Beyond Fortress Europe

Reasons and Implications for the EU's Exclusion of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova from the EU Accession Process

The European Union flag in the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Beyond Fortress Europe : Reasons and Implications for the EU's Exclusion of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova from the EU Accession Process - Sarah Giles


This essay examines EU relations towards those states in the east that are outside the EU accession process. Long been forgotten, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova represent significant neighbours of the EU that require careful policies of reform in order to promote political and economic development, and therefore greater security across Europe.


This paper analyses the relations between the EU and the three European ex-Soviet states excluded from the upcoming EU enlargement processes - Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova - focusing on the reasons for and implications of their non-membership. There are significant consequences for states excluded from EU enlargement, which is fundamentally transforming Europe in terms of trade relations, economic prosperity, political stability and democracy, and border and immigration policies. This is especially true for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova because they each have a history of substantial political and economic relations with other states within the region. The EU's con­struction of an external border through the Schengen Agreement1 espe­cially delineates 'insiders' from 'outsiders'. Accordingly this paper will ask: Why has the EU excluded Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova from EU enlargement? What are the implications of their exclusion? How are relations developing between these states and the EU, and how might the EU develop a strategic foreign policy towards this region?

This essay focuses on how divisions between the EU and the 'outsiders' - Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova - may be forming. It also examines the issue of Russian relations in this process because of the overwhelm­ing influence that Russia continues to exert on ex-Soviet states2. It contends that each of the governments of the three states are approach­ing relations with the EU very differently: Moldova has broken most overtly from Soviet structures; this demonstrating the greatest commit­ment to cooperate with the EU; Belarus is seeking to reintegrate with Russia; while Ukraine is increasingly cooperating with western actors while at the same time is constrained by Russian relations. This essay concludes that one of the most significant factors determining whether these states seek integration into EU structures is the existence of foreign policy options beyond Russia. It is divided into three sections; the first examines the EU accession process in Eastern Europe exploring reasons why the three states were not included in upcoming enlargement; the second examines individually the relations of the three states with the EU, focusing on how each state has responded to EU negotiations and upcoming enlargement; the third examines the future implications of non-membership and how the EU might respond to the disjuncture between membership and non-membership of states in the region.

While the danger of creating new divisions between the EU and the 'outsiders' is critical, both for those states within and those outside the EU, this issue has been given relatively little attention by scholars, even as it is increasingly becoming a concern for the EU as accession draws nearer. Yet to date there remains a high level of ambiguity surrounding EU relations towards ex-Soviet states, with a lack of consensus over the long-term ambitions of EU enlargement in Eastern Europe. Of the three states, the EU has dealt with Ukraine most comprehensively; Ukraine represents a crucial actor in the process of post-Soviet democratization because of the retention of its independence from Russia3. Yet Belarus and Moldova, termed by Lowenhardt (2001) as 'forgotten countries\ have largely been neglected in policymaking arguably because they do not represent vital interests to the EU (particularly in terms of economic interests), although their merits are further undermined by domestic problems of corruption and political exploitation. This paper endeavors to examine the topic from a broad and comparative regional approach, relying upon the relatively limited resources available, such as the official EU documents outlining EU policy towards these states, information published by a group of scholars from the Glasgow Schools, and recent academic journals of post-Soviet studies.

The changes wrought by the end of Cold War have completely transformed the political environment of Europe. Yet after the initial peaceful transition period, new fears have begun to arise over new divi­sions being drawn between East and West, in which the expansion of NATO and the EU has signaled the latest process in the geopolitical reorganization of Europe6. In the near future, Europe will witness the accession of ten new countries (mostly former communist states) to the EU and seven former communist countries to NATO7. The EU enlarge­ment to take place in May 2004, barring any unforeseen obstacles to negotiations, represents an extraordinary development in East-West relations that was quite inconceivable during the 1980s. EU enlargement is thus part of a complex process in which states across the continent are reconstituting their relations. The dynamic relations emerging between the EU and European states can be understood as operating on three different political trajectories: these involving the first-wave accession states, then the other acceding states, and finally the newly defined 'outsiders'. Such relations will become more pronounced with the con­struction of the Schengen border.

