In 2007 German Foreign Affairs Minister Steinmeier demanded an "integration through interdependence" in respect to the Eastern neighbouring states of the EU including Russia. Against the background of the recent crises in the area of the former Soviet Union, e.g. Ukraine and Georgia, on 7 May 2009 the EU, its Member States and the Eastern European states Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine - not Russia - adopted a Joint Declaration concerning the so called Eastern Partnership (EaP).
The EaP is supposed to be a "specific Eastern dimension" of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and shall bring the former Soviet Eastern European states closer to the EU and its economy and values. Objectives of the EaP are democratisation, good governance and stability, the establishment of an economic community between the EU and the states of the EaP, mobility and security, security of energy supply as well as economic and social development.
The EU and its Member States emphasise that the EaP is not a step towards the EU membership of the EaP states. Moreover, they point out that the EaP is not aimed against Russia but they refer to the EU-Russian "strategic partnership" which is based on a Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA). The valid PCA expired in 2007 and is currently renewed annually until the new Agreement will be concluded.
However, it is questionable how the EaP is understood from the listener's perspective beyond the Eastern borders of the EaP area. How can stabilisation of the former Soviet Eastern Europe be considered without the participation of Russia? This is not a concession to the Russian so called "near abroad" in quasi Schmittian terms but a question of a common European geostrategic equity. To put it bluntly, why could not Russia vice versa understand the EaP as a European "near abroad?"
In the Russian-Ukrainian gas conflict of winter 2008/2009 the gas flow even into the EU was cut off. Also the current Russian-Ukrainian relations threaten the European energy supply. Therefore and bearing in mind the EU's dependence on Eastern European energy deliveries, the EaP - inter alia - is intended to foster the development, diversification and security of European energy supplies. Thus, the European Commission esteems the EaP as an instrument for the prevention of a further crisis. For this reason the EaP is aimed at the revision of the existing EU energy strategy by implementing new bilateral agreements on the European energy security. Measures of mutual support and early-warning arrangements shall prevent a further serious gas shortage. A goal of European energy security is the harmonisation of the energy policies and energy laws of the EaP states in line with the energy related acquis communautaire. This is supposed to lead to a common European energy market beyond the existing energy community. The importance of the EaP for European energy security is obvious as almost all participating states are involved in the EU's energy supply. The Eastern partner states emphasise the perspective of mobility and integration into the common (energy) market.
Energy security is an important issue. Therefore, the attempts of integrating the EaP states into the European energy community are welcome. Questionable is only why the EU did not took the biggest player in the energy game on board. How can the gas flow be secured when the biggest supplier is not in the game? Should the EU not better try to extend the energy community to whole Europe including Russia than fostering a new thinking in blocks? Of course, the Russian position in the game shall not be euphemized. If Russia wants to participate in the European Energy market it has to secure the mutual terms of a most-favored treatment. The Russian side has to tear down high walls. However, the EU should not erect another.
Jakob Schirmer is a research assistant at the University of Goettingen.