On 30 March, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum released the Eastern Partnership Index 2020-21, its monitoring tool that helps to assess the performance of the six Eastern Partnership countries and their progress towards sustainable democratic development and European integration.
The publication focuses on Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as they were forced to urgently apply for EU membership under pressure from Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The results show that all three countries have already cemented considerable normative and legal approximation to the EU, suggesting that they are on track towards fulfilling the Copenhagen Criteria that all potential candidates must satisfy to apply and eventually become a member of the EU.
The EaP Index demonstrates steady improvement from 2015 towards the standards set out by the Copenhagen Criteria – a functioning market economy, stable democracy, strong rule of law, and acceptance of all EU legislation – in all three countries. Varying degrees of progress were recorded in the areas of democratic rights and elections, human rights and protection against torture, state accountability, freedom of speech and assembly, and public administration.
According to the results, the progress was not always linear, with inertia and backsliding also apparent: “All three countries continue to struggle with the fight against corruption, and Georgia and Ukraine lost a significant number of points in relation to the independence of their judiciaries.” However, the progress achieved over the last seven years reflects the far-reaching effects of the three countries’ Association Agreements (AAs) and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs) with the EU, and the role that EU assistance continues to have in ensuring democratic developments in line with the EU acquis, the EaP CSF states.
During the same timeframe, Armenia – which ranks fourth in the EaP Index scorecard – also improved its performance, particularly on indicators pertinent to democracy and good governance, “but was less impressive with regard to policy convergence”, says the EaP CSF. The country’s score reflects both the progress made prior to its withdrawal from the Association Agreement with the EU, and the democratic reforms that have been implemented since the Velvet Revolution of 2018.
Belarus and Azerbaijan remain at the bottom of the EaP Index ranking. Both countries scored lower in 2020-21 than in previous editions of the Index, suggesting that the gap between the two worst performers and the leading four became palpably wider.
The Forum concludes: “The results of the Eastern Partnership Index 2020-21 seem to suggest that the choice of a European path, combined with a responsive European perspective and dedicated financial, administrative and technical framework, can motivate and guide effective democratic progress”, adding that granting EU candidate status to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia would step up EU assistance, and further support their journey along the path to a functioning market economy, a stable democracy and strong rule of law that the AA trio is already on.
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