The Vilnius Summit in November 2013 was a critical turning point for the EU to assess its EaP policy’s effectiveness, potential and regional challenges. Although the EaP comprises six very different partner countries, ongoing dramatic events in Ukraine should be analysed not as a single case but rather as a symptom of the EaP’s shortcomings and an indication of EU ambitions and approach to the common neighbourhood with Russia. In order to evaluate the EaP’s present and future one should take into account three elements. First, the ‘surprise effect’ and disappointment in Brussels provoked by the unexpected decision of the former Ukrainian president not to sign the Association Agreement followed by the EU’s emotionally charged statements and narrative blaming Russia for all EU difficulties in the region. Second is the wake-up call that the EaP needs some re-adjustment. Third, the EU’s reaction to Ukrainian events revealed its poor leverage and that Russia had become a decisive factor in EaP. This analysis will look in detail at all three elements while presenting an exclusively EU perspective built on interviews with EU officials in early 2014.
Tomislava Penkova, is a Research Fellow at ISPI Programme on Russia and EU Eastern Neighbours and a researcher at the University of Kent at Brussels. She was also a Visiting Researcher at the Carnegie Moscow Centre.