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Eastern Partnership: How To Re-engage The Six Member Countries?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] N [/yt_dropcap]owadays, the crucial question is based on what we expect from the EaP program in terms of implementation of its possible action framework in conjunction with partner countries. Does it fail or thrive in future expectancy?!

– It would be needed to cite that ENP is a deep-seated groundwork of the implementation of reforms and guarantee of democratic rules and norms within the framework of international law in regard to the partner countries However, the arduous processes of the world order compel the EU to change its basic principles, the way of strategy, positions as well as instruments by taking into account the different stances of partner countries. Here, the EU first and foremost should have to take the Russian keen attitudes and intentions into account in advance and persuade Russia to get rid of zero sum approach. Today, the prevention of “weaknesses” of the EU instruments demands the foundation of many-sided, rational rules and principles, completion of internal restructuring based on the comprehensive or multilateral approach. Hence, the question comes to forward that how to reset the Eastern Partnership program in respect for six partner countries. What are the pivotal panaceas in this way that should have to be undertaken by the EU to re-engage six partner countries?- The essay will investigate the possible solutions and give main ailments in order to reset EAP program, generally Eastern Neighbourhood Policy by taking into consideration the partner countries.

The implementation of smart diplomacy: avoiding winning the East, and beating Russia. From the historical course, it is ostensible that EU interests have collided with Russian genius affinities in the region. Although the EU has geographical proximity with the partner countries to influence these countries constantly, however, this closeness does not mean that EU is a strong and balanced capability of meddling into the region sufficiently. Furthermore, geographical nearness is a weak indicator to take decisive actions towards EaP countries compare to Russia. Therefore, opting for containment strategy rather than engagement toward Russia is more likely to be very costly for the EU. On the other hand, the EU should have to understand its possible interests in these countries and understanding that why the EU established EaP programme and what do partner countries mean for it. Yet, there is a potential danger that in some way EU has launched the Eastern partnership programme to involve these countries into the Union and isolate Russia away from the region. In some way, EU has used the Eap programme as a strategy against Russia and today, it has to avoid using this programme as a strategy against Russia. It is a fact that during the onset of ENP, Russia had also huge enthusiasm to join in it, however upon the commencement of EaP programme; Russia began to demonstrate assertive and intense actions against the EU, and saw it as a threat to its interests in the region and as a response to the EU, launched the Eurasian Economic Union in 2011 by involving Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan. Therefore, Russia yet does not want to give all oily sides of meat to the EU in terms of partner countries. So, what is a major solution for the reengagement of partner countries is to choose positive sum strategy rather than a zero-sum game.

First and foremost, EU policy should be shaped around major challenges and obstacles stemming from these countries rather than the Russian factor. As mentioned in Riga summit, EaP programme does not have to be against anyone and bearing in mind that should not irritate Russia. Second of all, the EU should not create the chance of choice with Russia that partner countries have to make a choice between Russia and the EU. It is more likely away from reality. The real thing is that if the EU takes a choice strategy, it put high cost on the EU, the reason is that EaP countries understand well that getting away from Russia and choose only the EU can cause high price for them in face of Russian intense action that it threatened trade sanctions, energy supply interruptions, and security retaliation against these countries. Another point is to select engagement rather than containment towards Russia in the region. Hence, it put demands on the EU to change its role theory and strategy toward Russia. Russia can be a reliable partner for the EU rather than a regional antagonist. According to the strategy of diplomacy by Hans Morgenthau, diplomacy is a technique to take into consideration not only the interests of one side but also another side, by doing so is to make a possible deal between them. By taking into account this paradigm, the EU has a broad potential to make an engagement with Russia in the region and should have to avoid using the EaP programme as a mechanism against Russia. If the EU again does not keep a meal on bones Russia will absolutely expose its antagonist actions and maneuvers against the EU, and it is less likely to be beneficial for both EU as well as partner countries. Consequently, EU needs to not only do opt for smart diplomacy and values-oriented version of geopolitics but also to continue to engage with Russia through effective offers of regional collaboration and inclusive trade arrangements in order to persuade it to overcome its zero-sum approach.

