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Antoaneta Dimitrova in Trouw on Europe and Eastern Neighbouring Countries

As CO-coordinator of the three-year international research project EU-Strat, an EU funded collaborative Horizon2020 project, Antoaneta Dimitrova, Professor Comparative Governance, analysed the relations between the EU and the countries of the Eastern Partnership and shared her expertise on the subject in an article that appeared in Dutch newspaper Trouw.

The leaders of a number of countries participating in the Eastern partnership have met with EU leaders via a video link to discuss the future of the Eastern partnership. During this meeting they will discuss the European Union's neighbourhood policy, a way to enable a closer alliance with the Eastern neighbourhood countries. It seems that only 'odd one out' Aleksandr Loekasjenko, President of Belarus, will be not be joining himself. He will most likely to send one of his ministers. 

The meeting between the representatives of Eastern partners and the EU leaders will focus on the Covid crisis, but should also be seen as a kick-off for a discussion about the future of the so-called Eastern Partnership (EaP) programme. At the beginning of next year, when the neighbours hope to be able to meet face-to-face once more, arrangements will be discussed on how to the shape the programme in the coming decade. 

The partnership of the EU and her neighbours started in 2009. For countries such as: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan membership of the EU wasn't an obvious step but the EU did want to strengthen the ties. The aim was to strengthen democracy and the rule of law through more intensive collaborations in order to improve stability and promote trade. 

A lot has changed for both the Eastern neighbours and the European Union since the neighbourhood policy came into effect a decade ago. However, stability is still a long way of; Russia increasingly regards the collaboration as interference with its own sphere of influence - with the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine as an indirect result.

Eastern Partnership

Prof. dr. Antoaneta Dimitrova describes the Eastern Partnership as follows: 'Say, you're living in a beautiful house with a large backyard were you're free to do as you please. But two houses down, there are all kinds of problems: they're always fighting and the children there are not allowed to play with your children. If the neighbourhood policy helps to make the garden over there just as pretty, we all benefit.'

'We have to get rid of the utopia that the EU can convert those countries into democracies'

In the article, Dimitrova also discusses her belief that the EU cannot convert every single country into a democracy. 'We have to get rid of the utopia that the EU can convert those countries into democracies. Change is first and foremost the responsibility of the Moldovians themselves. Europe can help, of course. Ten years ago, Moldova was known for human trafficking and organ trade. Without collaboration the country would have fallen apart. Last year, Plahotniuc has fled the country: it shows that if the inhabitants want someone else in power, it can be done.'

Success in the Ukraine

Dimitrova also addresses the subject of possible success in the Ukraine. According to her, over the past three years, trade in the Ukraine has completely turned from being geared towards Russia to focussing on the EU. 'Nobody thought it would be possible. At the moment, the EU is working on an innovative way to reform the administrative apparatus over there: for instance, young, highly educated people are invited to work at ministries; the EU contributes to salaries in line with the prevailing market. Behind the scenes, European ambassadors are continuously emphasising the strict conditions that have been set for providing this financial aid. The fight between young politicians and the old, corrupt power still goes on every day; only time will tell who will win.'

You can read the full article addressing Dimitrova's opinions on matters such as 'coming to an agreement with Russia' and 'the importance of the Eastern Partnership' on the website of Trouw (Dutch).

Prof. dr. Antoaneta Dimitrova's research has developed around the theme of governance transfer from the European Union to candidate states. She investigates the effects of the promotion of rules and norms related to democracy, public administration reform as well as specific policies by the EU, IMF or other international organisations.

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