leading EU HRVP literally had to “wear” [...] her two hats – the HR and VP ones” (ibidem). The EUGS was not only discussed and prepared in more than 50 events across the member states, but also at locations outside the EU, among them Georgia, as well as in independent NGO and think tank discussions (cf. ibidem). NATO and UN officials were involved in several consultations. Written contributions beyond the principle actors, for example by think-tanks such as the EUISS, by human rights NGOs, defence industry associations, trade unions and even the Catholic church helped cover external views and positions to a certain extent (cf. ibidem: 492-493). Furthermore, young people were invited to take part in a student essay competition and Mogherini discussed the EUGS with a group of Erasmus alumni (cf. ibidem: 493). Like the ESS, the EUGS was developed in a specifically designed process (cf. Tocci 2017: 493). Since neither the permanent representatives (COREPER) nor the Political and Security Committee (PSC) had the resources to handle the EUSG as a top priority (cf. ibidem), Member States were included in the process by appointing points of contact (POC) with whom the HRVP engaged in monthly meetings (cf. ibidem). A task force of DG officials, established by the Secretary-General of the Commission, represented the external dimension (cf. 30 After the Brexit vote, the opening line of the EUGS had to be re-written (cf. Tocci 2017: 489). In the current version of the foreword, EU HRVP Mogherini states: “In challenging times, a strong Union is one that thinks strategically, shares a vision and acts together. This is even more true after the British referendum” (EU HRVP 2016: 3). 47 ibidem). The EUGS was also debated by the European Parliament, who also submitted a report (European Parliament 2016). After having taken into account extensive consultations, five priorities of the Union’s external action have been defined (cf. EU HRVP 2016: 9-10). Priorities of the Global Strategy (a) The Security of our Union: The EUGS “starts at home” (cf. ibidem: 9). To counteract threats to security, democracy and prosperity, member states are encouraged to take their share of responsibility and transform their commitments under the Treaties into action. The Union for its part will intensify its contributions to security alongside partners like NATO (cf. ibidem: 9). (b) State and Societal Resilience to our East and South: The concept of resilience is central to the EUGS. Resilience is a broad concept that has been defined as follows by the Foreign Affairs Council in 2013: “[R]esilience is understood to mean the ability of an individual, a household or a community, a country or a region to prepare for, to withstand, to adapt to, and to quickly recover from stresses and shocks without compromising long-term development prospects” (Council Conclusions on EU Approach to Resilience 2013: 1). The EUGS follows a broad definition of resilience with a resilient society at its heart (cf. EU HRVP 2016: 23-24). (c) An Integrated Approach to Conflicts: Already the ESS had highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach to conflicts and crises, which combines military and civilian instruments (EUHR 2003: 16). Consequently, the EUGS calls for a comprehensive approach that blends security and development policies in the conflict context and widens the meaning of the comprehensive approach (cf. EU HRVP 2016: 9). The integrated approach to conflicts, as it is called in the EUGS, exceeds the traditional comprehensive approach as the EU would “act at all stages of the conflict cycle” (cf. ibidem). This means that alongside the deployment of different instruments, it adds a multi-phased approach that emphasises conflict prevention and stabilisation as well as a multi-level approach that focuses on the local and regional dimensions and a multilateral approach through more effective cooperation with other external players in the conflict (cf. Tocci 2017: 495). (d) Cooperative Regional Orders: The EUGS acknowledges the role of regional dynamics when it comes to security concerns as well as economic equity in a globalised world. Since regional policy is a fundamental part of the EU’s internal peace and development, cooperative regional orders shall also be supported worldwide. The EUGS considers that various forms of regional orders exist and will therefore not only support regional organisations but 48 comprehensively also support bilateral, sub-regional, regional and inter-regional relations as well as the cooperation of global players with regionallyowned cooperative efforts. By means of this mix, specific aims for each region will contribute to the overall goal of shared global responsibilities (cf. EU HRVP 2016: 10; 32). (e) Global Governance for the 21st Century: The EU is committed to a global order based on international law with the UN principles as the basis for human rights, sustainable development and lasting access to the global commons. The protection of international humanitarian and human rights law and international criminal law is seen as a responsibility of the EU (cf. ibidem: 42). Members of the UN Security Council shall be encouraged not to vote against credible draft resolutions on actions against mass atrocities (cf. ibidem: 40). Investments in the UN, and in particular its peacekeeping, mediation, peacebuilding and humanitarian functions, shall be further enhanced. The CSDP should complement and assist UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts through bridging, stabilisation and capacity-building missions (cf. ibidem). Whereas the EU can lead by example on global governance and shall act as agenda-shaper, connector, coordinator and facilitator, a network of players is needed to deliver. The use of the UN as a framework for the vast majority of global governance issues, cooperation with states and organisations as well as private sector and civil society are essential (cf. ibidem: 43). The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the UN in September 2015, are echoed by the EUGS. The EUGS advocates for the full implementation of the SDGs and strives for co-determination of the economic-political and eco-political rules in global trade, for instance by implementing trade agreements in line with the SDGs (cf. ibidem: 26-27). Assessing the Global Strategy The EUGS involves a wide spectrum of political issues from foreign, security and defence topics. This comprehensiveness, as well as its