Assessing Legal and Political Compatibility between the European Union Engagement Strategies and Membership of the Eurasian Economic Union

EU-STRAT’s seventh working paper is out

Working paper by Rilka Dragneva, Laure Delcour and Laurynas Jonavicius.

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One of the challenges to EU’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy relates to structuring cooperation with countries that have opted for membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), such as Belarus and Armenia, while avoiding the problems faced in the Ukraine crisis of 2013-2014. Acting on its revised European Neighbourhood Policy, the EU has sought to develop differentiated and flexible tools of engagement with the EaP countries, including a new type of agreement with Armenia, the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Delivering on this agenda, however, requires clarity on the constraints and limits imposed by membership in the EAEU. The EU has tended to establish such limits by reliance on the technocratic analysis of current obligations contained in formal legal agreements.

Yet, as revealed by the Ukraine crisis, this approach has not necessarily reflected the geopolitical realities in the region and Russia’s view of integration and its compatibility with EU’s policies, in particular. This paper argues that establishing the limits imposed by EAEU membership requires an assessment of the range of legal as well as non-legal levers at play in individual member states in relation to Russia’s integration projects. What matters is how Russia as well as its Eurasian partners play the ‘integration game’, and the degree to which political elites in Belarus and Armenia can manoeuvre a space for independent engagement with the EU. This is necessary because of the particular nature of the EAEU, defined by a mixture between current and future commitments, problematic institutional boundaries between delegated powers and members’ commitments, and the prevalence of power relations within a highly asymmetric hub-and-spoke context. In this context, Russia has a continued ability to interpret the nature of the commitments undertaken and their compatibility with overlapping international agreements, and enforce it using critical interdependencies of the members.

We examine how the ‘compatibility space’ is negotiated by elites in Belarus and Armenia, and elaborate on the case of CEPA as the most recent test to complementarity of integration engagements in the region.

The authors

Rilka Dragneva is a Professor of International Legal Studies at the School of Law, University of Birmingham, UK. Her main research interests focus on regional integration, EU external policy, legal reform and international diffusion of norms with a special reference to Eastern Europe. Her recent publications focus on Eurasian economic integration, its overlaps with EU's initiatives in the post-Soviet region, and implications for multilateral trade more widely. Rilka’s work has strong comparative and interdisciplinary elements. Her expertise in the field has enabled her to engage in interactions with policy-makers and leading think tanks, law reform technical assistance projects, and professional training activities.

Laure Delcour is a researcher under the EU H-2020 project EU-STRAT and a visiting professor at the College of Europe. She was previously a scientific coordinator of the EU-funded FP7 research project “Exploring the Security-Democracy Nexus in the Caucasus” (project CASCADE, FMSH, Paris). Her research interests focus on the diffusion and reception of EU norms and policies as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, as well as region-building processes in the  post-Soviet space. She has recently published The EU and Russia in their 'Contested Neighbourhood'. Multiple External Influences, Policy Transfer and Domestic Change (Routledge, 2017).

Laurynas Jonavičius is an assistant professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University. His research focuses on political developments and foreign policy of the Russian Federation and post-Soviet countries. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the Vilnius University. He teaches courses "Russian Studies“, "Russian Politics and Economy in a Post-Modern World“, "Ukraine and Belarus Studies“. He worked as a foreign policy adviser to the President of the Republic of Lithuania in 2009-2014.

The text

This working paper is part of EU-STRAT Working Paper Series edited by the EU-STRAT Project ‘The EU and Eastern Partnership Countries – An Inside-Out Analysis and Strategic Assessment’ (EU-STRAT).

The EU-STRAT Working Paper Series servesto disseminate the research results of the research consortium by making them available to a broader public. It means to create new and strengthen existing links within and between the academic and the policy world on matters relating to the current and future enlargement of the EU.

To quote this paper
Rilka Dragneva, Laure Delcour and Laurynas Jonavicius: Assessing Legal and Political Compatibility between the European Union Engagement Strategies and Membership of the Eurasian Economic Union, EU-
STRAT Working Paper No.07, November 2017, ‘The EU and Eastern Partnership Countries – An Inside-Out Analysis and Strategic Assessment’ (EU-STRAT).

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