What is the Eastern Partnership Index?

The Eastern Partnership Index 2015-2016 (www.eap-index.eu), charts the progress made by the six Eastern Partnership countries towards sustainable democratic development and European integration. The Index measures steps taken on the path towards good governance, including observance and protection of democracy and human rights, sustainable development, and integration with the European Union.

The EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative, launched in 2009, signalled the commitment of the governments of the six Eastern European partner countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine) to respect the values of democracy and human rights, and to align with EU standards of good governance and the rule of law. From the beginning of the Eastern Partnership initiative, the respective national governments in the Eastern Partnership countries expressed clear differences in aspirations concerning closer integration with the EU. While some had aspirations of membership, others saw a turn to the west as a challenge to long-lasting ties with Russia, and others wanted to pursue a more multipolar approach.

The period covered by the Index marked the first full years of implementation of the Association Agreements between the EU and respectively Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, including the entry into force of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreements (although delayed in the case of Ukraine).

While Azerbaijan continued to seek a tailored bilateral relationship with the EU, Armenia joined Belarus in the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). In the case of Armenia, the turn towards the EAEU came after intense negotiations and progress towards signing an Association Agreement with the EU. The period covered by this edition of the Index saw Armenia work with the EU on resurrecting the non-trade parts of the Association Agreement, saw a lifting of EU sanctions towards Belarus, and continuing negotiations between the EU and Azerbaijan towards an agreement on a “strategic modernisation partnership agreement”.

The Index is designed to chart progress and reverses in reforms, but also to generate recommendations to guide countries along the reform process and to signal concerns when progress is flagging or even reversed. The Index is also intended to serve as an important monitoring tool for policymakers, independent researchers, think-tanks and civil society actors.[1]

 

Charting the Path towards European Integration and Sustainable Democratic Development

The Eastern Partnership Index is a set of individual and composite indicators which measure the extent to which the six Eastern European neighbour countries of the European Union have established sustainable democratic institutions and practices, and the level of their integration with the EU. “Integration” is conceived here as a core and multi-dimensional concept that consists of converging norms, growing economic exchange, deeper transnational networks linking up societies, and more frequent contacts between people.

This broad notion of integration implies that EU membership or association may be aims, stages or final states of the integration process. However, it is not limited to a normative approach, or a measure of harmonisation with EU norms and standards, but also reflects actual societal, economic and political change. The levels of contractual relations between the Eastern Partnership (EaP) states and the EU are viewed as elements of a much broader process that is, as a whole, not driven or controlled solely by governments and intergovernmental negotiations.

Rather, European integration is seen as a non-hierarchical, networked process where citizens, civic associations and business organisations play important roles. The interplay of these actors has been crucial for the historical development of the EU itself, as it induced and supported national political elites to take legal and institutional steps towards closer integration. Drawing on this experience, the Index is built on the premise that the ties between societies, peoples and economies form dimensions of European integration that are at least as important as the policy agendas of national governments and European Commission officials.

It is further assumed that transnational linkages contribute to the emergence and spread of common European and international norms which, in turn, facilitate closer linkages with the EU. For example, increasing trade is likely to strengthen domestic companies that benefit from foreign investment and are likely to become interested in courts that protect investors’ rights. A judicial system based on fair procedures and professionalism will then contribute to attracting more foreign investors.

An analogous reinforcing dynamic derives from a commitment to international norms and universal values. By incorporating democratic values, the protection of human rights and the rule of law in their constitutions, EaP states have adopted universal norms that have formed the basis of co-operation and integration among West European states since the end of the Second World War. Further absorption of the core principles of the EU, laid down as a threshold for membership (Copenhagen criteria), gives a further indication of alignment with the EU member states and the capacity for the EaP countries to transform their economies and societies. The more these norms are implemented and respected in EaP states, facilitating sustainable democratic development, the more co-operation with the EU will ensue because these states and the EU will increasingly recognise each other as partners sharing common norms and underlying values.

Furthermore, harmonisation with the norms of sustainable democratic development stretch beyond the European integration agenda. Just as observance of the rule of law, and its application in a non-arbitrary fashion, and the existence of freedom of expression and a competitive party political system are measured in line with international norms and good practice, so the protection and observance of human rights is a universal norm. Just as the elements of "deep and sustainable democracy" are set out in the index, so are measures of sustainable development, including attainment of the UN sustainable development goals. Sustainable development in terms of key indicators such as health, poverty, and education, as well as environmental protection, are therefore given a central place in the Index, given their relevance to social and economic development and the fostering of a sustainable democratic society.

This fundamental idea of sustainable democratic development leading towards European integration and its driving forces is reflected in the conceptual design of the Eastern Partnership Index (see The Two Dimensions of the Index , pages 16-17).

