Policy Briefing on state capacity in Minsk


On 17 January 2019 in Minsk, the School of Young Managers in Public Administration (SYMPA) organized a EU-STRAT policy briefing focused on comparing state capacity in Belarus and Ukraine. Participants of the event represented several state institutions, such as the Ministry of Economy and Minsk City Council, as well as international organizations like the UNDP. Also represented were national NGOs and civic initiatives, research institutions, such as the Economic Institute of the National Academy of Sciences and Research Institute of the Ministry of Economy, in addition to private businesses and academia. The event was also attended by media representatives, including Belapan news agency and BelSat TV company.

Natallia Rabava, the Founding Director of SYMPA, introduced EU-STRAT and the project’s research on state capacity. She was joined by Dr Antoaneta Dimitrova, Dr. Honorata Mazepus (Leiden University), Dr. Tatsiana Chulitsakaya (European Humanities Univeristy, SYMPA) and Ina Ramasheuskaya (SYMPA). Antoaneta Dimitrova highlighted the importance of statehood and state capacity for post-Soviet states, and Belarus and Ukraine in particular, as well as how the EU and international organizations approach relations with them. Honorata Mazepus discussed how the project conceptualized and operationalized state capacity: at the level of development of the public administration system (administrative capacity), and at the level of public services provided to citizens.

Tatsiana Chulitskaya explained how these concepts were applied in the case of Belarus. Administrative capacity was described as largely inherited from Soviet times, functioning relatively well but in a very politicized manner. The quality of public services was evaluated as quite high as compared to other countries in the region. At the same time, these services may have different levels of development or quality. For example, the land cadaster (public record of real estate) was quite highly rated, indicators for education and health care (such as literacy and life expectancy) were also rather good, but the quality of these services is under question. Regional cohesion was also seen as quite ‘normal’ in terms of differences between regions (oblasts) of Belarus, although the discrepancy between urban vs. rural and the capital vs. other cities appears to be increasing.



Ina Ramasheuskaya presented the case of Ukraine. Unlike Belarus, Ukraine’s public administration system was reformed several times since the breakdown of the USSR. After 2014, the new government declared the goal of developing the system in accordance with democratic principles and ‘best practices’. In this sense, it has more potential than the unreformed Belarusian administrative state. However, public services are in general less developed than in Belarus, and regional cohesion is also a big challenge.

Participants discussed other indicators and instruments that could be used in the future to assess the services provided by the state. EU-STRAT only took into account the transport infrastructure, while other aspects were not assessed. Another point made was that, when it comes to the land cadaster, a large percentage of land is owned by the state in Belarus, and there is almost no land in general circulation. So, it is comparably easy to centralize, digitalize and maintain the land cadaster, but its usefulness is under question. Lastly, a better ‘baseline’ or normative point for comparison would be useful to understand which system still is more effective and how much the levels of development of a particular service differ.

Meeting with the European Commission Representation Office in Minsk

EU-STRAT researchers, Dr. Antoaneta Dimitrova, Dr. Honorata Mazepus, Dr. Tatsiana Chulitskaya and Natallia Rabava, presented the project to the EC Office in Minsk in January 2019. From the EC side, the group was headed by the newly appointed Minister Counsellor, Head of Cooperation Berend de Groot. Five other EC colleagues were also present at the meeting.

Dr. Dimitrova presented the project and described the main points of its research on state capacity, with Dr. Chulitskaya outlining the main findings regarding Belarus and Ukraine. Following this discussion, the results of the team’s paper on soft power and communication strategies of the EU and Russia were also presented. The paper was met with great interest, and the EC representatives asked for recommendations on how to change their communications effort in order to be more visible for the Belarusian citizens.


Working Paper on the strategies of the international financial institutions towards EaP countries

EU-STRAT Working Paper No. 14 looks at the approach of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Click on the title or the picture below to download the PDF.

