Linkage vs approximation

Linkage vs Approximation

The Index assumes that European integration results from the interaction of increased linkages and greater approximation: closer ties with the EU, for example through political and technical cooperation, are likely to support the transfer and implementation of EU norms, and a more EU-compatible regulatory environment in an EaP country is likely to increase investment from the EU and bilateral trade. If this dynamic works, one would expect higher Linkage scores to engender higher Approximation scores and vice versa.

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The results of the Index suggest three different patterns. The aggregate scores for Moldova, Azer¬baijan and Belarus tend to confirm the assump¬tion of interdependent EU linkages and institu¬tional similarities.

Moldova achieved similar overall scores for both dimensions and is the clear leader among the Eastern partners. Its high level of Approximation corresponds to its high Linkage. As Moldova im¬proved its performance in 2012 in Approximation, there is now almost no gap between the scores in the two dimensions (L70 vs. A67). Azerbaijan and Belarus also display similar aggregate scores in both dimensions (L41 vs. A42 and L31 vs. A33 respectively), but at much lower levels, suggest¬ing that a mutually reinforcing dynamic has not yet set in.

A second pattern can be seen in Georgia and Armenia where the Approximation scores clearly exceed the Linkage scores: A63 vs. L57 for Geor¬gia and A59 vs. L49 for Armenia. These countries seem to be disadvantaged in Linkage. However, given their relatively high scores in Approximation, one can conclude that these countries are making good efforts in domestic reforms despite fewer links with the EU. Both countries lag behind Ukraine in Linkage, but show better results than Ukraine in Approximation. Georgia is ahead of Armenia in both dimensions. The gap between the Linkage and Approximation scores for both countries has slightly increased compared to last year — both countries improved their scores in both dimensions, but more so in Approximation than in Linkage. Increased Approximation scores have to do with improved democracy perfor¬mance, particularly elections, which took place in both countries in 2012, but also improved approximation in all sectors.

Ukraine exemplifies a third pattern since its Linkage score is higher than its Approximation score. Like Georgia and Armenia, Ukraine shows a discrepancy between both dimensions, but its relation is reversed. The scores indicate that the country is not able to take full advantage of its geographical proximity and to translate its privileged relations with the EU into greater simi¬larities to the EU system. However, the gap has narrowed as compared to last year due to slight decline in Linkage and slight improvement in Approximation — L65 vs. A58. The latter has to do with the improved business climate and approxi¬mation in other sectors, as well as the improved human rights situation, although due to manipu¬lated elections in 2012 Ukraine’s elections’ score declined.

These correlations become even more evident when one compares sector specific Linkage and Approximation.

Economy. Ukraine, despite enjoying the most intensive trade and economic integration with the EU, shows poor results, compared to other countries, in its market economy and DCFTA per¬formance. At the same time Georgia and Armenia, who are the least advantaged in their trade and economic integration with the EU, are the best performers in market economy and DCFTA.

The sector Freedom, Security and Justice shows no major discrepancies. The ranking of the four frontrunners is the same in both dimensions. Belarus and Azerbaijan change places: the former shows better results in Linkage, but weaker re¬sults in Approximation.

In the Energy sector Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Belarus are not making the best use of trade and cooperation with the EU in order to align with EU standards. Their Approximation scores are far below Linkage. Armenia also shows discrepancy, but the relation between dimensions is reversed — it is the least advantaged country in Linkage in this area, but is the second best performer after Moldova when it comes to Approximation. Moldova seems to make good use of its developed links with the EU and translates these into better approximation. Georgia would need to make bet¬ter use of Linkage to catch up in Approximation.

The Transport result shows that all countries, bar Belarus, are making good efforts to under¬take domestic reforms. The biggest discrepancy appears to be in the case of Armenia and Azerbai¬jan – both are the frontrunners in Approximation, but rather disadvantaged in Linkage. Belarus’ transport regulatory policy is furthest away from meeting EU standards, although Belarus has more advanced transport cooperation with the EU than Azerbaijan and Georgia.

A relatively high level of People-to-People contacts seems to translate into more developed policies on education, culture, youth and infor¬mation society in the case of Ukraine, Georgia and, even more so, in Armenia. Less developed contacts between Belarus and the EU equally translate into lesser approximation in this area.

Moldova and Azerbaijan show large discrepan¬cies. Although Moldova enjoys the highest level of people-to-people contacts with the EU, it is the second worst performer when it comes to domestic policies. Azerbaijan, having the lowest level of people-to-people contacts with the EU, is the second best performer after Armenia in ap¬proximation of domestic policies.

The relationship between Assistance in Link¬age and Deep and Sustainable Democracy in Approximation also shows interesting results. According to the EU’s ‘more for more’ approach, countries that demonstrate a relatively good qual¬ity of democracy and continue making progress receive additional rewards from the EU. Moldova, Georgia and Armenia enjoy the largest assistance from the EU. Since these countries improved their democracy performance last year, the level of EU assistance also increased. Although Ukraine scores slightly better than Armenia in terms of democracy, the country receives less EU assistance and this level dropped compared to the previous year. One of the reasons is that Ukraine has not registered improvement in deep and sustainable democracy in the last two years. Azer¬baijan and Belarus score low both in democracy performance and the level of EU assistance.