Germany and the Eastern Partnership After the Ukraine Crisis
The conflict in and about Ukraine has catapulted the European Union's Eastern Partnership (EaP) into the limelight of international attention. Belittled as a bureaucratic and technical policy instrument, the European Neighbourhood Policy and the EaP as its Eastern regional dimension have within the course of a few months gained unexpected geopolitical significance.
By the same token, Germany – initially reluctant to be at the forefront of the Eastern Partnership initiative – has found itself at the centre of crisis-management efforts in Ukraine. This has, however, not resulted in a change of Germany's general position towards the EaP with regard to a possible membership perspective for the most advanced countries. For Germany, the EaP remains a tool of Ordnungspolitik – projecting order in the neighbourhood – and not a pre-accession instrument. The 2015 ENP review reflects Germany’s position: It offers no indication of a possible membership perspective and only limited additional incentives for the associated countries Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. From a German perspective, EU support should focus more on strengthening conditionality to avoid a backsliding in associated countries and less on additional financial incentives or cooperation formats. Despite the conflict in Ukraine, Germany remains convinced that stabilisation in the neighbourhood can only be achieved with and not against Russia.
Whether this approach is sufficient to drive the transformation process and provide stability in the neighbourhood, given Russia's increasing assertiveness, remains to be seen. For non-associated countries (Armenia, Belarus and Azerbaijan), the transformative aspirations of the ENP were given up for a more pragmatic and transactional approach: differentiated cooperation offers these countries a new channel to engage with the EU beyond Association Agreements/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs). For Ukraine, the test for German leadership beyond crisis management will be what more Germany can do if Minsk II is not implemented and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine becomes yet another protracted and unresolved conflict in the neighbourhood.