The Eastern Partnership Index, combining independent analysis and up-to-date quantitative data, is a monitoring (research publication) and advocacy tool (event and liaison agenda) designed to empower civil society and inform policymakers. It aims to chart the progress made by the six EaP countries towards integration with the EU, to asses linkage with EU and chart democratic development, to provide a scorecard of EaP countries in this regard, as well as to eventually generate recommendations guiding countries along the transformation process. It also sets out detailed standards and benchmarks for assessing a “deep and sustainable democracy”. It is the primary goal of the EaP CSF this year to keep the EaP Index as a vital civil society advocacy tool for all six countries, empowering civil society, pushing the advocacy agendas of civil society and pro-reform actors.
The idea of comparing country reform agendas and performance in their relationship with the EU emerged soon after the Eastern Partnership was launched. The first Assembly of the EaP Civil Society Forum that took place in Brussels in 2009 demonstrated that the civil society in the region lacks collective effort to stimulate reforms on the ground, thus the European Integration Index for the EaP countries was born. The project was initiated and managed by the International Renaissance Foundation starting from 2011 and involved a large number of civil society experts from the six Eastern Partnership countries. Since then, four annual editions of EaP Index publication have been compiled and published. The EaP CSF started to lead the project process in 2014, as logically the EaP CSF keeps the project closer to the operational structure of the civil society in the EaP countries. As of 2014, the EaP CSF is the project implementer and the EaP Index serves as its flagship publication.
The EaP Index has drawn attention to the main challenges faced by policymakers engaged in the EaP countries, both from the side of the EU and in the EaP countries, and charted the progress of reforms in the EaP countries. It has also served as a catalyst for political debate on EaP countries’ issues. The EaP initiative is often questioned as one that puts together very different countries with different political vectors, while at the same time the EU has been urged to strike a better balance between bilateral approaches and a regional policy. The elaborate approach to EaP Index, as a civil society approach based assessment, has emerged in line with the evolution of Eastern Partnership initiative and divergent integration agendas.
In 2014 Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia deepened their integration with the EU when signing Association Agreements (AAs) including DCFTAs (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreements). This increased the division among EaP partners with different levels of political engagement with the EU. The shift was also evident in the ENP review in 2015. However, the challenges such as the war in the East of Ukraine and the refugee crisis, and the corruption-driven crisis of legitimacy in Moldova, set alongside the prospect of an AA-light between the EU and Armenia, only amplify inter-regional discrepancies and accentuate the need for a more elaborate regional agenda.
In an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable international environment, the EU and EaP partner countries need a platform that can provide a balance between bilateral and regional approaches. Therefore, the EaP as a policy remains instrumental, and so does the EaP Index covering six countries, each with immense challenges and fluctuating political directions and perspectives. The Index operates within the regional policy framework, on the one hand using a comparative approach and on the other hand serving as a spark for action. It assesses the reforms made in the countries and also serves as an independent research reference hub that provides data and analysis to guide and improve the empirical basis of policy debate. EaP countries can also position themselves within the wider EaP framework and align not just with benchmarks set internally, but against an independently generated regional scorecard, and in cases where differentiation applies (e.g. among the three countries with AAs), against the undergoing transformative reforms in other EaP countries.
The Index is being developed by a group of more than 50 civil society experts from EaP and EU countries. The 2015/16 Index will include a thorough update of all sources, ensuring full standardization of sources across all six countries (and a benchmark EU country).
The 2015/16 EaP Index is supported by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Open Society Foundations and the International Renaissance Foundation.
For more information please contact Project coordinator Rasa Uzdavinyte firstname.lastname@example.org