Playing a Double Game: Effects of European Neighbourhood Policy on the Political Regimes of Eastern Neighbourhood Countries
The study analyses the impact of the EU democracy assistance on the political regimes of Eastern neighbourhood countries projected through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The general question the author answers is why neighbourhood policy does not produce full-scale democratization in Eastern neighbourhood. Although the ENP lacks the membership perspective and thus is perceived as an ineffective, the study shows how the ENP through the stimulation and/or reinforcement of domestic structural reforms in different policy areas changes the calculations of both ruling political elite and opposition operating in the context of limited access order. Thus, the dissertation using the comparative theory-testing and theory-building process-tracing analyses of electoral and judicial reforms in Georgia, and Moldova contributes to two lines of theoretical discussion. First, it contributes to the debates on the role of the democracy assistance efforts and external factors in the dynamics of political regimes. Second, it addresses the discussion on strengths and limitations of application of the Europeanization perspective to the analysis of EU democracy assistance in neighbouring countries without the short-term membership perspective and with the limited access orders.
The study based on the regime transformation theories, Europeanization perspective, and political-economic approaches aims at exploring the mechanism of the EU influence on the domestic political developments in two Eastern neighbourhood countries (Georgia and Moldova). In contrast to the majority of studies using the Europeanization perspective to analyse ENP partner-countries the study shifts the focus of analysis from the EU policies to the interaction between EU policies (which reinforce or stimulate domestic reforms) and domestic political actors and institutions.
At the first stage, the study tests three basic hypotheses which are commonly used to explain the ENP impact: rational-choice, idea-based, and one connected to the role of “black knights”. The analysis shows that these hypotheses are not supported by the evidence from the Eastern neighbourhood countries. The second stage of the study is devoted to theory-building process-tracing. It shows that the key element for the ENP impact is the limited access order, which emerged in Moldova and Georgia during the first years of political transition in the 1990s. In such conditions, the support under the ENP framework is used by the ruling elite to preserve the limited access order and by opposition to broaden the access to political institutions. Thus, the ENP both contributes to the preservation of the limited access order and, at the same time, prevents the slide towards the authoritarian political regime.
Yurii Agafonov is a lecturer at the Department of Comparative Political Studies and a research fellow at the Laboratory for Applied Policy Analysis, Faculty of International Relations and Politics at the St. Petersburg branch of RANEPA. He is currently completing his PhD at the Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, and participating in the YRUSH programme at the Aleksanteri Institute.