easy readability, is notable (cf. Kammel 2016: 4). However, precisely these characteristics may also be interpreted in a negative way since they indicate the document is kept intentionally vague. The more pragmatic and less ambitious writing style partly adds to that picture. This “principled pragmatism” (Tocci 2017: 494) has become the guideline of the Union’s external actions that will be (and has already been) complemented by concrete decisions and actions. EUGS implementation is being assessed each year, which means it can regularly be adapted to current needs (cf. Kammel 2016: 4- 5). One year after the presentation – on the basis of the EUGS implementation 49 report by the EU HRVP – the Member States took positive stock at a Council meeting in Luxembourg (cf. Council of the European Union 2017: 4). Kammel (cf. ibidem) finds that the EUGS is more interest-based than the ESS, but still lacks a clear differentiation between interests and values of external actors. Resilience as Leitmotif Resilience is a central element of the EUGS. Wagner and Anholt (2016) describe it as the EUGS’s new “leitmotif”31. Indeed, the ubiquity of resilience in the EUGS noticeable – especially in comparison with its total absence in the ESS. The rise of resilience in the EU’s foreign affairs strategy exemplifies how a more pragmatic view to conflicts has evolved – which is not limited only to the EU, as resilience has gained prominence in various international communities, ranging from UN agencies to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to international organisations such as the OECD (cf. ibidem: 418). Since resilience is an abstract term that can be defined and applied differently, resilience has been the object of criticism. One may, for example, provocatively ask whether resilience was just another buzzword without clear content (cf. Wagner/Anholt 2016: 422). However, the Commission’s report “Resilience in Practice” (2015) for instance has shown that it is exactly the fluidity that makes resilience a concept adaptable enough to be used in various contexts with various stakeholders (cf. ibidem: 422). The EUSG, therefore, intends to “support different paths of resilience” (EU HRVP 2016: 9), instancing governmental, economic, societal or climate/energy fragility. By prioritizing resilience, the EUSG – pragmatically and realistically – admits that not every crisis can be ward off by the EU (cf. Wagner/Anholt 2016: 424). However, the focus on resilience may minimise the harm done by such crises by building capacities and increasing the ownership of local communities and civil society organizations (cf. ibidem). Resilience as an investment in the interest of the Union’s citizens in the EUSG and as a concept that plays a role in different policy areas (cf. EU HRVP 2016: 9). Interestingly – other than with regard to enlargement policy – conditionality is not mentioned as a driver for resilience under the ENP. Indirectly the EUGS recognises the much more elusive direct leverage on resilience here while self-assertively stating that the “enduring power of attraction [of the Union] can spur transformation” (cf. ibidem). 31 “resilience/resilient” is mentioned no less than 40 times in the EUGS – which puts it ahead of “human rights” (31 times), “democratic/democracy/democratization” (23 times), and “human security” (4 times) (cf. Wagner/Anholt 2016: 414). 50 In 2017, a joint communication on “A Strategic Approach to Resilience in the EU’s external action” (EUROPEAN COMMISSION/EU HRVP 2017b) followed the policy framework provided by Art. 21 TEU. This approach proposes an improved risk analysis, a more dynamic monitoring, the integration of the resilience approach into EU programming and financing of external assistance as well as EU cooperation with multilateral and bilateral institutional partners (cf. ibidem). The EU’s resilience work will be directed towards the Humanitarian- Development Nexus in 2018 (cf. Werther-Pietsch et al. 2017: 52). Implementing a Comprehensive (Integrated) Approach Critiques argue that the EU’s comprehensive approach has been stuck at a technical level, but more comprehensiveness can only be reached within a political process – which is held back due to gaps between comprehensive approaches of the EU and EU member states (cf. Hauck/Rocca 2014: 14-15). Whereas the Lisbon Treaty has laid the legal framework for a more effective EU external action, “EU initiatives continue to lack sufficient coherence, coordination and complementarity in relation to the actions of individual EU member states” (ibidem: 14). The EUGS consequently calls for full implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. Especially that the element of permanent structured cooperation could bring forward new possibilities for further development of the CSDP (cf. Kammel 2016: 5). More comprehensiveness and effectiveness can only be reached through institutional and procedural developments (cf. ibidem). The concrete implementation steps, which are foreseen, to be laid down by partial strategies will show how effective the “integrated approach” can be (cf. ibidem). Such partial strategies are necessary since the final version Mogherini presented in June 2016 has been welcomed by the Council, but not adopted. Instead, the Council adopted a piecemeal approach by making conclusions on its implementation in the areas of Security and Defence in November 2016. Therefore, the implementation of the EUGS remains dependent on the willingness of both EU institutions and member states to take ownership of the document and turn vision into action (cf. Kammel 2016: 5). The European Neighbourhood Policy The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and its regional dimensions are attempts to bring the (Eastern) neighbourhood closer to the EU framework in terms of institutional, political, economic and legal aspects as well as to stabilise the countries involved. In order to avoid „drawing new dividing lines in Europe and to promote stability and prosperity within and beyond the new borders of the Union” (European Commission 2003: 4), the ENP was launched in 2003 and developed throughout 2003. It governs the relations with 16 of the Eastern and Southern neighbours of 51 the enlarged EU32. The ENP seeks to enhance the relations with the neighbourhood countries based on the shared values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights (cf. ibidem). The ENP seeks to foster cross-border as well as regional