Conditionality problem: Effective and flexible conditionality rather than heavy mechanic conditionality. It is a reality that heavy conditionality over partner countries is less likely to bring benefits to EU. In fact, EU from the beginning was selective and inconsistent while applying conditionality. Regardless its heavy mechanic conditionality, for instance, Belarus still keeping its authoritarian regime got the full dosage of sanctions and rejections of the most beneficial actions of ENP. According to Azerbaijan, in spite of its high-level abuse of human rights, it does not have in mind to gain crucial benefits from the EU. However, Azerbaijan as a reliable partner has a huge role in the European energy policy.   If it gets accession to the EU market by fulfilling the mechanism of conditionality, it can get extensive gains and profits by participating in the EU energy market. However, Azerbaijan does not take into consideration the lack of democracy, violation of human rights, corruption and other possible problems within its domestic policy. Therefore, the heavy conditionality is not a potential approach, in turn, it impedes to develop actions in partner states. From the experience, it is shown that ENP mechanistic approach will not work and taking conditionality as a core action of foreign policy at the theory and not implementing it sufficiently in practice undermines the EU credibility and consistency.

The idea of differentiation: the development of multiple neighborhood policies rather than a single set of standards. Today, the EU realizes that the optimal approach toward the partner countries is not the implementation of a single set of neighborhood policy. If it is so, EU has to opt for the multiple neighborhood policies rather than single one. The main reason to choose multiple sets of standards rests on the big differences among partner states in terms of levels of their economic development, their cultural and historical backgrounds to their political systems and orientations regardless their geographical closeness. There is also vast divergences among their stances and interests toward the EU. For example, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine are more inclined to pro-Western activities and has vital interests on the cooperation with EU compare to Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Belarus. (See annex below) Therefore, to develop a single conceptual framework is not applicable to such diverse countries and EU has to try to implement the idea of differentiation and multiple neighborhood policies toward individual member countries by taking into account their needs, circumstances, and aspirations.

The strategic change: Focussing more on the involvement of partner countries rather than Eurocentric impression and lofty objectives. The one of the main reason of shortcomings in the EU policy premises on its technocratic approach toward partner countries (it can also include other neighborhood countries). This bureaucratic attitude gives little chance of participation and engagement with different communities of EaP countries. The major false engenders from the merely focussing on the enlargement policy of EU that does not give an extensive place for the countries to be involved in the strategic thinking. A technocratic aspect of EU foreign policy is less likely to improve its broad thinking in the way that what the EU really wants to achieve from this cooperation with partner states. In order to re-engage the following countries aforementioned before first and foremost the EU need to solve the coherence problem, otherwise, its Eurocentric attitude will prevail over partner countries and hinder the progress of them. Before the inception of ENP, European Commission president Romano Prodi stated that the EU would share “everything but institutions… Major false comes from this approach. Thereby, EU should have to remove its lofty objectives and Eurocentric attitude towards the partner countries and pave the way for them to involve and engage in the implementation of different policies with the EU.

More pliable reforms and development of civil society. The most effective policy to re-engage six partner countries is to support flexible both political and economic reforms in EaP countries. In fact, the processes of reform can strengthen the state resilience of EaP countries. As a result of reform processes, the establishment of well-functioning institutions could be able to give these countries more solid de facto sovereignty and the self-assurance to choose their own forms of strategic policy. Simultaneously, the development of civil society could boost the reengagement policy in these countries. Currently, the major obstacles are dealing with the less development of a civil society that impedes the progress and leaves them behind in foreign policy issues. The progress of civil society premising on civil and political society dynamics is the optimal chance for the EU to reset and then strengthen their cooperation with partner countries. Therefore, the creation of a truly democratic environment is tied to people’s ability to internalize democratic values, which, in turn, is closely tied to the growth of a civil society and a mutual compromise between state and society.

The deep analysis of research revealed the consequence that…

Nowadays, the challenges that EU faces is unavoidable. In order to tackle the problems that the EU is facing first and foremost, it should have to undertake crucial responsibilities and duties concerning the rational arrangement or the strengthening of regional, mainly sub-regional relations with partner countries. Today, the EU should have to avoid Eurocentric illusion if it needs more close and transparent relations with partner countries. The unified or single set of values and standards has already failed; therefore the EU has to subject to the comprehensive approach that will be able to respond the different positions and interests of partner countries. In fact, the EU needs to adjust the set of values, incentives, and priorities of democracy in each partner country by taking into account the particular situation. Thereby, the EU is in the utmost need of a stronger and more integrated voice on this issue to re-engage member countries. The disparities between “state and society” should have to be eliminated in six partner countries, because the seeds of the democratic changes have always engendered within society, furthermore, they have to engage in the rational reforms and do these initiatives adequately. By doing so, the EU not only can be able to achieve its goals toward partner countries but also implement gradually its foreign policy instruments.

