Andras Racz

Address: Hungarian Institute of International Affairs

11-13, Berc utca
H-1016 Budapest,
Telephone: 0036 30 485 1190


The European Neighbourhood Policy towards Eastern Europe – The Perspective of the Neighbours

The European Neighbourhood Policy towards Eastern Europe – The Perspective of the Neighbours Aim of the project The aim of the research project is two-fold. First, the applicant intends to conduct an in-depth analysis on the perception of the neighbourhood policy of the EU in the affected Eastern European countries, namely in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. This will include not only the governmental-level answers and reactions given to the various EU policies and initiatives, but also the reactions of the academic sphere and the civil society as well. What makes the work especially complicated is the presence of deep internal divisions in all three countries to be studied: the Transnistrian conflict in Moldova, the struggle between the government and the democratic opposition in Belarus, and the well-known West-East breaking lines inside Ukraine. As a result of these divisions, the sides have completely different EU perceptions, which makes it really complicated for the Union to develop policies enjoying nation-wide support in these countries. The second objective of the project is closely related to this problem. Besides studying the national perspectives, the applicant also intends to conduct a comparative analysis of them. He intends to explore the common elements, the similarities and differences in order to draw such conclusions, which would apply not only to the bilateral relations of the EU with the mentioned countries, but on the whole ENP towards Eastern Europe as well. Research questions The research questions to be answered are the following, divided according to the above stated two main objectives: Objective 1: -What are the tendencies of change in the governmental approaches towards the EU and especially towards its neighbourhood policy? How dependent are they on the developments of the domestic politics and of the national foreign policies? -How do the main dividing lines in the studied countries influence the perception of the EU as a foreign policy actor? What are the differences in the opinion of the various parties and sides? How are the societies’ EU-related needs and expectations channelled into the national decision-making systems of the affected countries? -What is the overall perception of the EU as a foreign policy partner in the societies of the countries studied, especially in the civil sphere? What are the national governments doing in order to influence (improve or worsen) this image? How effective are these policies? Does the EU have any tools to actively influence the society’s opinion? Objective 2: -What are the main tendencies of changes in the general perception of the EU in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova? Are there any visible expectations being present in all three countries? If so, what are these and what should be the answers given to them? -Is it more beneficial to seek an EU-level answer to these needs and expectations, or is it more fruitful to improve the national policies of the member states towards Eastern Europe and give bilateral reactions? What are the opinions on these questions in the Eastern neighbourhood? Target group The main target group of the project are the policymakers both inside and outside the European Union being involved in ENP-related discussions. The project aims at giving practical advices and recommendations embedded in a solid general theoretical framework. The applicant intends to channel in the results of the projects to the decision-making via the contacts of the base institution, the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs. Besides, the results might be worth of attention also for the academic and research community studying either the Europeanization processes or the foreign policies of the post-Soviet region. Methodology This study will rely on both primary and secondary sources of information. The project will start with an initial in-depth library research, during which detailed press and public discussion analyses will be added to the processing of various relevant governmental documents and communications both from the EU and from the Eastern neighbourhood. Following this preliminary theoretical work, field research trips will be conducted to all target countries, in timely order to Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine. The findings of these field trips will be integrated to the final research report. Primary sources The primary sources used for the research will be first the relevant laws and other regulations concerning both the foreign and security policies of the EU towards the region (including the ENP) and the national policy answers and reactions given to this. Other relevant governmental documents, such as statements, official presentations and speeches will be utilized as well. In addition to these, during the planned field trips the applicant will conduct numerous interviews both with government officials, academic researchers and with representatives of the civil sphere as well. Secondary sources The main secondary sources will be the material available in the library of both in the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs and in the libraries and archives of the three host institutions the applicant intends to visit. The internet will also be widely used in order to gather and process the relevant studies written both by experts from the EU and from Eastern Europe. Background The foreign and security policy of the European Union is a complex, multi-layered policy approach, covering a huge number of issues and using various tools and methods. It exceeds the frameworks of the traditional three-pillar structure, as the foreign policy of the EU as a whole cannot be separated from the national foreign policies and interests of the individual member states - of which the foreign policy of the Union is derived via the intergovernmental decision-making mechanisms used in related issues. Consequently, the EU as a whole still cannot have an integrated, unified foreign policy – the Union can represent only the largest common divisor of the member states’ foreign policies. Even the competencies are not defined clearly. Theoretically, the questions