cooperation. Differentiation and positive conditionality were meant to encourage competition between the ENP countries, at the same time they were encouraged to progress at their own speed (cf. Marsh/Rees 2012: 134). Regional cooperation initiatives such as the Black Sea Synergy (since 2008) and the Eastern Partnership (EaP, since 2009) completed the actions in a more targeted manner (cf. Oproiu 2015: 28). Thus, Frank Schimmelfennig (2015: 18) concludes that the ENP “can easily be seen as a framework of Europeanization”: Designed by officials that had previously been in charge of enlargement, it applies a similar methodology and is based on the same principles: the EU’s commitment to promoting liberal values and norms beyond borders and the usage of political conditionality as the main instrument for the promotion of these norms (cf. ibidem). Furthermore, the planning, reporting and assistance mechanisms of the EU are modelled to those used for candidate countries (cf. Schimmelfennig 2015: 18). Schimmelfennig’s point here comprises precisely the elements why the concept of Europeanization must also be critically reviewed: it is based on the image of the West being superior with regards to values and developments (cf. Coman/Crespy 2014: 13), thus certainly not treating third countries on an equal footing. Furthermore, it is not only hard to measure the impact of Europeanization – the EU also lacks a “stick” to promote its values beyond its borders, particularly with regards to non-candidate countries. Without membership within sight, relying on conditionality is ambiguous in practice: “Participating in the ENP is [...] a long-term commitment, but because the end state is rather elusive, the conditionality is somewhat diluted and obtaining progress is slow and sometimes difficult” (Oproiu 2015: 28). Börzel et. al (cf. 2008: 14) point out that the ENP, being a policy falling in-between the development and enlargement policy, is limited by the absence of an actual membership perspective. While it attempts to externally induce modernisation and, to some extent, democratisation processes, it does not offer “the incentive that proved key in the enlargement process” (Börzel et al. 2008: 14). Similarly, Stefan Lehne (2014: 4) criticises that the ENP was based on the enlargement model while in fact being “a diluted version of the original without the promise of accession and with a much weaker commitment on the side of the EU” (cf. ibidem). 32 Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine (= the six countries within the Eastern Partnership); Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Moldova, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia. Russia is not part of the ENP, but takes part in Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) activities under the ENP. 52 While Gwendolyn Sasse (2008) agrees that the ENP’s weak conditionality may not lead to the short-time transformation of third countries, however, she underlines that this form of conditionality could positively impact on domestic political processes in the long run. According to her, it is exactly the indefiniteness of conditions and incentives that may attract traditionally Euro-sceptic actors in ENP countries “to approach the EU gradually and selectively” (Sasse 2008: 298). Conditionality is undoubtedly more concise in the EU’s relations with those countries that have started negotiating Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTA) or Visa Liberalisations. Since the development of closer ties with the EU can only be achieved by approximating the acquis, these EU policy instruments shift the relationship to a more hierarchical one (cf. Delcour 2013: 347- 349). Unlike previous free-trade agreements concluded with South Mediterranean partners, the EaP’s DCFTAs require legally binding commitments, making the DCFTAs “standardised and non-negotiable” (ibidem: 349). The EU’s approach towards the ENP countries is incentive-based. The “more for more”-principle was introduced by the first ENP review of 2011 (cf. European Commission press release 25.05.2011). This principle strengthened both conditionality and differentiation (cf. Schimmelfennig 2015: 18). In simple, the “more for more”-principle means that the more political will and commitment towards reforms the countries show, the more the EU enhances its relationship (cf. ibidem; cf. Oproiu 2015: 28). Stefan Lehne (2014: 10) criticised this approach, as the EU itself has not coherently followed it with regards to the Southern neighbourhood or Azerbaijan, where it must have meant “less for less” due to insufficient progress on democratic reforms. The ENP was again reviewed in 2015 (cf. European Commission Joint Communication 18.11.2015) to react to the developments made in the partner countries. This review was coordinated closely along the preparation of the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS). The European Commission itself admitted in this revision, that in cases when there is no political will, more effective ways have to be found to promote fundamental reforms, including civil, economic and social actors (cf. European Commission 2015: 5). The new approach introduced in 2015 aims at actions better targeted at the diverging aspirations of the partner countries and wants to support a greater sense of ownership and shared responsibility by involving them more in the working methods (cf. ibidem). To achieve that, a more effective pursuit of areas of mutual interest as well as greater flexibility in the EU policies and development funds is encompassed and envisioned (cf. ibidem). The ENP review (cf. European Commission/EU HRVP 2015: 4) proposes more differentiated relations with the partner countries, taking into account their aspirations and interests more fully. By focussing on fever priorities and establishing more tailor-made partnerships, both the involvement of member states in the 53 ENP and the feeling of ownership by partner countries should be increased (cf. ibidem). In order to counteract the criticism of the ENP as being an “offshoot of the enlargement process” (Lehne 2014: 11), where the European Commission is dominating and besides it only the EEAS is directly engaging with the ENP countries, the 2015 revision of the ENP envisages a greater involvement of the Council and Member States in setting priorities and in the implementation process, including joint programming (European Commission 2015: 5). Accordingly, consultations