Ms. Nargiz Hajiyeva is an independent researcher from Azerbaijan. She is an honored graduate student of Vytautas Magnus University and Institute D'etudes de Politique de Grenoble, Sciences PO. She got a Bachelor degree with the distinction diploma at Baku State University from International Relations and Diplomacy programme. Her main research fields concern on international security and foreign policy issues, energy security, cultural and political history, global political economy and international public law. She worked as an independent researcher at Corvinus University of Budapest, Cold War History Research Center. She is a successful participator of International Student Essay Contest, Stimson Institute, titled “how to prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons”, held by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School and an honored alumnus of European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw Poland. Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as a Chief Adviser and First Responsible Chairman in International and Legal Affairs at the Executive Power of Ganja. At that time, she was defined to the position of Chief Economist at the Heydar Aliyev Center. In 2017, Ms. Hajiyeva has worked as an independent diplomatic researcher at International Relations Institute of Prague under the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Czech Republic. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral studies in Political Sciences and International Relations programme in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Eastern Europe

As Georgians Fight Each Other, Russia Gleefully Looks On

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Earlier today, the leader of Georgia’s major opposition party – United National Movement (UNM) – was detained at his party headquarters by government security forces, the most recent escalation in a drawn-out political crisis. This could well be the beginning of a new troubled period in the country’s internal dynamics, with repercussions for the country’s foreign policy.

The optics favor the opposition. Images of armed and armored police storming UNM’s headquarters was damaging to the ruling party, Georgian Dream (GD). Western diplomats expressed grave concern over the events and their repercussions. Protests have been called, and will likely be covered closely in Western media.

What comes next, however, is not clear.

Much will depend on what long-term vision for the country the opposition can articulate in the aftermath of the most recent events. It was not that long ago that UNM was declining as a political force in Georgian politics. There is a real opportunity here. But the burden is on the opposition to make a play for the loyalty of voters beyond its circle of already-convinced supporters.

Appealing to ordinary Georgian voters is ultimately the key to resolving the crisis. Beyond the intra-party clashes about the legitimacy of the most recent elections, there is a growing chasm between political elites and the challenges faced by people in their daily lives. And tackling these challenges successfully will not be easy.

Both the ruling party and the opposition have been facing declining support from the public at large. Long-term economic problems, which have been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic, have not been credibly addressed by either side. Instead of solutions, both sides have engaged in political theatrics. For many voters, the current crisis is more about a struggle for political power, rather than about democracy and the economic development of the country. No wonder that most people consider their social and economic human rights to have been violated for decades no matter which party is in power. These attitudes help explain high abstention rates during the most recent election. Despite remarkable successes in the early years after the Rose Revolution, Georgia has lacked a long-term policy for reimagining its fragile economy since its independence and the disastrous conflicts of the 1990s.

None of this, however, should minimize the threats to Georgian struggling democracy. Today’s arrests reinforce a longstanding trend in Georgian politics: the belief that the ruling party always stands above the law. This was the case with Eduard Shevardnadze, Mikheil Saakashvili, and is now the case with the current government. For less politically engaged citizens, plus ça change: Georgian political elites for the last 30 years have all ended up behaving the same way, they say. That kind of cynicism is especially toxic to the establishment of healthy democratic norms.

The crisis also has a broader, regional dimension. The South Caucasus features two small and extremely fragile democracies – Armenia and Georgia. The former took a major hit last year, with its dependence on Moscow growing following Yerevan’s defeat in the Second Karabakh War. Today, Russia is much better positioned to roll back any reformist agenda Armenians may want to enact. Armenia’s current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has been weakened, and easily staged protests are an easy way to keep him in line.

Georgia faces similar challenges. At a time when Washington and Brussels are patching things up after four years of Trump, and the Biden administration vigorously reiterates its support for NATO, Georgia’s woes are a boon for Moscow. Chaos at the top weakens Georgia’s international standing and undermines its hopes for NATO and EU membership. And internal deadlock not only makes Georgia seem like a basket-case but also makes a breakthrough on economic matters ever more unlikely. Without a serious course correction, international attention will inevitably drift away.

At the end of the day, democracy is about a lot more than finding an intra-party consensus or even securing a modus vivendi in a deeply polarized society. It is about moving beyond the push-and-pull of everyday politics and addressing the everyday needs of the people. No party has risen to the occasion yet. Georgia’s NATO and EU aspirations remain a touchstone for Georgian voters, and both parties lay claim to fully representing those aspirations. But only through credibly addressing Georgia’s internal economic problems can these aspirations ever be fully realized. The party that manages to articulate this fact would triumph.

