Read the original text at tagesspiegel.de.
When the European Union (EU) launched the Eastern Partnership Program with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus in 2008, the hope of political transformation was still great. So far, no partnership between the EU and the listed countries has had a lasting positive effect on peace, prosperity, and stability. In terms of a research project coordinated by the political scientist Tanja Börzel at Freie Universität, scientists are looking for the causes. They also ask what possibilities are there for the future.
The project "EU-STRAT - The EU and Eastern Partnership Countries. An Inside-Out Analysis and Strategic Assessment" is an international cooperation of eleven universities and research institutes - including partners from the European Union, Switzerland, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus. Political scientist Esther Ademmer from the Otto Suhr Institute of the Freie Universität is scientific coordinator of the project.
According to Esther Ademmer, the European Union has underestimated the proximity of the former Soviet states to Russia. "EU’s interest in a positive relationship is great, while interest of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus to have good relations with Russia is also strong." The states are often economically dependent on the big neighbor, but they are also closely linked to other countries, including Turkey and the USA. "In the past analyzes, the role of the EU has been overestimated," says the political scientist, "our approach is to look at the perspectives of individual states." This includes a joint analysis of economic and political systems. "We want to know the incentives of domestic elites to implement political reforms," says Esther Ademmer.
The starting point is a research approach by US economist Douglas North. He distinguishes between "limited access orders", where political elites control the economy, and "open access orders" that are characterized by political and economic competition. The first ones are generally to be found in developing countries, while the latter are typical for the industrial worlds of the Western world. North described two poles, the EU-STRAT project members are trying to classify the area between them: "The aim is to better describe the systems of the countries in Eurasia that are to be arranged between Limited Access and Open Access," says Ademmer.
There is a political contest in the countries concerned, but de facto, it is limited. The researcher says: "The elites there are not very interested in free and fair elections." This is not to be equated with dictatorships Changes, where any changes are virtually impossible. "We want to analyze precisely who are the actors that could be involved in political competition in the countries of the eastern neighborhood - and how to strengthen them," explains Ademmer. It is important not only to understand the situation in these countries, but also to explore the possibilities for action on the part of the European Union. This applies to politics as well as to the economy.
The aim is to examine in detail how to overcome corruption and monopolies, prevent oligarchical economic forms, and bring it to fair competition. "We want to find out where the incidents of external influence are, to help states in their development to open access orders," says Ademmer, "but of course there is a political will to use."