The European Union has clearly defined security priorities according to which it aims to develop its cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries. However, the question remains whether these priorities are also the onces vital for stability and security in the region and partner states and to what extent.
Security has been one of essential components in Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative since it was launched. According to the European Commission press release on Eastern Partnership of December 3, 2008, security was defined as one of the components of this EU initiative, focusing on border management and effort to combat illegal migration and organized crime. If we analyze the effective document “Eastern Partnership: Focusing on Key Priorities and Deliverables”, finally adopted in June 2017, we will see that the European Union retained these priorities for EaP security, logically adding cyber security, fighting cyber threats, arms escalation, radiation, chemical and biological threats and emergency situations.
The list of these security priorities is obviously important to Ukraine and other EaP countries, however, the issue remains as to whether these priorities are important for the stability and security in the region. Ukraine, which has always been a leader when it comes to developing security cooperation with the EU, and which has been combatting Russian hybrid aggression for five years, has already partially achieved some deliverables defined by the EU. Moreover, Ukraine is likely to be able to fulfill all of them until 2020 as stated in the EU document on the Eastern Partnership mentioned before.
EU goals and real challenges for EaP security
Eastern Partnership security goals do not completely correspond with the interests of the partner states as these goals fail to provide the most important target solution: conflict resolution, and Russia is not mentioned as the main source of security threats. The lack of clear identification of the source of threats makes it difficult to undertake effective combat measures. It is worth noting that in the EU Global Strategy of 2016, the key foreign policy and security document, the EU does not clearly identify the source of threats. However, it says that they come from the East and accuses Russia of its destabilizing policy: “Russia’s violation of the international law and the destabilization of Ukraine, on top of protracted conflicts in the wider Black Sea region, have challenged the European security order at its core.”
The European Union, without a doubt, recognizes the importance of efforts to resolve conflicts in the EaP region. For instance, after the 5th Eastern Partnership Summit in November 2017 the President of the European Council Donald Tusk stated: “But while there are indeed good prospects for the future, frozen and armed conflicts continue to prevent development and create hardships in the Eastern Partnership countries”. However, Brussels is targeting an absolutely pragmatic goal of securing stability and security on the EU eastern borders.
It is sufficient to analyze the EU Eastern Partnership security deliverables to 2020. For instance, “better ability to combat organized crime among partner states” will definitely strengthen their domestic security and their institutional ability; what is more, it will also lower the risks of its infiltration into the EU countries. The same is the situation with combating illegal arms trade, cybercrime, radiation, chemical and biological threats, hybrid threats, emergencies. On these issues the EU interests and the interests of the partner states coincide, thus, this cooperation becomes mutually beneficial. Yet, it is insufficient since it is more important to neutralize the source of hybrid threats rather than continuously prepare to deal with them. However, it is difficult to define counteractions against the exact source of threats in the EU documents, as the Eastern Partnership is not “aimed at any state”, moreover, not all partner states will accept such wording.
The European Union has also suggested the EaP countries to hold joint training for military units, take part in the EU missions and armed units that would make them better prepared for preventing conflicts and resolving crises. Even though Moldova and Georgia used this opportunity to participate in the EU missions, and Ukraine is planning to send its unit to be a part of the EU armed task forces, these steps are of only tactical nature and relate only to separate units with these developments demonstrating mostly the activities of those three countries that signed the association agreements.
Overall, limited Eastern Partnership security deliverables to 2020 can be explained by the following: the EU priority of securing its eastern frontiers; the EU wish to define tasks that would correspond to its interests and the interests of each, without exceptions, partner state; avoiding taking measures against any third country and Russia in particular; radically polar foreign policy courses for different partner states, when some of them are the Eurasian Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization members while others have chosen the EU and NATO membership as their priorities.
Ukrainian achievements in the context of EaP security deliverables
Ukraine has fulfilled a minimum of 50% of its Eastern Partnership security deliverables and has all chances to finish the implementation of those tasks to 2020. An important development took place in June 2018 when the new law on national security was adopted and it clearly documented Ukrainian intentions to integrate into the European security space.
Ukraine has almost fulfilled the deliverables concerning fighting organized crime by improving its cooperation with Eurojust and Europol on the basis of corresponding agreements signed in 2016. Ukraine has assigned a liaison officer to Europol who will be first-hand responsible for coordinating this cooperation. The European Union Advisory Mission continues to conduct its work in Ukraine and it makes a sizable contribution into developing the opportunities for Ukrainian law enforcement agencies fighting organized crime and dealing with cyber security. Yet in Ukraine there is no integral effective state system for combating illegal arms escalation, even though some measures in this respect are indeed taken.
