The latest edition of Eastern Partnership Index shows where the Eastern Partnership countries stand in terms of Approximation to key EU norms and international standards and Linkage between business, civil society, citizens and governments in the EaP and EU countries. While Eastern Partnership countries’ linkage to EU has overall improved during 2017, progress in approximation is slow at best and reversed at worst. The region’s average in Approximation remains factually unchanged at 0.63 on a 1 in Approximation, and modestly rising to 0.58 on a 1 in Linkage, 0.3 points higher than in 2015-16.
The top performing countries remain Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, with Armenia positioning itself higher up this year, although mainly thanks to Moldova and Georgia’s backsliding.
Ukraine is the only country to record an upward trajectory in both indicators, increasing its score in Approximation and Linkage. Azerbaijan and Belarus remain the worst performing countries, although slowly improving, mainly due to improvements in their score in Approximation’s Sustainable development indicator. Moldova emerges as the black sheep of the flock: although it ranks third in Approximation and first – together with Georgia – in Linkage, it has recorded the worst backsliding of all six countries, dropping 0.7 points in Approximation. The country lost progress in the majority of Approximation’s Deep and Sustainable Democracy indicators, especially due to worsening political capture of the judiciary, crackdown on media independence and declining state accountability.
On the other hand, Belarus remained the worst performing of all the six but has recorded the biggest leap forward overall, in particular thanks to progress in the EU integration and convergence and Sustainable Development indicator. The leap forward is offset by a declining score in the Deep and Sustainable Democracy indicator, which ranks Belarus as the worst of the six EaP countries in terms of human rights and protection against torture, state accountability, fight against corruption and public administration.
A mixed picture of snail pace progress and backtracking in Deep and Sustainable Democracy
Georgia, Moldova and Armenia have backslid in the Deep and Sustainable Democracy indicator, Ukraine and Belarus have registered some improvement and no progress was registered in Azerbaijan. Developments over the past few years have shown that none of the EaP Countries can lay claim to having sustainable democratic institutions. Periods of relative liberalisations have been replaced by more authoritarian situations and vice-versa.
The results of the Index 2017 reveal modest progress in the Democratic Rights and Elections sub-indicator, with the exception of Moldova. Human rights and protection against torture indicator has registered backsliding in all countries with the exception of Belarus and Azerbaijan, who registered very small progress and remain nevertheless the worst performing countries of the six. The Freedom of Speech and Assembly sub-indicator shows improvement in all countries, with the exception of Ukraine.
State accountability has gone up in Georgia, Ukraine and Armenia, who are reaping the benefits of reforms, and decreased in Moldova, Azerbaijan and Belarus. Public administration reform has been backsliding in all countries, except for Ukraine, were significant progress was registered. Judicial independence remains problematic in most countries, with improvements registered in Armenia, Georgia, and Belarus, and setbacks in Ukraine Moldova and Azerbaijan. Media independence has suffered a blown in all countries, with the exception of Armenia.
The biggest gains are in Linkage, as countries progressively become more aligned, trade increases and DCFTA benefits start to trickle down
The biggest boost for the EaP countries in 2017 has been recorded in the Sectoral cooperation and trade flows indicator – which measures levels of trade in goods and services, investments and loans, as well as energy interdependence – and in the Citizens in Europe indicator – which measures people-to-people contacts and cooperation in science, education and culture.
Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova registered important increases as the visa liberalisation and increase cooperation trickle down to citizens.
The Eastern Partnership Index 2017 had its Brussels launch on 26 February 2019.