with ENP partner countries have been launched in 2016 to straighten out the individual levels of ambition in the relations with the EU (cf. European Commission/EU HRVP 2017a: 4). Joint bilateral documents such as Partnership Priorities, updated Association Agendas or existing Action Plans reflect common political priorities and have been used as a basis for the programming of the bilateral assistance programmes (Single Support Frameworks) under the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) for the period 2017-2020 (cf. ibidem). The programming is conducted in close cooperation with national authorities and includes all relevant stakeholders such as civil society, social partners, local and regional authorities and private sector organisations (cf. ibidem). Engagement in Georgia’s breakaway territories is also funded through ENI resources33. At the Riga Summit in 2015, four priorities for the Eastern Partnership have been set out and were reaffirmed at the EaP Summit in Brussels in November 2017: economic development and market opportunities; strengthening institutions and good governance; connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change; and mobility and people-to-people contacts (EEAS Riga Declaration: 2015). Along with these priorities, twenty deliverables were agreed on to be achieved by 2020 (cf. ibidem). These priorities have facilitated a more resultsoriented approach towards the EaP, focussing on strengthening state and societal resilience (cf. European Commission/EU HRVP 2017a: 8). In practice, the EaP engages with the societies and institutions of the partner countries through special frameworks, such as the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly34 or the CORELEAP35 framework (cf. European Commission/EU 33 The EU’s financial support to the breakaway regions will be further elaborated in the respective chapter, “Current EU Programmes in Abkhazia” (the EU does not have access to South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region). 34 Established in 2011, the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly is an inter-parliamentary forum composed of 110 members – 60 members of the European Parliament and 10 members representing each of the Parliaments of the Eastern European Partners (except for Belarus that does not currently have a delegation) – that forge closer political and economic ties with the EU. 35 The Conference of Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) was set up by the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in 2011 as a joint body of local and regional 54 HRVP 2017a: 10). In addition, the EaP Civil Society Forum and the national civil society platforms ensure a policy dialogue at all levels, including Association Committees and Panels and Platform activities and ministerial meetings. The implementation report points out that several meetings have been held under the EaP on topics such as health, justice and home affairs, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), environment and climate change, digital economy and research and innovation (cf. ibidem: 8-9). Establishing Relations with the South Caucasus The EEC, forerunner to the European Union, was among the first to recognise the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. To support the Newly Independent States (NIS), financial and technical assistance was provided through the TACIS36 programme (cf. Börzel et. al. 2008: 14). Subsequently, the EU’s relations with the TACIS countries were given a formal status through bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) (cf. ibidem: 15). In the case of the South Caucasus republics, these PCAs were offered in a „one size fits all approach” signed in 1996 and ratified in 1999 (cf. Chkhikvadze 2016; cf. Börzel et al. 2008: 15). By that time, the EU consisted of 12 Member States and the South Caucasus was geographically no border region of the Union, therefore the region was neither of immediate interest to the EU nor did the EU have a clear strategy towards the individual states (cf. Chikhvadze 2016). However, through the PCAs the EU established regular political dialogue and set down goals and conditionality criteria (cf. Börzel 2008: 15). While in these PCAs democracy and human rights were set as goals and subject to negative conditionality, good governance was not (cf. Börzel et al. 2008: 15). The main aim of the PCAs, which were complemented through the TACIS, was to support capacity building (cf. ibidem). After the completion of the Eastern Enlargement, interests shifted eastwards in line with the newly created external borders. The Southern Caucasus became a priority on the EU agenda not only in terms of security issues but also because of the need to diversify energy supplies (cf. Chkhikvadze 2016). Thus, the 2003 ESS highlighted the need to „take a stronger interest in the problems of the Southern Caucasus, which will in due course also be a neighbouring region” (EU Council authorities that represent the the local and regional authorities within the Eastern Partnership. It is composed of 36 members: 18 members from the European Committee of the Regions and 18 regional and local politicans from the six EaP countries. 36 TACIS=Technical Assistance for the Commonwealth of Independent States. The TACIS programme covered Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Russia; Mongolia joined the programme from 1993-2003. TACIS has, to the largest part, been replaced by the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2007. 