Title: Strategies and Approaches of International Financial Institutions towards Eastern Partnership Countries

Author: Ramūnas Vilpišauskas


The paper focuses on the strategies and approaches of the main international financial institutions (IFIs) – the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – towards reforms in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, namely, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. It assesses the main principles, goals, policy instruments, conditionalities and the target groups of these IFIs in their interaction with the authorities of the three countries and the implementation of country support programs.

The two core questions that guide the analysis are, first, the role of IFIs in supporting economic and institutional reforms, which aim at transforming limited access orders into open access orders, and, second, these IFIs’ interaction with other external actors, such as the European Union, that are present in the EaP countries. In addition to the traditional advice on fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, the IFIs have been focused on banking and energy reforms, as rent-seeking and corruption were especially wide-spread in these sectors. Increasing focus on policies aimed at reducing corruption, in particular in the case of Ukraine, is among the most notable features of the IFIs’ operation in those countries. However, such measures often risked being implemented only ‘on paper’, especially after the financial pressure on the ruling elite in recipient countries decreased. The attempts to broaden the political and societal support for agreed policy reforms have become another exceptional element of the support strategy practiced by the IFIs in the EaP countries, in particular in Ukraine. In the latter case, the negotiated arrangements were discussed not only with key figures from the ruling elite and responsible institutions but also with the opposition, societal activists and other important stakeholders. Despite attempts at broadening reform ownership and coordination with other external donors, the actual effects of the IFIs’ strategies on transition reforms have been limited, as evidenced by a history of half-implemented and sometimes reversed policy measures.

Catch up on EU-STRAT in our January 2019 newsletter!

Our first EU-STRAT newsletter in 2019 is ready!


Click here to download it now. 


Curious about what will you find inside?

Let’s see what project coordinators – Tanja A. Börzel and Antoaneta Dimitrova – wrote about this issue in the editorial:

“Dear friends and colleagues,

We hope you’ve had a great start to 2019. The past months have brought plenty of publications and events to fill you in on. And while the new year has just begun, we are looking at the final stage of EU-STRAT.

Back in November, our partner institute in Kyiv, the Ukrainian Institute for Public Policy, hosted a policy briefing on the political economy of EU legislation harmonization. We’ll take a look at the EU-STRAT findings that were presented as well as the discussions that took place between our consortium members and participants largely from Kyiv’s research and business community. The impact of the EU Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTAs) on Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova has left plenty to discuss.

Our latest policy comment, featured in this issue, sheds light on recent developments in Armenia stemming from the Velvet Revolution. The parliamentary elections held in December 2018 have confirmed overwhelming public support for the revolution movement, but what is the actual scope and depth of these changes? Our authors examine the reforms that are already underway, what’s still needed, and how this impacts relations in the neighbourhood.

Our research on the strategies of external actors in the Eastern neighbourhood has featured in several working papers released in the last months. While the EU and Russia are known players in the Eastern Partnership countries, EU-STRAT set out to examine the role of other actors in this region as well. Accordingly, we present in this edition a glimpse into the papers examining the approach of China, Turkey, and the international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This  research has important implications for how the EU could potentially work with other external actors that might not always share the goal of keeping EaP countries on the path of transformation towards greater political and economic access. As the final piece in this edition’s ‘EU-STRAT at Work’, we also share a report from our St. Gallen team’s workshop in Bucharest on the interdependencies of different secessionist conflicts. (…)”

PS. Dont forget to mark your calendars! Our final conference is scheduled to take place in the Wijnhaven Building of Leiden University (Turfmarkt 99 2511 DP, The Hague, NL) on 11-12 April 2019. The conference will take a look at our most recent research on, to name just a few of the topics, the link between domestic regimes and interdependencies, the susceptibility of domestic actors to external actors’ strategies, and scenarios of potential opening or closure in Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine. We’ll keep you in the loop as more details are finalized – don’t forget to check our Facebook page (EU-STRAT) and Twitter (@eu_strat)!