of foreign and security policy pertain to the second pillar, thus to the intergovernmental European Council. However, all the economic tools of the foreign policy (export regulations, custom policies, sanctions, etc.) belong to the first, integrated, supranational pillar, led by the European Commission. Thus, the structure by definition separates the traditional foreign policy to foreign trade, belonging to the first pillar and to security policy, which is under the control of the Council. This dichotomy affects the whole foreign policy of the EU, thus the relations to Eastern Europe as well. The Eastern European countries having been parts of the former Soviet Union (thus Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova), are in a special position concerning the interests and possibilities of the European Union in the region. The strategic importance of maintaining a balanced relationship with Russia (being the sole largest energy supplier of Europe, having an average share of 25% in natural gas import, which is expected to grow to approx. 40% to 2015) highly limits the EU’s ability to be a visible foreign policy actor, while Russia still perceives the mentioned three countries belonging to its own sphere of influence, and has a number of political and economical levers to pursue its own interests in a much more effective way than the EU is able to do. The European Neighbourhood Policy in the Eastern neighbourhood The adoption of the Strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy document in December 2006 seemed to enhance the efficiency of the Union’s foreign policy towards its neighbours. However, even the renewed approach is a subject of criticism , due to the still insufficient consistency and to certain institutional weaknesses. It is a declared strategic objective of the European Union to have a ring of countries around ‘sharing the EU’s fundamental values and objectives’ and Brussels has a number of initiatives towards the region in order to achieve this goal. However, very limited research attention is paid to the other side, e.g. to the neighbours, who are subjects of these initiatives. There are many reasons resulting in having such a ‘black hole’ in the research: the different cultural standards, the geographical distance, the language barrier and the overall limited interest in these relatively far away, politically less stable and economically seriously underdeveloped regions. Another problem is that for most of its initiatives, the EU needs a government as a partner, which makes it extremely complicated for the Union to effectively support non-state actors (such as the opposition in Belarus ), or to negotiate with quasi-states (for example in the case of ‘Transnistria’ ). In addition to these, the state-level actors in the region are either weak, such as the political system of Ukraine, or are explicitly opposed to the stabilization and democratization-related intentions of the Union, like the authoritarian regime of Belarus. All in all, the ’available’ governments in the region are far from being the ideal partners for the EU, especially because the changes the Union intends to achieve are related to the transformation of the society as a whole and not only of the governments. Most of the objectives, such as establishing a functioning civil sector, strengthening the rule of law and increasing transparency in the judicial system require an approach which is able to address effectively the society as a multi-layered complex and not only individual actors of it. Moreover, one has to recognize that as the most effective foreign policy tool of the European integration up to now, namely the membership promise cannot be granted to the Eastern neighbours, other elements of motivation are necessary to be found in order to keep the Europeanization processes in the neighbourhood going on. However, in the highly divided societies of Ukraine and Moldova, it is extremely challenging to find such common objectives and goals, which are suitable for all the political actors, even if one takes only the democratic ones: the approach towards the EU is completely different in the pro-Western side of Ukraine than in the Russia-oriented Eastern regions. Similar divisions can be observed between the ethnically Russian and Moldovan-Romanian parts of the population in Moldova. Hence it is of essential importance to deepen our knowledge on the perception of certain EU policies in the Eastern European societies, in order to find the most effective ways to induce the transformation processes being in the interest of the Union. This is especially true in the light of the recently re-started process of developing a new EU treaty. The on-going institutional reforms will hopefully enable the EU to be a more visible foreign policy actor. However, in order to use the strengthened capabilities as effectively as possible, more detailed knowledge is necessary on the subject countries as well. This applies especially to the Eastern neighbourhood of the EU, where the Union has only a country-specific neighbourhood policy, but lacks an overall political framework applying for all the three (or six, together with the states of the South-Caucasus) countries. Though the academic sphere argues for such a reform of the neighbourhood policy for quite a long time, up to now only limited results were achieved. Therefore the possibility of channelling in new experiences and suggestions is still open. Working programme and time schedule The project has a proposed duration of 18 month, and is composed of three main research phases. Phases: Phase 1. October 2008 – January 2009: Preliminary analysis of the relevant primary and secondary sources Phase 2. -February-April 2009: Field trip (1 month) to Moldova and analysis of the results -May-July 2009: Field trip (1 month) to Belarus and analysis of the results -August – November 2009: Field trip to Ukraine (2 months) and analysis of the results Phase 3. December 2009 – March 2010: Summarizing the results of Phase 1 and 2, and writing the final paper.




András Rácz Ph.D.

Western-NIS region, EU Foreign and Security Policy, ENP, Hungarian foreign and security policy






Over 40 conferences, in Hungary and abroad (Paris, Vienna, Prague, Kiev, Chernivtsi, Chisinau, Cluj-Napoca, Krakow, Krynica-Zdrój, Vilnius, Tallinn, Riga, Lund, Stockholm, St.Petersburg)




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