MOSCOW. (Sergei Markedonov for RIA Novosti) - The Europeanization of the post-Soviet space has received new incentives. On May 7, Prague will play host to the constituent summit of Eastern Partnership to be attended by EU leaders and heads of six republics of the former Soviet Union (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) taking part in this program.
On the same day, another round of talks between Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev will take place in the Czech capital. The project's initiators are pinning special hopes on its results.
The initiative on Eastern Partnership was the result of Swedish and Polish diplomacy last year. In effect, this was the first serious public claim by New Europe to play the first fiddle in the European orchestra. At that time, on the eve of its EU presidency, France was the first to support this initiative. Originally, such European grandees as Germany and Britain did not show much enthusiasm for this idea. But the subsequent five-day war in the Caucasus caused fears in Europe about "the empire's revival" and the consolidation of "Russia's exclusive influence in Eurasia" (which the EU perceives as a prerequisite of stronger authoritarian rule inside Russia).
It goes without saying that the Baltic countries and Poland were particularly zealous in aggravating these phobias. They received new arguments - the Kremlin's unilateral recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence, and the change of Russia's status in the South Caucasus. Be it as it may, a thorough analysis of this issue last December in Brussels produced a document, which defines the main provisions and prospects of Eastern Partnership.
The draft joint Declaration of Eastern Partnership reads that this program will be based on such fundamental values as democracy, supremacy of law, respect for human rights, international law, and the market economy. All these values are set against the principles of 19th century Realpolitik. But this is only on paper. Considering all kinds of obstacles existing in reality, the project aims at creating "preparatory courses", or Europe's "anteroom."
Eastern Partnership has already been compared with the EU's agreements with Lithuania and Poland before the expansion of united Europe in 2004. However, there are some serious nuances and major differences between these agreements and the current project. Post-Soviet republics are not invited to join the EU, although their leaders are naturally interpreting partnership as the doors to Europe flung wide open. However, last January EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner openly stated that Eastern Partnership did not provide for the admission of post-Soviet states into the EU.
The EU as an institution is trying to save face. Political correctness and adherence to propaganda do not allow it to reject post-Soviet states out of hand. Today's EU ideology is similar to Soviet-style progressivism, under which society can only move forward, from simple to sophisticated, from bottom to top, from old to new. Therefore, there is no alternative to Europe's expansion. It is beyond doubt, and it only remains to argue about when it will take place. For this reason, many new EU members (old-timers have very different opinions on their membership) are particularly active in shaping unreasonably high expectations in their partners. In this particular case, the matter is not so much about grants and foreign financing that concern our homebred, envious "patriots". The talk about fast Europeanization stems from Soviet mentality, which is no weaker in Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan than it is in Russia. This is a way of thinking when an idea (in this case, a markedly anti-Russian, European idea rather than the communist one) is being elevated to the absolute, divorced from reality, and denied thorough analysis. This approach leads to the emergence of myths, overrated expectations, and practical mistakes.
Having decided that "Euro-Atlantic fraternity" has no alternative, Tbilisi launched its attack on Tskhinval. As a result, Russian tanks are now stationed 30 km (little more than 19 miles) from the Georgian capital, while Georgia has lost control over the district of Akhalgori and the Kodor Gorge. Its chances of retrieving Abkhazia and South Ossetia are close to zero even within the borders of the Soviet period, not to mention those of 1992-1994.
But Georgia is an extreme case. For the time being, other EU partners are actively discussing "change of orientation," notably, the renunciation of post-Soviet integration in favor of Europe.
Needless to say, the CIS is not a very effective structure. Its goals are vague, and it lacks a vision of the future. However, this institute of "civilized divorce" provides for the recognition of university diplomas and visa-free travel for the Eastern partners. Anyone who graduated from the Kharkov Pedagogical Institute, or Kishinev University in 1983, has every chance to get a job on the vast expanses of Russia. This is of real value provided by the CIS. What company in Rome, Milan, Paris, or Frankfurt would accept diplomas of a medical institute from Baku, a technical or pedagogical vocational school from Yerevan, Kishinev, Odessa, Zhitomir, or Minsk? (The latter diploma should also be supported by evidence of democratic transit).
Everything in the EU is going according to plan, just as things had been running in Soviet times. The constituent summit will take place on May 7. Later on, summits will be held on a regular basis, and the Brussels bureaucracy will take charge of the project itself. As in the case with NATO summits, there will reports about "progress," but these "steps forward" are not likely to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, make Georgia more tolerant to the motives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, or turn Transdnestr into "European Moldova."
It is clear that the partners' relations with Russia are not likely to improve as a result of the project's implementation. Many in the countries, which are waiting for "vouchers" to Europe, believe that this project is aimed at reducing Russia's influence in Europe and Asia. It is difficult to expect positive results when blind faith and ideology prevail over knowledge and reality.
Sergei Markedonov is department head at the Institute of Political and Military Analysis.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.