55 2003: 7). In 2004, the Southern Caucasus countries were included in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), even though initially they had not been foreseen to be in the scope of this policy, as can be gleaned from the Commission’s initial Communication on Wider Europe of March 2003. However, the peaceful Rose Revolution in Georgia intensified the EU’s attention to the region (cf. Chkhikvadze 2016). Central to the ENP are the bilateral Action Plans between the EU and each ENP partner. These Action Plans set out an agenda of political and economic reforms with short and medium-term priorities of 3 to 5 years. To monitor these reforms, The European Commission under its own responsibility publishes annually progress reports. When reviewing the ENP in 2015, the Commission (2015: 5) determined that additional to regular reports that track developments in the neighbourhood, country-specific reports that focus on the respective goals agreed with each partner individually shall be published as a basis for political exchange of views in highlevel meetings such as Association/Cooperation Councils. Pursuant to the respective country’s performance, the fulfilment of the criteria can be subject to positive conditionality. Positive conditionality here could mean closer cooperation, for example, the simplification of visa regulations or the cut of trade restrictions (cf. Börzel et al. 2008: 15). In contrast, negative conditionality is not foreseen in the Action Plans, but the EU here refers to the common values in the respective clauses of the PCAs (cf. ibidem). In these Action Plans, good governance to a varying degree is an objective of the cooperation between the EU and the partner countries in the Southern Caucasus (cf. ibidem). The EU also started to require from partner countries’ governments to formulate and implement reform plans in cooperation with non-state actors and civil society organizations (cf. Börzel et al. 2008: 15; cf. European Commission 2004, European Commission 2006, European Commission 2007). The key role of civil society in terms of anti-corruption measures and human rights and democracy development has especially been highlighted in the ENP review of 2015 (cf. European Commission 2015: 5-7). In 2006, the European Parliament and the Council lay down general provisions establishing a European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) (Regulation (EC) No 1638/2006). Unlike TACIS, which was officially replaced by a financial instrument in January 2007, the ENPI explicitly involved transnational channels (cf. Art. 4c) and required the governments to “associate the relevant partners as appropriate, in particular at regional and local level, in the preparation, implementation and monitoring of programmes and projects” (cf. Art. 4d). Based on co-financing and on a cooperation partnership with the beneficiaries (cf. Art. 2), the introduction of the ENPI has also changed the delivery modality 56 of the EU’s development assistance (cf. Börzel et al. 2008: 16): Unlike TACIS’s, that had primarily focused on joint project management, the ENPI introduced a “sector-wide approach” and allocated funding by means of direct budgetary aid to the partner governments (cf. ibidem). The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) replaced the ENPI as the ENP’s main financial instrument for 2014-2020, with a budget of €15,4 billion (cf. Regulation (EU) 232/2014). Additional to good governance, democracy and the rule of law and human rights, three new joint priorities for cooperation have been identified, namely economic development for stabilisation, the security dimension and migration and mobility. The vast majority of ENI funding is used for bilateral cooperation in the framework of the ENP Action Plans. In addition, ENI funds also support regional, neighbourhood-wide and Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) programmes that complement the bilateral programmes. Civil society support is central to the ENP, therefore EU initiatives and programmes such as the ENI Civil Society Facility, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities in Development (CSO-LA) are targeted at strengthening and promoting the role of civil society actors in reform and democratisation processes. Twinning has offered cooperation between Public Administrations of the EU Member States and beneficiary countries that, through longer-term peer-to-peer activities, aims at upgrading the administrative capacities of the public administration of a partner country. Since TAIEX operations were extended to the Neighbourhood in 2006, the three South Caucasus countries are also beneficiaries of the EU’s instrument for Technical Assistance and Information Exchange. TAIEX helps partner countries to become acquainted with, apply and enforce EU law and monitors their progress in doing so. It delivers short-term technical assistance, advice and training mainly in three ways: through workshops, expert missions and study visits. TAIEX supports national administrations to get adapted to EU legislation and facilitates the sharing of best practices. TAIEX is used in a variety of fields, from agriculture and food safety to freedom, security and justice, environment, transport and telecommunication. In December 2008, the European Commission proposed to further strengthen the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) through the implementation of an “Eastern Partnership” (EaP) towards the six former Soviet countries Ukraine, Belarus, Moldavia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The European Council had prepared the proposal in June 2008. After the conflict in Georgia, the extraordinary European Council of 1st September 2008 asked the Commission to accelerate this work to counteract regional instability (cf. Council of the European Union 2008b). The EaP was officially launched at the first EaP summit on 57 7 May 2009 in Prague. The then Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, announced the launch of the EaP as follows: “This Partnership is built on common interests and shared values. It is a framework for a long-term relationship and engagement by the EU. The Partnership will bring additional support to our Eastern partners as they pursue their individual aspirations for closer relations with the EU, and in particular more help in carrying out jointly defined reforms. Our partners' approximation to EU standards in the political, economic and social spheres will bring all of us greater mobility, trade and increased prosperity. Work on the Partnership is already up and running, and the first multilateral meetings will be held next month” (Ferrero-Waldner, European Commission IP/09/700). Not surprisingly, by this time Russia’s attitude towards the EU’s regional cooperation in the East, which had been rather indifferent by the time of the launch of the ENP, changed for the worse (cf. Lehne 2014: 7). The EU goal was closer political cooperation through Association Agreements and closer economic association through Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTA). At the same time, the Russian Federation together with Kazakhstan and Belarus launched the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and invited Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to join this customs union (cf. ibidem: 7). This ultimately forced the countries to choose one side, since the