Author: Kataryna WOLCZUK, Professor of East European Politics, University of Birmingham and Associate Fellow,
Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House, United Kingdom
The following national experts provided research support in the preparation of this Study:
Denys CHERNIKOV (Ukraine), Lela MAISURADZE (Georgia) and Iulian RUSU (Moldova).
The EU has concluded Association Agreements (AAs), including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs), with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Agreements, if successfully implemented, will help pivot each of the countries’ economic, political and developmental trajectories towards prosperity and stability. This is because the AAs are designed to promote political association and economic integration with the EU and facilitate the modernisation of the partner countries. The key instrument in achieving these goals is legal approximation: the partner countries have taken on extensive, binding commitments to align their laws and institutions with the acquis in order to stimulate political and economic development and institutional modernisation.
European integration is a complex and drawn-out process. It is premised on political leadership, effective policy planning, governmental coordination and strong cooperation between the government and parliaments and well-functioning legislative practices, as well as close engagement with stakeholders and consultations with the EU institutions.
The study focuses on the following to ascertain progress in creating the institutional framework for the AA implementation: co-ordination within government structures both at the political and administrative levels and their synchronisation; co-ordination between government and parliament (and the presidential administration, where relevant); the role of parliament; implementation; transparency and inclusiveness; communication; as well as institutional support and assistance.
It was found that across all the areas, all partner countries had made significant efforts to either create or improve the institutional infrastructure which is necessary for successful implementation of the AAs.
However, noteworthy commonalities in terms of deficiency of implementation were also discerned. It was found that while the partner states demonstrated a commitment to integration with the EU by signing the Agreements, their scope and complexity pose a major challenge to policy makers in the partner countries. All three countries suffer from noteworthy weaknesses within their political systems, such as oligarchic control of parties, weak public administration and public policy making, as well as politicised judiciaries. In addition, despite the declarations, strong leadership on AA implementation has not yet been evident in all three countries, with a subsequent knock on effect on strategy and capacity, not least because the reforms have encountered strong resistance from self-interested elites and officials, especially in Moldova and Ukraine.
Furthermore, where implementation plans exist, they are underdeveloped and/or insufficiently integrated into wider reform process undertaken by the three states. As a result there are serious concerns whether these countries have the capacity to ensure the effectiveness of the vast and sophisticated corpus of EU law they are committed to import. Compounding the above is the fact that EU resources are either insufficient for the scale of the task of supporting the partner states (too few officials working on too many countries asked to do too much). Some of the instruments are inappropriate in terms of strategic rationale (such as relying on too many short term projects to deal with long-term systemic issues). Implementing the AAs fully within the specified deadlines is a challenge that seems almost impossible to meet for the three countries, inter alia due to their weak administrative capacities and financial constraints. However, there is a range of measures and solutions which can be applied both by the AA countries and the EU to support implementation as part of the broader reform process. The Study concludes with a number of generic and country-specific recommendations.