The political economy of EU legislation harmonization: a policy briefing in Kyiv

A second policy briefing was organized in Kyiv by EU-STRAT’s local partner, the Ukrainian Institute for Public Policy (UIPP). The briefing, entitled “Political economy of EU legislation harmonization with Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries” took place on 12 November 2018 on the premises of and in partnership with the National Academy for Public Administration of Ukraine. Panelists and keynote speakers were drawn from the Ukrainian research and business community: Natalia Palamarchuk, professor of the Ukrainian Academy of Public Administration, Svitlana Mykhailovska, Deputy Director of European Business Association, Dmytro Naumenko, analyst at Ukrainian Centre for European Policy, Taras Kachka, strategic advisor at International Renaissance Foundation, Klaudijus Maniokas, chairman of the ESTEP board and EU-STRAT partner, and Ildar Gazizullin from UIPP. Maxim Boroda, Director of UIPP, opened the briefing with a short presentation on EU-STRAT’s objectives and the briefing’s topic.

Here are some of the discussions that took place, with a full report to follow later this month in EU-STRAT’s newsletter…

How EaP countries balance costs and benefits of legal approximation

Klaudijus Maniokas presented some of the findings from EU-STRAT’s case studies on the legislation harmonization of the Association Agreement (AA) with the EU and selected EaP countries in the area of transport, energy, environment (TEE). While legal approximation in TEE contributues to increased connectivity (both in terms of trade and mobility), it is also associated with high costs, for example, related to safety standards. Therefore, countries often seek to reach a compromise to balance perceived costs and benefits of legal approximation, ensuring that the EU acquis are conducive to addressing their development needs as well. This is done by prioritization of the harmonization process, which involves limiting or even stopping process in areas with high approximation costs.

The progress with transposition and implementation in TEE in the EaP countries is uneven, but is arguably better than could be expected. An ongoing informal adjustment of the AA reduces the scope of the commitments taken, as in the case of road worthiness in Georgia, electricity unbundling in Ukraine and Moldova, as well as transport and environment in Ukraine. The EU conditionality, however, seems to be effective in Ukraine on a number of reforms that directly relate to Kyiv’s interests, such as reform of the gas sector, which reduces dependence on Russia.

The effects of interdependencies in Ukraine’s energy sector on domestic reforms

Ildar Gazizullin presented developments of Ukraine’s interdependence in the gas and electricity markets and how this has contributed to applying EU legislative norms in sectoral reforms. Complex interdependence between Russia and Ukraine in terms of transit and supply of gas has had a strong impact on security and economic relations between the countries. Ukraine implemented a number of polices to reduce its energy dependence, including steps to increase imports of gas from the EU and energy market reforms in line with the EU aquis. The role of the EU has increased, both as a blueprint for reforms, but also as a mediator in gas disputes with Moscow.

EU demands for greater transparency in the energy sector also target rent-seeking behaviour by business and political elites. Hence, increasing energy prices implies additional costs (or foregone benefits) for both citizens and elites in countries with a long tradition of heavily-subsidized prices. EU-induced energy reforms thus have important social implications and affect other public policies. The risk of alienating a large share of the population as energy poverty risks looms, on the one hand, and pressure from incumbent businesses to constrain competition in the sector, on the other hand, seems to be slowing down otherwise successful sectoral developments.


For more, stay posted for our January newsletter! You can also find information about the event (in Ukrainian) on the National Academy for Public Administration of Ukraine’s website:


New working paper on Turkey’s foreign policy

EU-STRAT has released Working Paper No. 13, which examines Turkey’s foreign policy towards its post-Soviet Black Sea neighbourhood. Click on the title or the picture below to download the PDF.