European Commission found membership in the EEU was incompatible with having a DCFTA with the EU (cf. ibidem: 8). Making this decision meant to redefine priorities for the three Southern Caucasus countries. Stefan Lehne (cf. ibidem: 8) points out that with regards to trade policy, the Commission’s pressure was the right response – but in terms of geopolitics, it “contradicted the EU’s established approach of offering partners closer ties to the EU while encouraging them to maintain and develop their relations with Russia”. Eventually, in 2013, it became clear that when it comes to EU integration, the countries of the South Caucasus region follow different strategies. After having negotiated with the EU for three years, Armenia decided, “to make a U-turn” (Chkhikvadze 2016) and joined the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union instead of entering the EU-Armenia Association Agreement and a DCFTA. The vulnerability to Russian pressure is easily allegeable in the case of Armenia: having been isolated by Turkey since the war with Azerbaijan over the unsettled territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, they have become very much dependent on Russia for political and security reasons (cf. Hamilton/Meister 2016: 4). Aiming at preserving or strengthening its position as energy exporter without great external political intrusion, the ambitions of Azerbaijan to establish relations with the EU have remained much more ambiguous. Azerbaijan asked for a strategic partnership, which the EU found to be a too great concession. At the same 58 time, Azerbaijan did not enter negotiations for an Association Agreement offered to them (cf. Chkhikvadze 2016). Since Azerbaijan is not a member of the WTO, it is not qualified for a DCFTA. Actions such as a twinning project37 that supported Azerbaijan in modernizing the technical regulation and standardization system in Azerbaijan, aim at bringing it closer to EU and WTO standards. Out of the three Southern Caucasus republics, only Georgia38 finalised the negotiations on the Association Agreement, which fully entered into force on the 1st of July 2016. The instrument that governs EU-Georgian relations since then has been the Association Agenda that supersedes the ENP Action Plans. In the ENP review of 2015, the EU has announced to foster more flexible alternatives for those countries that do not wish to engage in a DCFTA, as to nevertheless promote integration and “strengthen trade and investment relations that reflect mutual interests” (cf. European Commission 2015: 8). Accordingly, negotiations on a new Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) were concluded with Armenia in February 2017 (cf. European Commission/HR 2017: 7) and signed in the margins of the Eastern Partnership Summit in November 2017. The EU's cooperation with Armenia focuses on economic and governance reforms aiming at strengthening the country's resilience and inclusive economic development (cf. ibidem). In April 2018, Serj Sargsyan, the former president (2008-2018) and, following the change from a presidential to a parliamentary system, prime minister (17th to 24th April 2018) stepped down after mass demonstrations (cf. Gorecki 2018). Opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan was elected prime minister on 8 May 2018 (cf. ibidem). Having been critical of Moscow and demanding a withdrawal from the Eurasian Union in 2017, Pashinyan underlined the necessity of a close alliance with Russia after his election (cf. ibidem), which both leaders confirmed at the Sochi summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) on 14 May 2018. Pashinyan is not part of the political elite stemming from Nagorno-Karabakh that has dominated the political leadership of the country before (cf. ibidem). This gives special importance to the relations with its protecting power Russia, since a continuation of the political chaos or worsened relations with its protecting power Russia might heat up the conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh (cf. ibidem). 37 Project title: „Support for the development of a modern system of standardization and technical regulations in Azerbaijan AZ/13/ENP/TR/26”. 38 Among the ENP countries, Moldova signed a DCFTA along with Georgia in 2013. Ukraine stepped back from signing the DCFTA in 2013, receiving a package of benefits by Russia including a lower gas price, projects for industrial cooperation, €11 billion worth of credit and the elimination of trade sanctions (cf. Lehne 2014: 8). An Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine was finally signed on 27 June 2014 and the DCFTA became operational on 1 January 2016. 59 In February 2017, following the principles endorsed in the 2015 ENP review, negotiations on a comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan were launched. This new agreement shall replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which has been in force since 1999 (cf. European Commission/HR 2017: 7). The EU remains committed to strengthening the cooperation with Azerbaijan including economic development, connectivity and civil society support (cf. ibidem). In the Joint Declaration of the Eastern Partnership Summit in November 2017, the good progress in the ongoing negotiations for a new framework agreement was welcomed (cf. Council of the EU 2017a: 4). Further cooperation between the EU and the South Caucasus countries exist in the fields of education, research and culture. All three countries are Erasmus+ Region 2 partner countries. In 2016, both Georgia and Armenia became associated to Horizon 2020, which makes them participate in the EU’s research and innovation programme under the same conditions39 as EU Member States. After which Georgia joined the EU’s culture and media programme Creative Europe in March 2015, Armenia did so three years later. Georgia as a Model Student After the Cold War, former Soviet countries have struggled with their Soviet legacy of systemic corruption, politically captive judiciaries, distorted markets, inefficient bureaucracies, and informal networks fostering nepotism and prerogative. Georgia became a ‘momentocracy’ (Hamilton/Meister 2016: 4), which means a regime in the hands of a handful of oligarchs who „used state structures to enrich themselves while leaving their economies in ruins, their governing institutions bankrupt and their citizens in dire need” (ibidem). However, fuelled by the anger of its citizens, the Rose revolution