External Publications

Jun 17, 2022

Harnessing the EU Accession Perspective for Consolidating Democracy in Accession Trio Countries

TEPSA Experts’ Briefing
TEPSA Expert Briefing Jun 22

The Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) has been working to analyze the progress being made in EU accession prospects for the so-called “Association Trio”: Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, who have all applied to join the EU as a consequence of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. As a special issue within the Observatory, TEPSA has gathered key experts to analyze how placing these three countries within the enlargement framework might advance democratic reforms.


On June 23 to 24, the European Council Summit might decide on granting the EU candidate status to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. It is in this context that our experts have analysed the importance of the enlargement framework for supporting democracy in the Trio countries. 


Contribution by Anastasia Pociumban, research fellow and project manager of DGAP’s Think Tank Network on the Eastern Partnership:

Russia’s war against Ukraine has changed the architecture of the EU foreign policy and its neighborhood policy. Following Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia submitted their applications for the EU membership. The Commission’s opinion will be published next week, followed by the European Council conclusions on June 23 to 24. In order to foster democracy, good governance and rule of law in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, the countries need to receive a clear roadmap towards EU accession. Trying to preserve “grey zones” in the eastern neighborhood will mean leaving an open door for Russian aggression and further destabilization in the region. It would leave the societies of the countries without a clear development path and direction, and closer integration with Russia is not an option that these countries would pursue. 

Opening the accession process and moving the countries to the enlargement portfolio means committing to additional economic support. In this framework, economic and recovery packages (with conditionality), coupled with support to civil society and independent media, could bolster advancing reforms and preserve democracy. In this context, even more differentiation is needed among the three countries. 

Ukraine, amid the war, has applied for the EU membership clearly stating its EU aspirations and readiness to defend democratic values. Offering a membership perspective for Ukraine also implies providing further support to its democracy. Yet, its democracy is tied to victory in the war and the reconstruction of the country, which is currently estimated to cost around €500 billion-€600 billion. Such instruments as Solidarity Trust fund for Ukraine are important in this context.  

Moldova, which according to the EUI democracy index is in the top 10 countries with most improved democracy in 2021, was upgraded from ‘hybrid regime’ to ‘flawed democracy’, because of its functioning government and political participation. However, impacted by the war, Moldova is dealing with economic, energy, and migration challenges, coupled with risks of hybrid threats and security destabilization. In order to support the current, most reformed-oriented government since Moldovan independence, the country needs both immediate and long-term economic support packages to mitigate the raising prices (the inflation rate in May reached 29 percent), especially on energy. The support is needed swiftly to ensure that the government can survive current crises and pursue its reform agenda. Otherwise, the government risks facing social unrest. 

Georgia, a former EU association pioneer, is dealing with democratic backsliding, and its democracy rating has been declining in the past 4 years. Continuous political polarization, attacks against media, opaque electoral laws are undermining Georgia’s democratic prospects. Nevertheless, Georgia has a strong civil society and at this crucial time needs EU support towards reforms and against democratic backsliding. Not offering a clear membership perspective at this moment will hinder Georgia’s democratic path and risks pushing Georgia under higher influence from Russia. An EU accession offer under concrete conditions will increase the accountability for the Georgian government and strengthen the role of civil society.

In this context, and to support the further democratization process, the three countries shouldn’t be left in the limbo between the EU and Russia and, no matter the name (candidate / potential candidate status), an accession roadmap is instrumental to support the democratic transition of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. 

Read the complete TEPSA briefing paper here.

Bibliographic data

Pociumban, Anastasia. “Harnessing the EU Accession Perspective for Consolidating Democracy in Accession Trio Countries.” June 2022.

The expert debrief was published by the Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) on June 16, 2022 here.