What is EaP Index?

The Eastern Partnership Index charts performance in the six Eastern Partnership countries towards democracy and European integration. The Index measures steps taken in the six states on the path towards good governance, including the observance and protection of human rights, sustainable development, and policy convergence with the European Union.

The 2021 Index research covers the period from 2020 through to mid-2021, a timeframe that includes some of the most challenging phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings of the Index show the wide-ranging impacts the pandemic and its fallout had in the region, from the fight against corruption, freedom of assembly to independent media and equality. The Index comes about at an interesting phase in both the EaP and the EU’s evolution. It has been four years since the previous full Index on Approximation was published and much has occurred. An unparalleled clampdown on civil liberties and human rights took place in Belarus in the aftermath of presidential elections and renewed military confrontation erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh. Meanwhile, the bilateral Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) agreement between Armenia and the EU entered into force and after the 2020 and 2021 elections Moldova appears to be on the cusp of a new democratic and pro-European era. The Associated Trio, namely, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, are completing the first and most challenging phase in the implementation of their Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreements (DCFTAs) with the EU. On the EU’s side, the past four years witnessed BREXIT, rising challenges to the rule of law in a number of Central European states and at the same time the reigniting of the EU enlargement dynamic in the Western Balkans. The EU also launched its Conference on the Future of Europe, which is supposed to citizen-led and geared towards improving the quality of democracy in the EU.

The rationale of the Index is first and foremost to identify change, the extent of change and the nature of it in EaP states. As in the 2017 edition of the Index the notion of ‘Approximation’ is used to see how far EaP states are moving closer to or shifting away from the EU. The 2021 Index sheds light on the gaps and discrepancies that often persist between legislative acts and actual implementation and practice.

The Index gauges Approximation in two fundamental spheres:

Democracy and Good Governance: approximation captures the extent to which EaP states have incorporated core European norms and international standards. The Index measures this by establishing whether EaP states have adopted, legislated for and also put into practice key international and European conventions and institutional norms relating to democracy and human rights. This incorporates: Democratic Rights, Elections and Political Pluralism; Human Rights and Protection against Torture; State Accountability; Independent Media; Freedom of Opinion, Expression, Assembly and Association; Independent Judiciary; Equal Opportunities and Non-discrimination; Fight Against Corruption and lastly, Public Administration.

Policy Convergence with the EU: approximation identifies the extents to which EaP states have converged with, moved closer to or are shifting away from EU and international standards and norms in key policy fields and sectors. This incorporates: Market Economy and DCFTA; Freedom, Security and Justice; Energy Legislation and Energy Policy; Environment and Climate Policy and Transport Regulatory Policy.

• Identifying approximation with regards to Sustainable Development required a slightly different approach. By analysing the contents of UN and national reporting from EaP states as a means to chart progress towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focus was given to aspects that are the most salient to the overall objectives of the Index. Gauging EaP states progress in relation to the SDGs provides another layer to understanding developments in the region and in particular how countries are measuring up to their declared international development obligations.

The results presented in this report provide an up to date and nuanced appraisal of developments across core political, social and economic themes and issues in all six EaP states. The Index is based on national and sectoral expert-level insights from specialists in EaP countries working in CSOs, academia, the media and think tanks. Consequently, the results are grounded in authentic insights and understandings of the socio-economic and political landscapes of the countries in the region.

The Index uses a multi-layered methodology. It involved over 50 experts from all EaP states at each and every stage, namely in the basic research design, data gathering, quantitative and qualitative analysis and verification. As a first step, national experts completed a questionnaire by giving scores for their countries against a detailed set of indicators, which formed the basis of subsequent national reports, drafted by the experts. These reports were then analysed by sectoral experts, also from the EaP region, who synthesised national-level findings into a wider regional perspective. Fourteen focus groups based on the sectoral reports were then held and provided an opportunity for all experts and the Index editorial team to collectively probe, discuss and validate the findings, whilst also identifying salient case studies. Through its methodological approach, the Index strikes an effective balance between richness and rigour and yields evidence, lessons learned and examples of best practice of use for EaP and EU stakeholders. The Index’s method also means that progress and change can be gleaned on a comparative cross-regional basis, meaning that instances of progress, backsliding and inertia and where relevant, frontrunners, can be identified.

