AIES Fokus 6/2013: The EU and its European Neighborhood
Velina Tchakarova: The European Union and its European Neighborhood: Before and After the Vilnius Summit of the Eastern Partnership, AIES Fokus 6/2013.
In the 1990s, a wide-range power vacuum emerged in the Eastern European neighbourhood countries as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the lack of involvement of third parties in the region. A situation of absent or weak state system structures occurred in the whole region – starting with the Baltics and Central Europe, and extending to Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. Over the last two decades, the power vacuum has caused many security issues which have been only partially solved through the last enlargement rounds of the European Union (EU). Since then, Eastern Europe has been generating various soft and hard security threats ranging from human, drugs, and weapons traffic as well as terrorism to the frozen conflicts in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Transnistria.
The six countries in Eastern Europe are weak states – ranging from democracy in transition (Moldova), through semi-authoritarian (Georgia, Ukraine, and Armenia) and defect regimes (Azerbaijan) to presidential dictatorships (Belarus). Furthermore, the direct neighbourhood consists of countries which are not interested in interacting with each other because of a very low level of willingness for regional cooperation. The lack of regionalisation processes can be explained with the absence of common economic and political values, or a common future perspective. Thus, regionalisation could be seen as one of the most effective mechanisms for prosperity and stability in Eastern Europe aimed at transferring the region from a geographic to a geopolitical zone, where the states are more interconnected with each other than before, leading to similar comprehension of security threats and risks.
From the perspective of the EU, the main idea is to promote regionalisation in the direct periphery so that the countries prefer regional cooperation to unilateral steps when faced with the challenges of globalisation and security threats. However, Eastern Europe cannot be seen as a regional entity because of various intraregional problems, on the one hand, such as ethnic conflicts, domestic structural problems, a low level of economic development and bad governance, and also extra regional problems, on the other hand, such as the high number of external players interfering with the region for their own security reasons.