Author’s note: first published in cepa.org

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Eastern Europe

A Fateful Step Towards Annexation

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It’s easy to lose sight of regional developments amid high political drama. The story of Alexei Navalny’s poisoning, flight to Germany, return, and arrest has dominated Russia coverage in the West. Specialists have also been focusing on the struggle over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and the fallout of the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Meanwhile, when in November of last year Georgia’s Russian-occupied region of Abkhazia signed a 46-point agreement to create a unified socio-economic space with Moscow, not many took note. While pitched as a move to alleviate the territory’s economic troubles, the program marks a huge step toward eventual annexation of Georgia’s region by Russia.

Multiple new provisions feature in the new document which were absent in the 2014 military agreement. The new pact creates various provisions for the sale of local real estate, among them a stipulation on dual citizenship allowing Russians to get Abkhaz passports. A whole range of laws will be introduced whereby Russian investors will be able to invest money into and buy majority shares in what still remains valuable in Abkhazia.

The latest agreement also proposes allowing the Russians to buy into Abkhazia’s energy sector. Additionally, the Abkhaz will make legislative and administrative amendments according to the Russian law in social, economic, health, and political spheres. There is also a stipulation on simplification of law procedures for Russian investors.

While this may end up giving a shot in the arm to a decrepit Abkhaz economy, the high level of harmonization with Russian laws lays the groundwork for a future merger with Russia. It is this dilemma between closer cooperation with Russia and deep fear of Russian intentions that will haunt the Abkhazian political class for the foreseeable future. Though officially the new “socio-economic” program does not involve a change in Abkhazia’s political status, Abkhaz elites fret they are heading down the path to eventual incorporation into Russia.

Criticism of the pact in Abkhazia forced the region’s leader Aslan Bzhania to forcefully deny that Abkhazia was losing any sovereignty. Instead, he emphasized the positive elements of the document, especially the re-opening of Sukhumi airport. Bzhania also cited Abkhazia’s chronic energy shortages and the acute need for Russian assistance as justification for the deal. Still, fears persist. After all, unlike South Ossetia, the other Russian-occupied region in Georgia, Abkhazia has never entertained the idea of merging with Russia.

But Russia is playing a long game. Pressure on Abkhazia has been building up gradually over the course of 2020. After the resignation of Moscow’s preferred client Raul Khajimba, Bzhania’s candidacy was regarded with suspicion by Kremlin officials. As a result, when he won, Bzhania had to make multiple visits to Moscow to kiss the ring, even as Russian funding continued to dry up amid the pandemic. The cost of resuming aid, it appears, was increasing economic harmonization and with the looming threat of eventual assimilation.

With Russian investments into the energy sector and land purchases, Abkhazia will slowly lose its last vestiges of de-facto independence. On an economic level, Abkhazia is far richer than South Ossetia. But controlling it has other virtues. Out of all the separatist regions Russia controls, Abkhazia is arguably the most strategically located. A passage from the North to the South Caucasus, the region is also famous for its harbors and military infrastructure. Control over it gives Russia capabilities to check NATO/EU expansion into the region.

Russian plans in Abkhazia should be also seen within the context of Russia’s push to solidify its presence in the South Caucasus, especially in the aftermath of events in Karabakh and Russia’s peacekeeping mission there. Economic inroads into Abkhazia also mean a further distancing of other potential players such as Tbilisi and the collective West.

Author’s note: first published in cepa.org

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Eastern Europe

In Azerbaijan, Human Capital Investments are the Key to Resilient Growth in the era of COVID-19

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Photo: World Bank

By limiting access to health, education, social protection, and jobs, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse human capital gains in Azerbaijan. In a recently published report, Survive, Learn, Thrive: Strategic Human Capital Investments to Accelerate Azerbaijan’s Growth, the government of Azerbaijan and the World Bank identify the main challenges to building and activating human capital and put a spotlight on high-impact interventions that respond to constraints.

Fadia M. Saadah, World Bank Human Development Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, reflects on the success and challenges of the past, and opportunities for the World Bank Group to partner with the government of Azerbaijan in ensuring resilient growth, powered by human capital investments.

Q. What do you see as the main challenges facing human capital formation and activation in Azerbaijan?

The government of Azerbaijan has achieved a great deal in terms of human capital development. Over the last five years, enrollment in higher education rose 21 percent. The introduction of mandatory health insurance supported an increase in the use of essential primary care level and improvements in efficiency. Contributory pensions and poverty-targeted social transfers raised the incomes of the bottom 40 percent substantially, facilitating household-level investments in health and education.