After Ukraine adopted its Cybersecurity Strategy in 2016, the Ukrainian government annually adopts and implements the corresponding action plan that provides for the implementation of the EU Convention on Cybercrime. Moreover, in 2017 Ukraine adopted a law on the Main Principles of Maintaining Cybersecurity of Ukraine. The NSDC National Coordination Center for Cyber Security and the Department for Cyber Police were launched, Ukraine’s SBU Security Service functions as well as CERT-UA (by analogy with CERT-EU) that fulfill the entire range of tasks in this field including cooperation with Ukrainian NGOs and international partners. In other words, Ukraine has already fulfilled EaP deliverables on cybersecurity.
As for its military agenda, Ukraine took part in the EU “EU NAVFOR ATALANTA” operation in 2014 and EU armed task groups in 2014 and 2016 and is planning to continue its participation in the future. Ukrainian educational security institutions, for example, academies of internal affairs, SBU (Security Service of Ukraine), border service and state administration, work in close cooperation with the EU, implementing points of EU Common Security and Defence Policy, while military academy is more oriented at cooperation with NATO. It is plausible that given the EU defence component development, observed nowadays, Ukraine’s military structures will strengthen their military cooperation with the European Union.
The process of launching a system for protecting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure has not been finalized yet, even though some work in this respect has been done. In 2017 the State Critical Infrastructure Protection Concept was adopted; however, the corresponding law is yet to be passed. Ukraine is yet to join the EU Civil Protection Mechanism as Macedonia, Serbia, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway did, even though the official inquiry was undertaken already in 2014. Ukraine has to do this work by 2020.
Space for better cooperation, differentiation and efficiency
Pursuing the European Union goals which are providing stability and security in Eastern neighborhood, as well as considering interests, visions and abilities of partner states in the field of security, it makes sense for the EU member states and the partner states to concentrate on facing those challenges and threats that are of common and trans-border nature. Moreover, an already known principle of “more for more” has to be used when it comes to the EaP security. In other words, it is necessary not only to define unified tasks for all Eastern partners, but instead to set more ambitious goals and more active cooperation formats for those countries that wish to do it, first and foremost for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.
In particular, countering hybrid threats, the importance of which is constantly highlighted by the EU, and which is among other things reflected in the Joint Declaration of 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit, is supposed to define further cooperation between the EU, on one side, and Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova on the other side, since these three countries have to face hybrid threats posed by Russia almost every day. In order to coordinate their actions within the EaP framework it would make sense to create a platform to combat hybrid threats and resolve conflicts, since the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in Helsinki, launched with the EU involvement, is not able to adequately evaluate hybrid threats in such a distant region without the participation of the countries that are in fact exposed to such threats. The EU and the three mentioned countries should be able to participate in the work of such platform, with other partner states being able to join such a platform in the future .
As for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, their key issues are the following: cyber security and strategic communication including countering the negative influence of propaganda. The countries could move in these two directions in a parallel way, still, in accordance with each other, sharing their experience and implementing joint projects. According to the research, conducted in the framework of “Promoting building of Ukraine’s capacities to guarantee citizen’s security in the conditions of hybrid threats” project, the three countries that signed the association agreement have similar issues when it comes to information and cyber security. And this, in its turn, means they can resolve those issues together while increasing their endurance to hybrid threats. This cooperation will become especially significant in the context of coming presidential elections in Georgia this October, parliamentary elections in Moldova in February 2019 and both presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine next year. There are no doubts that the Kremlin will try to influence these elections using its information and IT-resources in order for pro-Russian forces to come to power in these countries and to interfere with their closer relations with the EU. It is quite possible that those technologies, after being “tested” during the elections in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, could be used by the Kremlin to temper with elections for European Parliament that will take place in May 2019. This should stimulate Brussels to seek closer cooperation with these three countries in the context of information and cyber security.
The EU Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), adopted in December 2017, makes provisions under which third countries could be invited to participate in some projects, while information and cyber security are listed as top priorities of this new EU initiative. Moreover, two out of seventeen initial PESCO projects, adopted by the European Union in March 2018, deal with the fields mentioned above: Cyber Threats and Incident Response Information Sharing Platform and Cyber Rapid Response Teams and Mutual Assistance in Cyber Security. Ukraine as well as Georgia and Moldova could join the Platform, while their cooperation with a rapid response team would not only mean additional sources of information on the nature of cyber threats but would also provide assistance to partner states dealing with cyber security of their elections.
In order to actually create a stable and secure zone in the EaP region it is needed to be more active when it comes to participating in processes dealing with conflict resolution and making them more efficient. Brussels does possess capacities for influencing these matters; the only question is whether there is a will to do it. This could be a test for the EU Common Security and Defence Policy, a demonstration of its efficiency and a contribution to the EU development as a global leader in exactly the way it is envisioned in its Global Strategy.