On October 4, Alena Sakhonchik, international political economy scholar at American University, presented her working paper, “The Implications of the Eastern Partnership Program on EU-Russia Relations,” as part of CGI’s Rising Experts Task Force (RETF).
Sakhonchik argued that despite heated rhetoric in the lead-up to November’s Vilnius Summit, EU-Russia relations would not be significantly damaged by the progression of the Eastern Partnership Program (EaP). The same cannot be said for the post-Soviet EaP target group, which faces increasingly difficult economic and political penalties as the states are demanded to “pick a side” between the EU and Russia. Sakhonchik posits that because of Russia’s disproportionate regional importance relative to the EaP states, EU-Russia relations will remain stable despite tensions raised by the program.
Formal political and economic ties between the EU and Russia far exceed those within the EaP framework; the role of Russia as an energy supplier and regional security balancer has forced the EU to adopt a more or less unified approach to the country. EU member states’ reaction to the Polish-led EaP initiative, on the other hand, has been disorganized and inconsistent. The EaP continues to compete for attention and funding with several other EU regional initiatives, such as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. The post-Soviet states’ economic weakness relative to the EU and unresolved territorial conflicts, ongoing in four of the six EaP target states, also add to internal concerns about the project.