Analysis EU-Russia

Eastern Partnership: A relationship in the shadow of Moscow

More than ten years after its launch, the Eastern Partnership is still unknown to most people and a victim of an essentially Russocentric vision in Western Europe. Meanwhile, the lack of progress in the six Partnership countries is fuelling resentment, creating instability and tickling populist impulses.

Published on 8 April 2021 at 10:43

More than a decade on, the Eastern Partnership still has to fight off a lack of knowledge about the framework and Russia-centred views in Europe. Meanwhile, the stalemate in the Eastern Partnership countries feeds resentment, creates instability and stimulates populist impulses.

The EU’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy is a bit like a Rorschach inkblot. Depending on who observes it, it radically changes shape and meaning. Seen from Warsaw or Vilnius, it is a project of great economic, strategic and civil importance; for the Italians, French, Dutch and many other Western European countries, it is only a vague programme whose outlines are unknown and its aims are not well understood.

Little is said about the Eastern Partnership in the media, and when it is done, it is above all from a strictly national point of view, never a European one. Indeed, it is very likely that even political leaders are not very familiar with the EaP framework.

A similar argument can be made for the countries involved in the partnership. By geographical contiguity or the commonality of historical experiences, the states of Central and Eastern Europe are well acquainted with the events in Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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Patchy knowledge about former Soviet states

On the contrary, in Western Europe, there is often a patchy knowledge about former Soviet states, projected into an indefinite geographical and political space dominated by Russia or directly confused with Russia, its borders and interests.

Therefore, most Western European countries believe that matters relating to members of the Eastern Partnership are to be agreed with Moscow rather than with local governments, not to mention the partnership itself.

This attitude has become even more evident with the recent crises in Nagorno-Karabakh and Belarus, where EU countries have hardly ever mentioned the Eastern Partnership as a possible vehicle for…

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