The Index is the continuation of what was formerly known as the European Integration Index for Eastern Partnership Countries, building on the strong focus on the European integration process, and updating the index to reflect the current medium- and long-term challenges of sustainable development, human rights and democracy, and security and international co-operation in a tense political region. The earlier Index had three dimensions Approximation, Linkage, and Management (of the EU integration process). To strengthen the focus of the Index and to emphasize that the Eastern Partnership Index 2015-2016 is of direct relevance also to the countries whose governments have not expressed clear-cut aspirations towards closer European integration, Management has been folded into the other dimensions.

Data in the 2015-2016 Index covers the period of March 2015 - December 2016, combining independent analysis with annual quantitative data to provide a snapshot of progress in the attainment and ongoing implementation of internationally recognised democratic standards and practice.

Two dimensions of European integration are distinguished in the construction of the Index: Approximation and Linkage. The first dimension, Approximation, captures the extent to which EaP countries have implemented key EU norms and international standards. This dimension is divided into three sections. The first section  comprises the adoption and implementation of human rights and democratic principles that are, amongst others, defined in the European Convention on Human Rights, by the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE, including the preceding Helsinki process).

The remaining two sections examine:

  • whether states have converged with EU norms on trade, security, migration, energy, environment and transport infrastructures; and
  • whether states have achieved the sustainable development goals defined by the United Nations in 2015-2016.

The second dimension, Linkage, encompasses the transnational linkages between business, civil society, citizens and governments in EaP countries and EU countries. This dimension consists of three sections.

The section on international security and co-operation examines how EaP and EU governments coalesce in crucial areas of international security, defence, border management and development. Intergovernmental contacts are conceptualised as a part of an emerging “European society”, not as a (facilitating or constraining) framework for societal linkages. This section also considers the extent to which the EaP states control their own security as sovereign actors.

The section on economy and trade measures the extent to which trade and investment integrate the EaP countries with the EU,. In addition, the integration of energy supplies/markets and the density of transport links are assessed separately, since these two sectors constitute crucial infrastructures for economic integration.

The section on Citizens in Europe measures the extent of mobility, migration and communication flows of citizens between EaP countries and the EU. Societal linkages are not only conceived as a set of bilateral EU-EaP relations following a hub-and-spokes or centre-periphery model. Rather, intra-EaP linkages are also taken into account. The Index focuses on migration as a process leading to deeper European integration and, ultimately, the full freedom of movement. Migration is not understood here as a threat to the EU’s internal security or as an EU policy to prevent illegal migration with the help of EaP states.

This structure does not attempt to mirror the items on the EU’s agenda of Eastern Partnership, because, firstly, this agenda will be increasingly differentiated and tailored to match the varying aspirations and priorities of the individual EaP states. Thus, comparison of the EaP countries’ compliance with diverging official agendas will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

Secondly, since the Index is developed in the context of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership, the Index aims to represent the views of civil society rather than only the positions and priorities of the European Commission and national governments. Rather than tracing the implementation of governmental and Commission-level policy agendas down to every technical detail, the Index focuses on outcomes that matter most for people and society.

Adopting the perspective of civil society has manifest advantages: It is a step towards more “ownership” on the part of civic associations and society within the Eastern Partnership, contributing to societal resilience. In addition, this inclusive comparative perspective provides space and a voice for the citizens of EaP countries whose governments are not currently interested in further European integration.

Reflecting the underlying perspective of civil society, the Index places particular emphasis on people-to-people contacts and transnational linkages among civil society organisations. In contrast, the governmental agenda of sectoral regulatory alignment is less extensively covered.

Taken together, the Index has four important characteristics:

  • It sets out a detailed standard for the assessment of “deep and sustainable democracy”.
  • It provides a cross-country and cross-sector picture that is both nuanced and comparative. The six countries are assessed across a common set of questions and indicators.
  • It goes further than the EU integration process, looking at reforms for their intrinsic merits in strengthening democracy, good governance, security and sovereignty, and sustainable development in the respective countries.
  • Finally, the Index offers independent analysis provided by experts in the partner countries.
The Index was developed by a group of more than 50 civil society experts from EaP and EU countries. Many more contributed comments at various stages. The Eastern Partnership Index was initiated and launched in 2011 by the International Renaissance Foundation and Open Society Foundations. Since then, four editions of EaP Index have been published. The Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum took over as leader of the project in 2014 and has subsequently produced the Index. 
 
The project is funded by Open Society Foundations, the International Renaissance Foundation, Ukraine (IRF), the European Union, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. In the past, the project has benefited from the support of the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA) and, apart from IRF, from that of individual foundations of Open Society Foundations in Eastern Partnership countries. 

[1] The Index does not cover the situation in the separatist-held territories of eastern Ukraine, Russia-occupied Crimea, or the breakaway regions of Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia.