European Integration: Goals and Reality (Comparing Central European, Baltic and the South Caucasus States)

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Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi state university, Faculty of social and political sciences
The predecessor of the European Union – European Economic Community (EEC) –was established as an economic alliance of western (later -- southern) European states. The EU, which came into being in 1993, appeared to become an example of the most successful economic integration case in history, which brought welfare and secured peace to the western part of the European continent. After the collapse of the USSR, the example of European integration turned out to be attractive for the former communist states of central and eastern parts of Europe. The core of the European Union – its founding members – agreed to accept new members from Central and Eastern Europe. Ten countries – Cyprus, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the EU in 2004, Bulgaria and Romania - in 2007 and Croatia - in 2013. Thus, the total number of EU member states reached 28. For all these countries, the membership in the EU turned out to be very beneficial. Multiparty democracy has strengthened and economic development accelerated. In 2004, the total GDP of the former Communist countries of Central Europe, better known as "Visegrad four" (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary) amounted to $521.7 billions, while in 2017 to $975,07 billions, in other words, after joining the EU, the total sum of the GDP of these countries increased by 86,9%. After restoring the independence (September 1991) the three Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which were forcibly included by Moscow in the Soviet Union in 1940, had undergone a fast process of re- westernisation and they joined the European Union in 2004. Their total GDP grew by 111% in 2004-2017. Meanwhile the EU has focused its attention further eastwards to the former Soviet republics. In 2009 for six of them (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) the Eastern Partnership (EaP) programme had been established as a specific Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). This programme is still ongoing. Unlike the Central European and Baltic states, where a common pro- western public opinion existed and the efforts of the political elites were directed towards European integration, in the three states of the South Caucasus no similar spirit of solidarity is to be felt. Their foreign policy is also affected by factors outside of the region. E.g. prior to September 2013, Georgia and Armenia worked in parallel to achieve a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU, which is an initial step on their way to the European integration. But Moscow has forced Armenia to abandon this policy in 2013. As for Azerbaijan, it was from the beginning rather sceptical about the EU integration process. The incompatibility of foreign policy vectors and unresolved conflicts hinder the South Caucasus to be presented in the world as a single region that, in its turn, hampers the process of its integration with the European Union.
South Caucasus, Central Europe, Baltic States, European Integration, Eastern Partnership, Association Agreement, სამხრეთ კავკასია, ცენტრალური ევროპა, ბალტიის ქვეყნები, ევროპული ინტეგრაცია, აღმოსავლეთ პარტნიორობა, ასოცირების ხელშეკრულება