Despite this progress, gaps in human capital investments persist. On standardized tests, students from wealthier families score the equivalent of three years of schooling above students from poor families, an indication of wide inequalities in learning outcomes. Out-of-pocket payments remain high, despite the launch of mandatory health insurance, reducing access to services needed to control the rise of noncommunicable diseases. Only one in five households in the poorest quintile benefits from the targeted social assistance program, and labor force participation remains low, especially among women.

Azerbaijan’s Human Capital Index is 0.58, meaning that a child born today in Azerbaijan would be 58 percent as productive as she could have been as an adult if she had enjoyed full health and had benefited from a complete education. The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced access to social services and is projected to lead to an economic contraction of 4.2 percent in 2020. The government has risen to the challenge of recovering the gains in health and learning outcomes and ensuring that human capital development remains central to the political agenda.

Q. Azerbaijan faces the dual challenge of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening health, education, learning, and employment services to facilitate growth. What strategic investments do you recommend for the human development sector in the short and medium term?

The government aims to balance the medium-to-long term objective of reforming social systems with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response. Hence, in the health sector, we recommend the digitalization and interoperability of health information systems to support comprehensive surveillance and facilitate continuity of care in the treatment of noncommunicable diseases. Reforming health financing to increase public health spending and protect households from out-of-pocket costs will be important to increase health care access.

As schools reopen, Azerbaijan is investing in remediating learning losses. Doing so may involve ensuring that schools follow health protocols to reduce their risks of becoming the source of group infections, providing students with financial and nonfinancial incentives not to drop out of school, and equipping schools and training teachers to better manage in-person and distance learning. We also recommend establishing a fund to support innovation in higher education.

Social assistance will be essential to ensuring that the most vulnerable households are able to access social services. Improving the coverage of the targeted social assistance program and increasing public financing for these transfers will further improve households’ resilience to consumption shocks. Including employers in the design and implementation of active labor market programs will help link people to jobs.

The potential for human capital investments to drive growth and resilience in Azerbaijan is significant. An analysis by the World Bank, The Changing Wealth of Nations 2018, reports that human capital comprises 64 percent of global wealth. If Azerbaijan ensured complete education and healthcare among children and adults, its long-run per capita gross domestic product could be 1.67 times higher than it is today.

Q. The World Bank has partnered with Azerbaijan on landmark reforms since independence. How do you see the engagement evolving over the next few years?

The next phase of the human capital policy dialogue in Azerbaijan can benefit from a focus on putting this agenda into practice through investments in human capital. The World Bank Group remains committed to providing technical and financial support for operationalizing and implementing this ambitious strategy. We highlight important areas of engagement in education, health, social protection, and jobs below.

Education: The World Bank Group has long supported the government in the development of the education system, including reforms in general education and formulation of the country’s education sector development strategy. The government has introduced per capita financing in tertiary education and a remuneration and quality assurance system in secondary education.

The Second Education Sector Development Project, which closed in 2016, focused on improving the quality of teaching and learning in general education. Through ongoing policy dialogue, the World Bank Group will continue to support education reforms, especially to increase access to early childhood education and spur innovation in tertiary education.

Health: The World Bank Group has engaged in the health sector over the past few years through policy dialogue and provision of technical expertise to support health financing reforms. At the request of the government, it is facilitating knowledge exchanges that may inform the implementation of mandatory health insurance, drawing on the experiences of Kazakhstan, the Republic of Korea, and Costa Rica.

With funding from the Japan Policy and Human Resources Development Fund, the World Bank Group is supporting efforts to improve the governance of digital data and leverage claims data to strengthen provider payment mechanisms within the mandatory health insurance system. Over the next few years, the World Bank Group will continue to engage in policy dialogue on priority issues, including health insurance, e-health and telemedicine, and the development of an integrated claims management system.

Social Protection and Labor: In the past few years, the World Bank Group has supported efforts by the government to raise the most vulnerable people in Azerbaijan out of poverty, by investing in the implementation of the National Employment Strategy and critical social assistance and disability reforms.

A recently approved Employment Support Project aims to improve vulnerable people’s access to employment by enhancing the scope and effectiveness of the government’s Self-Employment Program, enhancing employment services and programs, and building public sector capacity.

The Internally Displaced Person Living Standards and Livelihoods Project and Additional Financing, which closed in 2019, helped improve the living conditions and increase the economic self-reliance of internally displaced persons. The World Bank Group will continue to support Azerbaijan through ongoing policy dialogue to strengthen the social protection system as a platform to improve human capital outcomes and households’ resilience to shocks.

World Bank

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