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Normative approaches of the EU to the region of South Caucasus

4.1 Introduction.

In the theoretical part based on the review of relevant literature we have argued that the EU is a normative power that possesses corresponding norms, goals, tools and invokes normative impact in third countries. In other words, our conceptualization of normative power examines the EU through the prism of transformative power. It means that the international role of the Union is not confined only to reinforcing democracy, rule of law and liberalization in member states within its borders but also involves a wide range of mechanisms to promote them externally, particularly in the neighbourhood. This justifies our narrowed focus on the European Neighbourhood Policy and particularly the Eastern Partnership as a relevant context for further qualitative analysis and empirical examination of the EU’s normative behaviour in external relations.

The following chapter consists of 2 parts. First, we outline the profiles of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership. Short historical overview will expose the actual intentions behind the initiatives and reveal how the European officials envisioned the role of new approaches to neighbourhood. Opinions on how successfully the ENP and EaP fulfil their normative objectives vary. There are several sceptical assessments of the capabilities of ENP/EaP. Hence, review of corresponding literature will provide better understanding of the context we are using and it will apparently contribute to our final evaluation of the EU as a normative actor. The descriptive part will be followed by analytical part where our goal is to carefully examine normative agenda reflected in the contractual relations with neighbourhood through the Eastern Partnership.18

4.2 European Neighbourhood Policy

First initiatives envisaging necessity to build a new framework came from northern member states, namely Great Britain and Sweden. However, initial idea aimed to provide a platform that included only Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus into closer integration with EU. In the letter to the president of the EU, British foreign minister Jack Straw formulated proposal of granting these countries a status of “special neighbour” counting on their strong commitment to democratic principles and liberal economy (Comelli 2005: 13). But the exclusion of Mediterranean countries raised concern in southern member states which argued that it can leave them in rather disadvantaged position (Emerson 2004: 7). These concerns were taken into account and the Commission’s Communication “Wider Europe – Neighbourhood : A new framework for Relations with our Eastern and Southern Neighbours” published in March 2003 included Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Russian Federation, Palestine Authority, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria and Jordan. Moreover, the document was highlighting that “neighbourhood should be seen as separate from the question of EU accession” (Commission of the European Communities 2003), thus explicitly characterizing this initiative as an alternative framework for countries that do not seek to join the EU. But the three South Caucasus states again were excluded from privileged status that the EU was to provide to its neighbouring countries. Further developments, however, urged the EU to embrace the South Caucasus as well. “Rose revolution” in Georgia in 2003 increased attention paid by the Commission to the region (Emerson 2004: 7). Moreover, accepted in 2003 European Security Strategy (European Union 2003: 8) also stressed the importance of the region: “We should now take a stronger and more active interest in the problems of the Southern Caucasus, which will in due course also be a neighbouring region”. Therefore, ENP Strategy Paper released by the Commission contained several recommendation for inclusion of the South Caucasus. And finally in June 2004 welcoming the recommendations of Strategy Paper the Council confirmed inclusion of the three South Caucasus states – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – in the ENP (The Council of the European Union 2004).

Official interpretation of ENP labels new perspectives of cooperation as “privileged relationships” offered by the EU. But the extent of given privileges is dependent on the level of commitment to certain common norms, values and principles such as democracy, human rights, rule of law, good governance and market economy. The more is the extent of commitment – the deeper political association and economic integration will be achieved. Bilateral policy is assumed to be primary model of cooperation while several regional initiatives have supplementary role (European Union - EEAS).

But do the motives behind the ENP stem from normative beliefs of the EU? Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission of that time, was emphasising the necessity of new initiative in creating a “ring of friends” in neighbourhood. So, the Commission attempted to underline normative character of upcoming initiative justifying its importance by the promotion of common values and norms. Romano Prodi’s conviction in the ethically sustainable nature of the ENP was reflected in his perception of desired end this policy will attain – “to extend to this neighbouring region a set of principles, values and standards which define the very essence of the European Union”(Prodi 2002). The European Neighbourhood Policy endorses certain principles. First of all, the ENP inherits and upholds already existing mechanism of bilateral relationships between the EU and neighbouring countries. Partnership and Cooperation Agreements and Association Agreements had been functioning before the advent of the ENP and they proved to be successful within the rounds of the EU enlargement. However, one novice introduced by the ENP is the strong emphasis on “joint ownership” of the policy areas and reforms included in the bilateral framework. Giving the partner countries more flexibility in setting reform agenda, this principle, on the other hand, sought to preserve the EU’s normative leverage as it was linked to the precondition of “shared values”. Additionally, the ENP launched new instrument of monitoring and evaluation of undergoing processes19. Annual country reports (progress reports) and ENP Action Plans developed on the basis of the former constitute a primary tool for measuring and enforcing normative changes in the target countries. So we can conclude that many elements of the ENP are borrowed from the enlargement programme. In this respect Gordon and Sasse (2008: 16) also refer to the fact that the ENP in the initial stage was under the responsibility of DG Enlargement to show this interlinkage between ENP and Enlargement. Yet, despite of abovementioned similarities, it is necessary to highlight that intended goal of the ENP is rather to manage the desire of neighbours for accession and thus to temper the stress of enlargement. (Haukkala 2008). According to Emerson (2004), the ENP was launched as a response to dilemma that the EU faced after several rounds of enlargement – to continue enlargement at the cost of loosening governability or permanently terminate the process. Nevertheless, there are concerns in academic circles that deprivation of membership incentive may substantially weaken the ENP’s capabilities to act as an anchor for normative changes. Several authors relying on their studies (Schimmelfennig 2003, Magen 2006) argue that in the absence of distinct material stimulus and when full membership is not at stake, the EU’s ability to exert social and economic impact extremely diminishes. While alternative kind of leverages such as transnational mobilization and social convergence remain mostly unproductive.

The rhetoric of “offering” encountered in the primary documents regarding the ENP does not mean that the EU gains no benefit from the process. As we have shown above, the ENP embraced a wide range of policy areas. Ferrero Waldner20 (Ferrero-Waldner 2006) noted that managing migration flows from the EU neighbourhood was one of pressing challenges that the EU intended to solve via ENP. Barbe and Johansson-Nogues (2008: 89) also adds that the logics of utility can be traced in the EU’s emphasis on border management issues. Emerson, Noutcheva and Popescu (2007: 16-18) classify them as technical areas of cooperation adding up also transport and energy issues. And in these particular areas the cooperation proved to be more effective in contrast to questions of human rights and rule of law, where the price of reforms for local governments, especially for those inclined to authoritarianism, is burdensome.

All in all, corresponding literature on the ENP explores its multi-faceted nature. The ENP deviates from the accession logics and provides more flexibility in agenda setting and thus induces more horizontal relations. The process has been complemented by two fragmented dimensions. First, parallel development of regionalization processes (EuroMed, Eastern Partnership) enhances gatekeeping and socialization role prompting regional cooperation and convergence of shared values. This underlines the transformative fashion of the ENP. But on the other side, the ENP also adheres to bilateralism that was inherited from enlargement policy. This dimension, however, points to yet existing asymmetric power of the EU and its ability to act as a “force for good” in a more hegemonic fashion (Monastiriotis and Borrell 2012: 7).

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