Eastern Partnership Index 2023: "A dose of realism is needed"

25.01.2024 (Caucasian Journal). The new Eastern Partnership Index, published yesterday, grabs the reader's attention immediately with a stunning cover image - the famous photograph with a EU flag, taken in Tbilisi during the 2023's standoff in front of the Parliament building. 

The content of the 200-page report reflects important - and often alarming - tendencies in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus - the six Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. 

Marking its 9th edition, the publication tracks the reform progress made in the fields of democracy, good governance, rule of law, policy convergence and sustainable development between September 2021 and November 2023. It shows how Russia’s war impacts reforms in the EaP countries, and the different levels of these countries' approximation of with the European Union.

"The pace at which Moldova, Ukraine as well as Georgia gained their EU candidate status has been breathtaking", - reads the Index. "Whilst this positive momentum should be celebrated, the results of the EaP Index indicate that a dose of realism is also needed."

For Georgia (ranked 3rd overall), the Index’ results sadly demonstrate "a significant downwards drift, if not a sharp plunge in many areas which reflects the country’s political polarisation".

Despite being granted EU candidate status in November 2023, "Georgia lost considerable ground across both democracy and good governance, and policy convergence indicators", according to the report. 

"The pace at which Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia gained EU candidate status has been breathtaking... Whilst this positive momentum should be celebrated, a dose of realism is also needed."

Significant decreases occurred in almost all thematic areas overseen by the Index, namely democratic rights, elections and political pluralism, the fight against corruption, human rights protection mechanisms, state accountability, independent media, public administration, market economy, freedom, security and justice, and environment and climate policy, with the exception of freedom of assembly.

"From anti-corruption champion to malaise and now disregard, the government has deprioritised the fight against corruption and even appears to have vested interests in a state of inertia. There has been no updating of the National Action Plan since 2020 and Georgia became the only country to refuse an Anti-Corruption assessment by the OECD". 

The Index, backed by solid data analysis, contains more than one alarming statement almost on every page.  Just a few examples: "Georgia and Armenia are the most vulnerable states in the EaP region with regards to poverty",  "Georgia and Armenia remained the most unequal societies", "The prevalence of undernourishment was by far the highest in Georgia".

  • "The prevalence of undernourishment was by far the highest in Georgia"
  • "Georgia and Armenia are the most vulnerable states in the EaP region with regards to poverty"
  •  "Georgia and Armenia remained the most unequal societies"

Armenia remained relatively stable in the 2023 Index, but reform stasis and potential for backsliding in key spheres is apparent.  "Several instances of dealignment from EU norms in Armenia are linked to national security related policies and, to some extent, reform fatigue.

Azerbaijan continues to edge towards ever stronger authoritarianism and disavowal of independent civil society and media which is reflected in its diminishing scores in state accountability, freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembly and association and the fight against corruption. "A closer inspection of policies and practices in Azerbaijan shows very clearly that the country is at variance with all EU norms to do with democracy and good governance without exception."

According to the Index, Moldova is the leader in terms of approximation of with the European Union, Ukraine ranks second, Georgia is in third position, Armenia is the fourth. Azerbaijan and Belarus have the lowest scores with in 5th and 6th places.

The EaP Index is produced by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum with the financial support of the EU. 

You may download the full Eastern Partnership Index 2023 here.

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