Hot debates about immigration, economic crises or international issues often posit that Eastern Europe is a coherent whole, despite the diversity of countries it denotes. True, their common soviet past and its aftermath easily come to mind when we think about this particular half of Europe. Yet “Eastern Europe” as a political term (and no mere geography) is no longer relevant, argues journalist Anne Applebaum at the London School of Economics (LSE).
Campaigning for another kind of Europe or leaving the EU altogether – catchwords we have been reading quite often in the news lately. Sonja Puntscher Riekmann, Director of the Salzburg Centre of European Union Studies and Vice-President of the European Forum Alpbach, explains to Nouvelle Europe why this discourse is not only limited to new, marginal parties and how they are setting the political agenda.
With the fast approaching end of labour restrictions of the 2007 EU Enlargement countries Bulgaria and Romania, reluctance grows in the UK, forming a complex political debate. Are concerns only with regard to the protection of national economy or do they have some broader significance too? This article assesses the main elements of this debate in a UK, EU and UK-EU context.
2012 has been an election year in the European Union’s Eastern neighborhood. The year started with presidential elections in Russia, followed by parliamentary elections in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine. Even though the electoral saga continues in 2013 with presidential elections in the South Caucasus, the most critical elections are now behind us. What are the outcomes? Have elections brought the Eastern neighborhood closer to substantive, if not procedural, democracy?
Elections in Georgia surpassed expectations. The climate of polarisation that preceded election day laid the foundation for contested results and a prolonged stalemate. None of this happened. On the contrary, the ruling party admitted defeat and did not call demonstrations. Georgia’s parliamentary elections were won by the opposition (55% of votes, 84 out of 150 seats), incarnated by the Georgian Dream coalition. This came without violence, which is indeed unprecedented in Georgia since its independence. The de facto one-party rule in Georgia and the worrying authoritarian inclinations of the Saakashvili era came to an end. As such, elections in Georgia sent an important signal elsewhere in the Post-Soviet space and came to the great satisfaction of international organisations promoting democratic standards.
The Ukrainian parliamentary elections’ day turned out to be calm and the voting process peaceful, mainly because the main actors played their winning cards well in advance.
It is no news that elections in Belarus follow a well-written scenario designed by President Aleksander Lukashenko’s administration. In a state completely submitted to the ruling power, with the two main opposing parties boycotting the race, the September parliamentary elections were anything but competitive from the start. As usually in Belarus, it is not just the lack of competition that led the OSCE/ODIHR and other international observers to qualify the recent elections as contrary to many fundamental democratic standards.
Hopes that Dmitry Medvedev could constitute a more liberal and Western-oriented alternative to Vladimir Putin were dissolved ou dissipated in September 2011 when Medvedev announced his unconditional support to Putin’s candidacy. The predicted switch sowed disillusion. The re-election of Vladimir Putin for a 6-year term in March 2012 took place in an unprecedented context for Russia and constituted a nightmare for its leaders. Demonstrators in Russia’s cities massively protested against the system’s unaccountability, pervasive corruption and deteriorating socio-economic climate.
What future for the process of European enlargement to the Balkan region? Which scenarios for the European Union (EU) and for the candidate countries? What do citizens think about these issues? These and other questions were at the heart of two conferences, one at the Jean Monnet House, the second at Sciences Po Paris, on 28 and 29 April 2011 dealing with the Balkans.
Motivated by strategic objectives to do with the size and geopolitical significance of Ukraine, the EU opened a political dialogue with Ukraine through the signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in June 1994, in which issues such as trade, the movement of capital and the Common Foreign and Security Policy were discussed. This political dialogue was tied to conditionality clauses with regard to political and economic reform, but nevertheless Ukraine’s government felt confident that EU membership would soon be an actual prospect.