in 2003 changed Georgia’s political landscape. After the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze, Mikheil Saakashvili was elected in the extraordinary presidential election in January 2004 by 96,24% (cf. OSCE/ODIHR 2004: 20). Turning Anti-Russian, Saakashvili enabled rigorous economic and administrative reforms and oriented West (cf. Hamilton/Meister 2016: 4). One field in which Georgia has made excellent progress is in the fight against corruption. By 2004, Georgia was one of the most corrupt countries in the world – the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Georgia 136th out of 145 countries. In 2012, Georgia was ranked 51th out of 174 countries – among the post-Soviet countries, only Lithuania and Estonia performed better. In 2017, Georgia reached the 46th rank out of 180 countries. This development is especially striking when comparing the results with its South Caucasian neighbours: In 2004, Azerbaijan was ranked 140th – only slightly behind 39 Association to Horizon 2020 is governed by Article 7 of the Horizon 2020 Regulation (EU) No 1291/2013. 60 Georgia – and Armenia being the “forerunner” on rank 82. In 2012, Azerbaijan’s result was constant (139th), while Armenia’s CPI, ranked 105th, had deteriorated. The 2017 CPI lists Azerbaijan 122nd and Armenia 107th. An important measure taken against corruption was the radical police sector reform in the years 2004-2006. The corrupted police sector was restructured from scratch by Mikheil Saakashvili: He dismissed every single uniformed police officer in the country and hired new staff which had to undergo interviews and a physical test (cf. Devlin 2010: 6). The new officers had to be trained within a minimum period of time40 – the OSCE, as well as the EU’s Rule of Law Programme, assisted in the training initiative (cf. ibidem). With supplementary funding by EU Governments, the UNDP and a Soros Foundation, the low police salaries were increased41 to disincentives bribery (cf. ibidem: 6-8). Furthermore, traffic fees were no longer paid to police officers directly, but had to be transferred to a bank account (cf. ibidem: 7). These measures have been successful in regaining public trust: While the police force had been among the most despised institutions in Georgia in 2003, it ranked the third most popular institution in 2009, right after the Orthodox Church and the army (cf. ibidem: 10). With all the enthusiasm for Georgia’s CPI rankings that show the overall positive trend in Georgia’s fight against corruption, one must not disregard the fact that this has mainly been reached by tackling petty corruption (cf. Hamilton/Meister 2016: 27). High-level corruption, however, remains a problem (cf. ibidem). In the World Bank’s June 2017 Doing Business ranking of 190 economies, Georgia ranks 9th in the category “Ease of Doing Business” (a category in which EU countries on average rank 34th) and 4th in the category “Starting a Business” (EU average: 56th). Starting a business in Georgia is especially easy due to bureaucratic reforms and the creation of Public Service Halls. Invented within the Ministry of Justice and inspired by the banking sector, the Public Service Halls – also known as Justice Houses – have been put to work since 2011 (cf. Devdariani 2017). The largest and most famous Public Service Hall opened in 2012 in Tbilisi and is affectionately called “Mushroom” by locals thanks to its special architecture. By the end of 2017, the 20th Public Service Hall in Georgia was opened (cf. Government of Georgia: n. d.). Public Service Halls offer all services provided by the Georgian Ministry of Justice through a one-stop-shop principle, regardless of the customer’s place of residence or the location of the property in question (cf. Government of Georgia: n. d.). This means a customer can go to any Public Service Hall and handle matters 40 The initial 2-week training was extended to six weeks, and later to 12 (cf. Devlin 2010: 6). 41 One police officer, cited in Devlin’s paper, recalls: “When I started to work here, my salary was, whatever, like $50 or something, and I was getting a supplement of $900 from the fund” (Devlin 2010: 8). 61 from business registration to the issuing of passports and ID to civil registration services such as marriage or adoption under one roof. The innovative concept received a UN Public Service Award in 2012 and has, beyond offering a single window for public services, focused on digitizing and merging back-office functions across various sectors, making the services more efficient and less time-consuming (cf. Devdariani 2017). One recent development is the so-called JUSTdrive service the Tbilisi Public Service Hall offers. The name speaks for itself: JUSTdrive is a drive-in service that provides customers with a number of documents such as passports or birth certificates while they do not even have to leave their cars (cf. Government of Georgia: n. d.). Both the implementation of a modern one-stop-shop in administration as well as the effective fight against corruption make Georgia a frontrunner among the EaP countries. The Kremlin’s View on EU Integration of Post-Soviet Countries By the time the ENP was launched, Russia did not see the EU as a serious security actor in the post-Soviet space. Opposed to the U.S. and the NATO, whose actions were observed with the utmost caution, the EU’s ENP was waved aside as it seemed to have a very general nature (cf. Hamilton/Meister 2016: 17). At the beginning of the 2000s, Russia sought for a strategic partnership with the EU for its own modernization. It did not counteract the EU’s expansion like it opposed that of NATO (cf. Hamilton/Meister 2016: 17). The view of the EU as a weak security actor having a low profile in the post-Soviet space changed in 2008 (cf. ibidem). When the relations between Russia, the U.S. and NATO deteriorated over NATO’s planned expansion to Georgia and Ukraine, Kosovo’s independence and finally the war in Georgia, “the EU’s shift to hard-law integration under the Eastern Partnership was understood in Moscow as a bold and potentially destabilizing initiative” (Hamilton/Meister 2016: 17). Russia interpreted the shift towards integration of EU law and the EU’s internal market through the DCFTAs and the Association Agreements as a means to decline in the countries’ boundaries to Moscow (cf. Hamilton/Meister 2016: 18). “The regime has thus come to view the EU as a threat to Moscow’s position in the region and even its hold on