The experts shared their forecasts for the reform process in Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine

In Berlin we combined the presentation of the EaP Index to the German audience with the discussion on the reform process in three EaP countries that had parliamentary elections this autumn – Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine. The event that took place on 13 November 2012 at the premises of DGAP was co-organised by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP, Berlin) and the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF, Kiev). The event was moderated by Stefan Meister of DGAP.

Antje Leendertse, Envoy for Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia of the German Foreign Office outlined the EU’s eastern policy before the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in autumn 2013. She mentioned that implementation of the Eastern Partnership Roadmap, the instrument the EU delivered in May 2012, will serve as a reference point for the EU in assessing the progress of EaP countries. During the Summit in Vilnius the EU will reiterate its offer to EaP countries and will show that it offers good tools to support transformation of these countries. It has also become clear that the EaP region is very diverse and the EU needs a tailor-made approach to deal with each EaP country. A number of specific challenges, which have to do with each of the country, will have to be addressed before Vilnius.

Oleksandr Sushko (Institute of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation from Kyiv) who spoke about the reform challenges for Ukraine following the parliamentary elections that took place on 28 October 2012 raised a few points. First, during these elections Ukrainian society demonstrated that it wants democracy and European integration. The ruling Party of Regions has received majority in the new elected parliament only due to the satellites, such as MPs who ran as independents in single-mandate constituencies and the Communist Party, but not on its own right. More voters preferred oppositional parties. Thus, although the conduct of elections on the part of authorities was a step back, where society is concerned, we can witness some progress. This creates good grounds for competitive politics in the new parliament. Second, when it comes to EU-Ukraine relations, the question of whether the EU has a “Plan B” remains open. Apparently it will be difficult for the EU to agree to sign the Association Agreement given that both the elections were not free and fair, and the leaders of the opposition remain behind the prison bars.

Siarhei Bohdan (Belarus Institute for Strategic Studies from Minsk) reflected on developments in Belarus following the parliamentary elections in September 2012. According to Bohdan, what happened in Belarus can hardly be called elections. The fact that oppositional parties refused to run deprived them of the opportunity to use whatever limited means to reach out to people and communicate alternative views. Opposition in Belarus remains week, disoriented and unpopular among the society. Yet, there are some positive developments. New civil society movements emerged in Belarus already before the 2010 presidential elections. They use alternative tactics – building political capital through acting on the local, grass-root level. One of the examples could be the "Tell the Truth" movement, which launched a campaign against a joint Chinese-Belarusian industrial park planned near the town of Smolevichi http://sto..super-active/. As the result the authorities had to meet people and respond to the complaints.

Kakha Gogolashvili ( Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies) spoke about prospects of Georgian transformation following the parliamentary elections that took place on 30 September 2012. First, these elections created a very important precedent for Georgia – peaceful transition of power from the incumbents to the opposition. Yet, it would be too early to say that the transition was indeed peaceful, since the elections de facto are ongoing – it is not clear what is going to happen to the political opponents who lost elections. Second, the Georgian Dream party appeared to be unprepared to win the elections. For the time being they have no clear reform agenda and have not yet fully comprehended their new role. In many ways they still behave as opposition. Third, there is a deep split between the new authorities and the opposition and there is no attempt to look for consensus. On the one hand, the Georgian Dream party wants full power. On the other hand, President Saakashvili refrains from taking a position and offering a constructive cooperation agenda. Both positions are counterproductive and hinder constructive joint work between two important institutions - the new government and the president. Fourth, one needs to recognise that Saakashvili succeeded in one very important objective - state building. Before he became the President Georgia was a dysfunctional state. Yet, he failed in many respects. For instance, he eliminated corruption at the expense of human rights. He also ensured economic growth, but not equal redistribution, leaving a large part of society beyond the poverty line. To sum up, the post-electoral situation leaves more questions than answers. It remains to be seen whether the two political camps will be able to cooperate and the new government launch a comprehensive reform agenda.

The participants of the event agreed that EaP Index is a good tool for civil society monitoring of the European integration processes in EaP countries. Moreover, this Index, unlike many other indicies for cross-country comparative studies, is indeed designed in such a way that ensures reliability of data and and reduces the level of subjectivity. Yet, the question of whether the EaP Index indeed stimulates competition among the EaP countries, remains open. Iryna Solonenko from IRF mentioned that the Index as such is only a starting point and a reference for domestic advocacy on the part of civil society. More targeted advocacy activities have to be carried out in EaP countries in order to make media, experts and authorities in EaP countries look at developments in their own country in a broader context of similar developments in other EaP countries and, thus, provoke the competition mood.

This is an example of a HTML caption with a link.