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The "Sovereign Neighbourhood": Weak Statehood Strategies in Eastern Europe


The launch of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) marks the most significant change to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) since it was launched in 2004. In the wake of the Georgia war in August 2008 and yet another gas crisis in January 2009, the EU clearly needs a more constructive policy towards Eastern Europe. But both the ENP and EaP are based on a contradiction. They offer only the remotest possibility of eventual accession to the EU, but are still based on "accession-light" assumptions, applying the conditionality model of the 1990s to weak states that are a long way from meeting the Copenhagen criteria. The priority in the eastern neighbourhood is not building potential members states but strengthening sovereignty, in the face of an increasingly assertive Russian neighbourhood policy. The game is playing the west off against Russia for geopolitical reward.