EU enlargement is critical for the states of Central and Eastern Europe because of the potential it brings for increased peace and pros­perity across the region. Non-membership implies a greater risk of undemocratic government and economic hardship, particularly as those states included in the accession process move forward8. The benefits of membership include increasing political security and economic develop­ment, institutional reforms especially within the judiciary and state bureaucracy, the development of a welfare state, and the potential for EU transfer payments through the policy of structural and cohesion funds. Yet apart from Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, the other European states outside the first enlargement have been accounted for in the EU's nego­tiations: Romania and Bulgaria have been set a preliminary date to enter in 1997; and the Balkan states signed the Balkans Stability Pact (July 1999) that anticipates eventual membership through EU initiatives in the region; Turkey's status continues to present an anomaly but there have been concerted efforts made by the EU to improve dialogue with Ankara. Therefore the exclusion of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova from EU enlargement, although not particularly surprising in view of their politi­cal and economic shortcomings, nonetheless creates a stark impression of new divisions being drawn across Europe.

The EU Accession Process

The EU enlargement process has been driven by two principle factors: by states assertively seeking membership and by the EU itself through active policies of negotiation. Therefore both these conditions must exist for a state to embark on the EU accession process. In terms of the first condition, only Moldova has indicated a degree of commitment to EU accession, whereas reform has been mixed in Ukraine although it has displayed aspirations for EU membership and Belarus has actively sought unification with Russia most notably through reintegration into Soviet economic structures9. Yet in all three states, certain political parties are supported politically and economically by the EU, which is important for creating a proactive environment advocating EU member­ship. This development is undermined however by the limited nature of party commitment to the electorate in these three states, where only a fledging process of democracy is present.10

In terms of the second condition, it is important to note that when states first apply for EU membership, they are either set on route to EU accession, or their application is rejected and they will not continue negotiations. For this reason, it is significant that the EU has neither denied nor encouraged membership applications of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. This strategy of non-commitment is particularly evident in the case of Ukraine, where progress towards EU membership has been put on hold until after the 2004 enlargement11. This ambivalence in EU policy towards Ukraine has caused a great sense of frustration and alienation, being relegated to a 'no man's land'. Similarly, the fact that the EU did not adopt Common Strategy towards Moldova and Ukraine, as it did for Ukraine and Russia (June 1999)12, produced considerable resentment; particularly for Moldova that had overt designs for EU membership. In June 2001 Moldova was included into the Balkans Security Pact, which renewed hope for eventual inclusion although once again the EU was careful not to make any commitments1a. More recently, in April 2003, EU leaders at a meeting in Luxembourg expressed their commitment to Ukraine and Moldova as possible EU candidates.

It may be argued that lack of an official strategy gives the EU more potential for future negotiation (although ambivalence is frustrating for the states concerned and carries the potential risk for awkward future misunderstandings and accusations of betrayal). Following the ambiva­lent approach of the EU towards Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, it ap­pears that the dual conditions for accession - pro-activity by both the applicant state and the EU - are interdependent; namely the EU discour­ages a state to apply for membership, and therefore the state will not actively seek EU membership. This is important because it enables a delay in the extraordinarily complicated task of assessing the member­ship eligibility of these states for membership. A crucial aspect of EU accession negotiations is the issue of democracy. In the case of the Eastern border this largely depends on the long-term ability of Russia to induce reform. Russian foreign policy is also significant in ensuring the continuing independence of the ex-Soviet states. The EU's Partnership and Cooperation Agreements with Ukraine (June 1994), Belarus (March 1995)14 and Moldova (November 1995)15, however, have played a signifi­cant role in the democratizing and development process, particularly through the TACIS (Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States) aid program16.

Scholars are increasingly recognizing the influence of the EU as a powerful actor in instigating democratization and institutional reform within the domestic arenas of acceding states17. The degree of EU lever­age is crucial in determining domestic political change, such as whether states follow a 'nationalist' or 'liberal' pattern of development, whereby a liberal agenda is more conducive for accession to EU membership, as Vachudova (2001) has identified in her research on the EU enlargement process18. The key variable of Vachudova's thesis explaining whether democratizing states follow a liberal or nationalist pattern is whether strong opposition to communism exists. The EU operates by sponsoring parties opposed to communism, with the intention of securing election success for those parties that support EU accession and will abide by democratic and market-orientated liberal policies in order to achieve the criteria for membership. In the case of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, the EU has only displayed minimal interest (passive leverage) in support­ing liberal parties, and therefore unreformed communist parties have filled the power vacuum. However, it is difficult to categorize these states within a democratizing framework because they are all still occupied with elementary state-building exercises19.

Russian relations are particularly important for the EU in its pursuit of enlargement to the East. The EU must navigate careful diplomatic strategies when negotiating with other Eastern European states in order not to alienate Russia with its close historical links in the region, espe­cially towards the three countries in question. President Putin has emphasized the importance of constructing productive East-West rela­tions, expressing concern over the establishment of new dividing lines across the continent that have been so recently erased20. This notion of a divide is particularly apparent through the issues of immigration and visa requirements created by the Schengen Agreement, as well as through fears about Eastern European states gradually reorientating their trade towards the EU and away from the East21. Engaging in relations with the EU is also important for Moscow in order to achieve political credibility, and Russia significantly benefits through economic assistance, whereby EU aid and trade agreements represent crucial instruments in the eco­nomic transition of Russia22. Particularly for this reason, Russia has not attempted to block EU enlargement23.

Nevertheless, Russia remains a dominant power in Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus because oft heir heavy dependency on Russian trade24, and it therefore wields a high degree of leverage on their foreign policies. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, at the beginning of the 1990s, these states joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and their historic allegiance to Soviet structures was reinforced. The 1995 Commission report on EU-Russia relations recognized this development, envisioning that the EU, including the acceding states, would remain separate from Russia and that most oft he ex-Soviet states would retain close relations with Moscow25. Yet more recently, for Ukraine and Moldova CIS membership has been superseded by their new focus on economic cooperation within GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova Group), an organization less depen­dent on Russia (and Soviet structures)26. Moldova in particular has resisted Russian economic hegemony by developing alternative trading partners in the region, although the Ukrainian economy remains closely linked to that of Russia. Conversely, Belarus has sought greater eco­nomic integration with Russia27.

While meeting the requirements of EU accession is a meritocratic affair, instituted by the criteria oft he acquis communautaire, which require a functioning market economy and the ability to withstand competitive market forces, there are important political prerequisites for membership that are not so quantifiable. Although a state will not be allowed to join the EU until it has met the economic criteria, setting a state on the route to EU membership in the first instance is therefore largely dictated by political considerations, particularly democracy, stability and human rights, but also geopolitical factors. For instance: Ukraine's large economy positions it favorably against other poor states of Eastern Europe that are acceding to the EU, although undoubtedly a large gulf remains between its attainment of a functioning market economy. In any case, the arguments against EU membership for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova are more complex, involving problems of political instability, crime, and unsettled identity with the explosive issues of ethnicity. These states are located on the fault-line between the East and West, 'a locus where conflicts are inherently more dangerous than elsewhere in the world28.

There is evidence of anti-democratic governance in all three states, and crime and corruption are increasing across the region. Sultanism is evident in Belarus with Lukashenko's dictatorship29, and Ukraine and Belarus have been accused by the international community of selling illegal arms to 'rogue' states such as Iraq. The government in Moldova has no control over the Trans-Dniestria region, in which a hotbed of corruption, prostitution and an illicit drug trade operate.30 National identities are unsettled in all three states, a result of the recent geopoliti­cal transition of the Soviet empire, and distinctions between ethnic and ideological identities remain poorly defined and understood31. Both Moldova and Belarus are border territories that have been displaced in the past - Belarus between Russia and Poland, and Moldova between Russia and Romania, and a number of disputes have emerged with the reassertion of ethnicity by certain groups32. Furthermore, Belarus and Moldova are incredibly underdeveloped with outmoded economic struc­tures and declining economic performance. Consequently these three states do not represent particularly attractive candidates for membership of the EU.

It is important to note, however, that former Soviet status is not in itself an obstacle to EU membership, as demonstrated by the inclusion of the Baltic states in EU accession negotiations. This was due to the political proactivity of both the Baltic states and the EU throughout the 1990s; the Baltic states demonstrated an assertive commitment to EU membership and did not join the CIS, and there was active support by the EU in these states for liberal political parties and through develop­ment programs such as PHARE33. Crucially, the Scandinavian states of the EU also sponsored the accession of the Baltic states by emphasizing their 'northern dimension'. Another aspect to the divergent trajectories of these two different groups of states during the 1990s is that the econo­mies of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova are more intertwined with that of Russia, whereas historically the Baltic states had alternative trading connections in northern Europe. Therefore the existence of foreign policy alternatives apart from Russia is vital. This may also be demon­strated by considering how Moldova's alternatives - partly determined by its large resident Romanian population - are increasingly integrating Moldova economically, with Europe with ensuing implications for Moldova's political relations with the EU.

The Future for EU Enlargement


There are grave consequences for states excluded from the EU, most evidently in terms of economic prosperity but also indirectly through geopolitical implications, such as illegal immigration, cross-border crime and political instability. EU market protectionism is a crippling barrier to trade for outsiders because it involves restrictions on agricultural produce, which is an especially detrimental policy to states like Moldova that are excessively dependent on agriculture. Foreign direct investment also tends to be diverted away from the periphery and towards EU members, increasing the differences in economic development for insid­ers and outsiders. The situation is further exacerbated for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova because of the sheer difference in size between Soviet markets and those of the EU34. There is another dimension of economic exclusion in terms of cross-border trade, whereby former bilateral trading relationships are disrupted through restrictions to entry for non-EU citizens imposed by Schengen. Where prosperous border trade once existed unimpeded by national borders such as between Poland and Ukraine35, stringent passport controls and visa requirements now increasingly delineate the boundaries of 'fortress Europe', heavily impacting the livelihoods of shuttle traders and border dwellers.

The construction of a hard border also has important consequences for the movement of people seeking work and refuge. Although mass resettlement in the EU of immigrants from the East has not materialized as once envisaged, transit and short-term migration is increasing espe­cially towards 'third countries', that is those Eastern European states within the EU accession process36. The problem is that these states lack the resources to absorb migrants and therefore may push asylum seekers towards neighboring states in which even fewer resources are available and where less humane immigration policies exist. For those states excluded from EU enlargement there are few incentives to cooperate with the EU over immigration and asylum37. It is also a problem for the long­term economic growth of those states losing their populations, particu­larly Moldova38 and Ukraine39, As Grabbe (2000) perceives, extending Schengen eastwards implies a trade-off between the benefits of freer movement within the EU against the cost of preventing passage from the East40.

The Schengen border also holds significant implications as a dis­criminatory division between populations that share ethnic origins and close cultural connections. This issue is particularly contentious in a region where the locations of many ethnic groups span borders. For instance, since the EU began negotiations with Romania in 1999 there has been a surge of ethnic Romanians living in Moldova applying for Romanian citizenship. Lowenhardt et al. (2001) suggest that if this development continues the EU will be forced to admit Moldova jointly with Romania because of the numbers of Moldavians holding dual citizenship41. Likewise, the existence of ethnic Hungarians living in Ukraine is problematic for the accession of Hungary. For this reason, there has been a souring of relations between Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova and bordering European states. As Grabbe (2000) perceives, for those states on the periphery of an expanding EU, Schengen is foreign policy and the situation will only degenerate with the construction of a hard impermeable border42.

Exclusion for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova is especially problem­atic because they are not faced with the eventual possibility of member­ship and therefore are not granted any substantive incentives for reform. Partly for this reason democratization and development of the state apparatus has been minimal. Support for nationalist parties may be strengthened where they campaign on issues of rights for ethnic minori­ties and anti-Western sentiment, a trend that has become increasingly evident in Ukraine and in Belarus43. Furthermore, states with extremist governments in power tend not to apply for EU membership and there is more possibility for migrants44. Yet although the EU desires stability along the new frontiers it has thus far not been prepared to secure this stability by engaging closely in the domestic policies of states in the region.


During the 1990s, the EU launched an ambitious agenda to assist the democratic and economic transitions of former Soviet states, estab­lishing a framework of cooperation through the PCAs involving the TACIS program (Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Indepen­dent States). These policies have been successful in building diplomatic relations. Yet with Russia receiving the bulk of financial aid there have been minimal developments in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova45• Enter­ing into these treaties and agreements with the EU, however, demon­strates some degree of commitment to reform and therefore is an impor­tant step towards improving relations46. Nevertheless, there remains much uncertainty in East-West relations as to how EU enlargement will impact on the region. The EU has to be extremely careful not to alienate those states excluded from the process, which increases instability in the region with the related consequences of migrants, ethnic tensions and crime. There has been a degree of pressure from other actors, particu­larly the US, NATO as well as other Eastern European states, especially Hungary and Poland, which are directly impacted by issues concerning the EU's borders47, and thus the EU is increasingly realizing the need for a constructive approach towards Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.

Scholars have drawn attention to a number of areas in which the EU should engage more actively, in order to reduce ambiguities and improve relations with 'outsiders'. Above all, the EU needs to develop a common foreign policy towards all these states, incorporating cooperation and extending trade agreements. Following a functionalist-type argument, economic integration and prosperity gives rise to political stability48. The EU also must help to restructure economies and welfare systems, a critical task in ex-communist societies where these liberal economic structures did not formerly exist. Border controls and asylum policies are likewise new issues for these states and a sensitive approach should be adopted in order to deal with the highly contentious issues of ethnicity. In general, immigration policies need to be reconsidered; streamlining of entry requirements is important, but attention should also be paid to the special relationships between certain states. For instance, Poland has advocated inexpensive and multi-entry visas for citizens of the Ukraine traveling to Poland49. Greater support for liberal­orientated politicians is another step required in order to promote de­mocracy within the region.

Garnett and Lebenson argue that EU support for stability in the border region does not require large amounts of financial resources or deployment of military forces but rather the 'endorsement of the positive trends that are springing up from the soil of the former USSR50. These trends involve the domestication of Russia (including the implementa­tion of civil society) and the increasing multilateral linkages formed by former-Soviet states amongst one other and elsewhere, in which there is potential for the EU to exercise real leverage through institutions. Where the EU disregards contentious issues in the region or imposes discriminatory policies, the significant developments that are emerging are undermined, as is the credibility of the EU. This weakens the integrity of those elites supporting EU relations, who are vital for future develop­ments51. Furthermore, there may be a necessity to intervene later, when there are higher human and economic costs. For instance, Trans­Dniestria has been noted as containing the potential for a Balkans-type conflict52. Increasing crime and terrorism are issues to which the EU needs to pay particular attention.

Another issue the EU should address is how NATO enlargement is also creating new divisions in Europe with the recent series of expan­sions. The reality is that within these states this process serves to heighten 'anxieties about becoming a vulnerable buffer between two belligerent blocs53. An influential argument for improving relations in this region is that the offer of enlargement itself perhaps represents the most powerful tool of the EU on foreign policy54. If taken seriously the process of EU accession becomes prevalent in all aspects of domestic policymaking and is constructive for economic progress with the market reforms of the aquis communitaire complying closely with those recom­mended by economists for development. At the very least, there should be greater support for the independence, democracy, and territorial integrity of these states. Part of a constructive policy to prevent the reassertion of divisions involves the creation of a permeable rather than fortified border55. These processes of reform would be achievable were the EU to increase market access with other interim rewards for these states, alongside a two-step process of strengthening pro-reform groups while weakening rent-seeking elites. However, the problem to date, regarding lack of reform, has been that the desire to promote develop­ment in former Soviet states has involved linking aid with issues that conform to the priorities of the West56.


Following the hypothesis that ex-Soviet states of Eastern Europe are more likely to integrate into European structures when they have alterna­tive foreign policy options apart from Russia, Moldova is the state most likely to achieve EU membership. Certainly Moldova has demonstrated the most commitment to the process with the largest number of EU cooperation agreements and the highest percentage of its exports di­rected at the EU market, followed by Ukraine and then Belarus. Whereas for Ukraine and Belarus, Russia is the exclusive 'other', for Moldova there are two significant 'others', Russia and Romania (Lowenhardt et al. 2001). Economic dependency on Russia has been one of the major reasons for lack of reform in all these states, but by creating complex networks of multilateral relations there is an increased possibility for sustained development and also democracy, since credibility and the existence of political stability are central to a state partaking in interna­tional cooperation agreements57.

The EU is one international body in Eastern Europe that has in­duced reform. The upcoming accession in 2004 of ten states to the EU represents an incredibly powerful example of how an international actor may influence the democratization and market transition process. Yet, as demonstrated by the cases of Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, this influ­ence may only penetrate where there is a desire for engagement both from the EU institutions and from within the state itself. Since the EU's genuine interest in these states has been minimal - patchy at best and nonexistent at worst - there has recently been a renewed focus of these states towards traditional Soviet allies. This development has been advanced by the protracted nature of negotiations with the EU, which has fuelled a sense of hopelessness in Ukraine and Moldova. A major prob­lem in EU relations with these states is that there is lack of mutual understanding whereby both sides have a limited knowledge of one another and are unable to approach negotiations on the same terms. As Moroney despondently perceives, 'Ukraine is goal-orientated, the EU process-orientated. Ukraine views full membership as the end goal, the EU sees Ukraine as merely one component in its eastward enlargement and the process itself as a means of encouraging applicants to modernize, reform, and implement democratic principles'58. Taking into account the major factors influencing the relations of these states with the EU, the resulting picture is a divergent pattern of development based on the different conditions that exist within each state:

1. Ukraine: There is an inability to extricate the economy from that of Russia, a process further undermined by the corruption of rent­ seeking elites; therefore the number of international agreements is limited. It is difficult for the EU to negotiate fully with Ukraine because of Ukraine's relationship with Russia and the anti-democratic nature of the Ukrainian government, and consequently there has not been an assertive approach made by the EU. The lack of a coherent policy from the EU has further impeded the EU's relations with Ukraine. Ukraine has attempted to reform, but without external guidance transition has been stalled and reform is slow.

2. Belarus: Lukashenko's Presidency is a major reason for undemo­cratic government and lack of economic reform. By vilifying all foreign policy options apart from those of Russia and pro-Soviet structures, Lukashenko has seriously limited the possibilities for EU negotiations. He rejects any chance that EU assistance could be linked with political and economic reform within Belarus. Economic failure is masked by Russian patriarchy.

3. Moldova: Increasing networks of interdependence are being created through the relations established both with post-Soviet states (such as GUUAM) and importantly with Europe (assisted by strong bilateral cooperation between Moldova and Romania). The EU has expressed an interest in cooperating with Moldova, extending trade agreements and policies to aid political reform, and has not been ob­structed by Russia due to the lack of Russian interests in the region. Moldova has responded constructively to these efforts and worked within the framework, for instance by safeguarding minorities. The result is an increased orientation of Moldova towards the EU although the Trans­Dniestria issue significantly hinders further developments.

Although all three states are positioned on divergent trajectories in terms of their relations with the EU, they remain distinct outsiders. There are crucial consequences for this exclusion, whereby a new 'inbetween' Europe may be reviving. Upcoming enlargement may serve to further widen the differences between East and West through disparities in accessibility to labor and capital markets. This is a distressing devel­opment, where so much effort has been made across Europe during the last decade to overcome the divisions of the Cold War59. Disparity-linked problems are already arising, most evidently in terms of illegal immigra­tion, cross-border crime and political instability. The phenomenon of corrupt regimes is contagious and threatens the EU with or without fortress borders.

This region should be therefore recognized as a crucial and integral part of Europe, rather than as a peripheral borderland. Accordingly, the EU should engage more closely with these governments and develop coherent strategies alongside EU policy towards Russia in order to achieve stable and prosperous conditions in states soon to be the EU's neighbors. Prospects for economic development largely depend on access to the European single market, which is in fact a strong shared interest for all parties involved, and political stability would be aided by a stronger presence of the EU within the region. Presently the EU tends to view the region through the dichotomy of inclusion or exclusion. Instead, a new approach is required that would establish a clearly defined and constructive commitment towards the region. The problem to date is therefore two-fold, involving first the considerable domestic weak­nesses within Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, and their particular asym­metric relations towards Russia, and secondly the shortcomings of international actors in inducing greater reform, of which perhaps the EU holds greatest responsibility.