Title: Turkey and the Eastern Partnership: Turkey’s Foreign Policy Towards its Post-Soviet Black Sea Neighbourhood

Authors: Ole Frahm, Katharina Hoffmann, Dirk Lehmkuhl


This paper discusses the main strands of Turkey’s post-Cold War foreign policy in its post-Soviet Black Sea neighbourhood of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine with a focus on the period of Justice and Development Party rule (2002-2018). Based on the analysis of Turkey’s rhetorical stance towards the region’s countries and its actual interaction across five sectors – trade, energy, security, education/culture and migration – our findings demonstrate that the foreign policy rhetoric with its strong emphasis on historical ties, economic and energy cooperation and support for regional countries’ territorial integrity is not matched by Turkey’s observable engagement. An important factor for the mismatch between rhetoric and engagement is that relations with the region are seen at least partly through the prism of Turkey’s more salient relations with Russia.

EU-STRAT Final Conference (11-12 April 2019). Save the date!

Dear EU-STRAT supporters,

we would like to announce that our Final Conference will be taking place on 11-12 April 2019.

It will be held on the premises of Leiden University in the Wijnhaven Building, Turfmarkt 99 2511 DP, in The Hague.

More details about the panels and discussions planned are soon to follow!


New policy comment on recent developments in Armenia!

Policy comment / October 2018

Armenia’s ‘Velvet Revolution’: Whither Change?

by Laure Delcour & Katharina Hoffmann

“In spring 2018, the installation of former President Serzh Sargsyan as prime minister – a scenario which would have enabled the incumbent elite to maintain their grip over Armenia – unexpectedly failed to materialise. The 2015 constitutional referendum that transferred key powers to the prime minister as of spring 2018 paved the way for this swap scenario. Instead, on April 23rd, the newly appointed Prime Minister (and former President) Serzh Sargsyan resigned amidst a wave of protests that swept the country. This outcome to the demonstrations took many observers by surprise.

Admittedly, over the past decade, Armenia has been home to frequent protests against the ruling elite. In 2008, the flawed presidential elections that brought Serzh Sargsyan to power were followed by a brutal crackdown on protesters, killing at least ten people. None of the prior protests led to changes as substantial as the ones Armenia has experienced since spring 2018, though. In light of the authorities’ record of excessive use of force, there was little reason to believe that the 2018 protests would not end up with a brutal crackdown, thereby perpetuating the rule of the incumbent elite through a constitutional change. The scenario made possible by the constitutional amendments was also likely to materialise given its success in other post-Soviet countries, primarily Russia (Armenia’s strategic partner). Yet contrary to all expectations, the founder of the Civil Contract party and leader of the demonstrations, Nikol Pashinyan, was elected prime minister in early May 2018, raising considerable expectations among the Armenian population. ”

Policy brief on EU’s soft power in the Eastern Neighbourhood is out!

EU-STRAT Policy Brief No. 3 analyses how the EU communicates via official channels, what messages and news about the EU are disseminated by media in the Eastern neighbourhood countries (Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine) and finally how these messages are received by citizens. In addition, authors compares the EU’s communication strategy to that of other actors present in the region, especially Russia, and its tools and communicative strategies.

Policy Brief No.3 (2018): Getting the message across: How can the EU bolster its soft power in the Eastern Neighbourhood?

Honorata Mazepus, Antoaneta Dimitrova, Dimiter Toshkov, Tatsiana Chulitskaya and Matthew Frear

Click on the Policy Brief title above or on the image to download EU-STRAT Policy Brief No.3

New policy brief on external actors in the Eastern neighbourhood

EU-STRAT Policy Brief No. 2 shares the results of analysis on the strategies of the EU and other external actors towards the EaP region, which can be either competing or complementary. Recommendations are made for how the EU can engage with these actors (Russia, China, NATO, the U.S., international finance institutions, EU member states) across the fields of trade, energy, security and migration, to ensure greater coherence and positive impact.

Policy Brief No.2 (2018): The EU and other external actors in the Eastern neighbourhood: Maximizing the transformative impact

Marta Jaroszewicz, Tadeusz Iwański, Kamil Całus, Dovilė Jakniūnaitė, Laurynas Jonavičius, Margarita Šešelgytė, Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, and Elyssa Shea

Click on the Policy Brief title above or on the image to download EU-STRAT Policy Brief No.2