power at home” (ibidem). With the EaP, the EU has begun to change the political, social, economic and political landscape and triggered reform debates, which cumulated in the Rose and the Orange revolutions (cf. ibidem). These events “set off alarm bells [...] because they signalled waning Russian influence and growing Western influence in the region” (Hamilton/Meister 2016: 18). Since the hegemony over the post-Soviet space is seen by Putin as a foundation of Russia’s power, the interventions in Georgia and Ukraine were the Kremlin’s answer to growing Western influence (cf. ibidem: 16). It is an open question 62 whether and how a harsher Western response to the 2008 war and especially to the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia might have changed Russia’s approach towards the common neighbourhood afterwards. One might argue that imposition of sanctions after the interventions in Georgia, similar in form and size to those imposed in 2014, could have prevented the annexation of the Crimea and Western Ukraine – others might, on the contrary, claim it could also have worsened the situation. Excursus: Information and Actions against Disinformation In order to strengthen the visibility of EU cooperation programmes and highlighting the EU’s efforts in supporting the ENP countries, campaigns such as the EU Neighbours web portal42 have been established. The web portal contains information and publications about the ENP as well as news on the EU-country relations. Practical information about the impact on the life of citizens of EU actions – such as the Visa Liberalisation or the Association Agreements with Georgia – are explained in the respective country sectors of the portal. All content is available in English and Russian. Some of the publications, such as the “Factsheet on myths about the Eastern Partnership” (2017), directly react to disinformation. The threat of online disinformation and fake news campaigns – especially driven by Russia – has recently received increased attention. Russia views the spread of disinformation and fake news as a legitimate non-military measure to achieve its own political goals and create divisions in and about the West (cf. Benková 2018: 1). The forms of disinformation campaigns are manifold and do not only come from big media outlets like RT or Sputnik but also marginal fringe websites, blog sites and Facebook pages (cf. ibidem). Often, “trolls” are deployed to strengthen their reach (cf. ibidem). At the European Council meeting on 19 and 20 March, 2015, the East Strategic Communication (East StratCom) Task Force has been proposed (cf. European Council 2015: 5). East StratCom has been set up under the European External Action Service (EEAS) to counteract Russian disinformation campaigns and enhance effective communication of EU policies in the region. It collects examples of pro-Kremlin false information articles within the Union and its Eastern Neighbourhood (East StratCom). One of the actions of StratCom was the set-up of an “EU vs. Disinfo” website43 where weekly disinformation reviews are published. According to the Commission’s security chief Julian King, who speaks of an “orchestrated propaganda campaign by the Russian government”, the East Strat- Com has collected 3500 examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation within its first two years (cf. Stone 2018). However, since the team comprises of only 14 people 42 http://www.euneighbours.eu/en/east/eu-in-action [07.02.2018]. 43 https://euvsdisinfo.eu/ [07.12.2018]. 63 and relies on a network of volunteers, a far greater number is to be expected (cf. Bentzen 2017). The need to take enhanced action against disinformation has been confirmed by a report of the High-Level Group on Fake News and Online Disinformation that was published in March 2018 (cf. European Commission 2018). As a result, the European Commission in April proposed measures to tackle online disinformation, including inter alia an EU-wide Code of Practice on Disinformation (to be published by July 2018) and support for an independent network of European fact-checkers (cf. European Commission 2018). In December 2018, the Commission will evaluate the actions taken and examine further needs (cf. ibidem). The EU has also been active in media monitoring ahead of elections. Launched in 2010, EU/UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) media monitoring has contributed to media research during six elections in Georgia between 2010 and 2017. In June 2018, media monitoring ahead of Georgia’s Presidential elections has started (cf. EEAS 2018). Disinformation or a lack of information is especially prominent in the de facto states where access to information is severely limited and Russia plays a dominant role on the media market (cf. also Hammarberg/Grono 2017: 28-29). In Abkhazia, the discourse of Abkhazia being the “undeserving victim of a policy of isolation by the EU” (de Waal 2017) persists, even though the EU there (unlike in the much more isolated South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region) has financed and realised projects. However, the visibility of these actions remains low (cf. ibidem). Accordingly, there is little awareness among residents and even some de facto officials that the Union is investing in their region (cf. de Waal 2017). The realisation of a European Information House in Abkhazia that could counteract these shortcomings was indefinitely postponed when the 2008 war occurred and has still not been implemented (cf. ibidem).

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Abstract

Protracted conflicts with and over de facto independent entities such as the Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region in Georgia endanger the region’s sustainable and peaceful development. Anna Steiner examines Georgia’s breakaway regions in the context of EU policies – a highly topical, yet unresolved matter.

Relations between Georgia and the EU have significantly deepened within the last ten years (Association Agreement, DCFTA, Visa Liberalisation). The present book closes a scientific gap by reviewing the NREP in the light of these developments. Using a profound literature basis and expert interviews, the authorsheds light on EU-Russian relations, the politico-normative framework of EU-Georgian relations, neighbourhood relations and applicable governance concepts. Realistic proposals for a future EU approach make this book a guideline for diplomatic engage­ment.