The second dimension, Linkage, was lastly measured in 2018-2019 and encompasses the transnational linkages between business, civil society, citizens and governments in EaP countries and EU countries. This dimension consists of three sections.

The section on international security and co-operation examines how EaP and EU governments coalesce in crucial areas of international security, defence, border management and development. Intergovernmental contacts are conceptualised as a part of an emerging “European society”, not as a (facilitating or constraining) framework for societal linkages. This section also considers the extent to which the EaP states control their own security as sovereign actors.

The section on economy and trade measures the extent to which trade and investment integrate the EaP countries with the EU. In addition, the integration of energy supplies/markets and the density of transport links are assessed separately, since these two sectors constitute crucial infrastructures for economic integration.

The section on Citizens in Europe measures the extent of mobility, migration and communication flows of citizens between EaP countries and the EU. Societal linkages are not only conceived as a set of bilateral EU-EaP relations following a hub-and-spokes or centre-periphery model. Rather, intra-EaP linkages are also taken into account. The Index focuses on migration as a process leading to deeper European integration and, ultimately, the full freedom of movement. Migration is not understood here as a threat to the EU’s internal security or as an EU policy to prevent illegal migration with the help of EaP states.

This structure does not attempt to mirror the items on the EU’s Eastern Partnership agenda because, firstly, this agenda will be increasingly differentiated and tailored to match the varying aspirations and priorities of the individual EaP states. Thus, comparison of the EaP countries’ compliance with diverging official agendas will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

Secondly, since the Index is developed in the context of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, the Index aims to represent the views of civil society rather than only the positions and priorities of the European Commission and national governments. Rather than tracing the implementation of governmental and Commission-level policy agendas down to every technical detail, the Index focuses on outcomes that matter most for people and society.

Adopting the perspective of civil society has manifest advantages. It is a step towards more “ownership” on the part of civic associations and society within the Eastern Partnership, contributing to “societal resilience”. In addition, this inclusive comparative perspective provides space and a voice for the citizens of EaP countries whose governments are not currently interested in further European integration.

Reflecting the underlying perspective of civil society, the Index places particular emphasis on people-to-people contacts and transnational linkages among civil society organisations. In contrast, the governmental agenda of sectoral regulatory alignment is less extensively covered.

Taken together, the Index has four important characteristics:

    • It sets out a detailed standard for the assessment of “deep and sustainable democracy”.
    • It provides a cross-country and cross-sector picture that is both nuanced and comparative. The six countries are assessed across a common set of questions and indicators.
    • It goes further than the EU integration process, looking at reforms for their intrinsic merits in strengthening democracy, good governance, security and sovereignty, and sustainable development in the respective countries.
    • Finally, the Index offers independent analysis provided by experts in the partner countries.

The full breakdown, and the questionnaire and sources underpinning the Eastern Partnership Index 2017, are available at https://eap-csf.eu/eastern-partnership-index/

The detailed methodology of the Index is explained in the chapter, Methodology of the Index.

The Index was developed by a group of more than 50 civil society experts from EaP and EU countries. Many more contributed comments at various stages. The Eastern Partnership Index was initiated and launched in 2011 by the International Renaissance Foundation and Open Society Foundations. Since then, four editions of EaP Index have been published. The Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum took over as leader of the project in 2014 and has subsequently produced the Index.

The project is funded by Open Society Foundations, the International Renaissance Foundation, Ukraine (IRF), the European Union, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. In the past, the project has benefited from the support of the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA) and, apart from IRF, from that of individual foundations of Open Society Foundations in Eastern Partnership countries.

[1] The Index does not cover the situation in the separatist-held territories of eastern Ukraine, Russia-occupied Crimea, Nagorno-Karabakh, or the breakaway regions of Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia.