In 2009, the European Union established its Eastern Partnership to advance political association and economic integration with six neighboring nations to its east. However, in November 2013, Ukrainian President Yanukovych refused to sign the Association Agreement, triggering mass protests that ultimately led to his departure and accusations that the EU “sleepwalked” into the conflict in Ukraine. Although the EU long asserted that the framework was not directed against Russia, the agreement with Ukraine was perceived in Moscow as crossing a red line. In the wake of the ongoing Ukraine crisis, some are questioning whether the EU’s Neighborhood Policy/Eastern Partnership should be fundamentally altered – and if so, how?
Against the backdrop of simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian people will go to the polls on October 26 to elect a new parliament. The new parliament members will then have to form a majority coalition and begin to tackle the pressing problems facing the country. Those problems include not just the situation in the east and the troubled relationship with Russia, but needed economic and political reforms as well as measures to curb corruption. The questions remain about Ukrainian public expectations and potential tensions in the immediate aftermath of the vote.
On October 29, the Brookings Center on the United States and Europe and the Heinrich Böll Foundation hosted a panel discussion assessing next steps for Ukraine and the EU’s Eastern Partnership. The first panel explored the Ukrainian election and what it means for politics within Ukraine, the Ukrainian economy, and Ukraine’s relations with Russia and the West. The second panel focused on international perspectives on the Eastern Partnership and the EU’s neighborhood policy.