The limits of European integration in Eastern Europe: Impacts on policy and practice
Submitting InstitutionUniversity College London
Unit of AssessmentArea Studies
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Political Science
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
Research by Dr Andrew Wilson underpinned the development of policy
planning and advocacy which shaped European Union (EU) policy towards
Russia and the six countries of the Eastern Partnership. The
recommendation to send high level policy advisors to Moldova, based on
Wilson's research, was adopted by the EU's Eastern Partnership in 2009.
Wilson's research and policy recommendations also underpinned the EU's
response to a 2010 crackdown in Belarus and to worsening relations with
Ukraine in 2011-12. Finally, Wilson's research on democracy in post-Soviet
countries led the election monitors of the OSCE to reshape their
monitoring strategy in Ukraine.
Dr Andrew Wilson's 2005 book Virtual Politics ([a] in section 3)
analysed the sophisticated techniques of the post-Soviet `political
technology' industry for constructing façade democracies to fool both
domestic and international audiences. Revealing the key `tricks of the
trade' made it easier for analysts and observers to spot corruption and
lack of real reform behind the façade. Political technologies used to
`construct politics' include the abuse of administrative resources,
disguising a party's or politician's true nature by creating virtual
brands, media manipulation, construction of political parties, destruction
of political opponents, the framing of campaign dynamics and the
manipulation of election results. Virtual politics is thus `the way
that elites seek to manage, manipulate and contain democracy' in the
run up to elections and on election day.
Further research applied these findings to Russia. In 2008 Wilson showed
that the original assumption about Russia held by many scholars and
commentators that the newly elected president, Dmitry Medvedev, was a
`more democratic' replacement for Putin was deeply flawed [b]. Moreover,
with local leaders only paying lip-service to `European values', he argued
that the EU's policy of `enlargement-lite' lacked real pulling power to
transform Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus [c].
Wilson expanded this thesis and its geographical coverage with his
examination of Ukraine [f]. In 2013, he used it to outline two scenarios
for Ukraine: one of collapse or popular protests, and a second, more
realistic scenario, that Ukraine will remain difficult to change [e].
Similarly, his study of Belarus [d], attributed the longevity of President
Aliaksandr Lukashenka to skilful manipulation of both internal and foreign
policy, despite human rights abuses and involvement in a series of rigged
Wilson's key, much-cited policy-oriented work on the six `Eastern
Partnership' States (the states bordering Russia and the expanded EU)
argued that the EU needed to rethink its approach to the six countries or
face a ring of failing states and an increasingly active Russia rebuilding
its sphere of influence [c].
Wilson joined the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies at UCL
as a Lecturer in 1996, then became Senior Lecturer, and since 2008 has
been Reader in Ukrainian Studies.
References to the research
[a] Andrew Wilson, Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the
Post-Soviet World (London and New Haven: Yale University Press,
2005). Available on request.
[d] Andrew Wilson, Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship
(London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011). Submitted to REF2.
[e] Andrew Wilson, `Ukraine' in Pathways to Freedom: Political and
Economic Lessons From Democratic Transitions (Washington, DC:
Council on Foreign Relations, June 2013). Submitted to REF2.
[f] Andrew Wilson, The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation (London and
New Haven: Yale University Press, third edition, 2009). Available on
Evidence of quality of underpinning research is provided by the
significance of the monographs from major academic publishers listed
above, and the following grant:
PI: Dr Andrew Wilson. Funding body: British Academy. Title: Virtual
Politics: Mimicking Democracy in the Post-Communist World. Amount: £4910.
Duration: 1 March 2002 to 31 March 2004. Output: [a].
Details of the impact
Wilson's research had sweeping impacts on the policy of the European
Union towards its eastern neighbours, the former countries of the Soviet
Union. His recommendations, based on his research described in section 3,
to upgrade and give extra resources to the `Eastern Partnership' programme
since its formal launch in May 2009 have been taken up by the EU, leading
to a highly successful advisory mission to Moldova. He has consistently
argued for twin track policies of `sign and sanction' (`carrots and
sticks') in Belarus and Ukraine and contributed to making the Ukrainian
media more free and fair around election time in 2012.
Wilson has pursued an active engagement strategy with senior and
influential decision-makers across Europe, both independently and as a
senior policy fellow in a leading European think tank, the European
Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Drawing on his research, Wilson's
high-level policy engagement - writing briefing notes, attending policy
meetings and seminars, and private advice - has substantially shaped the
EU's relations with its key Eastern neighbours.
European Union (EU) relations with Moldova
An Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy was formally launched on 7 May 2009.
This EU policy is a technocratic, long-term strategy of offering
partnership countries (the post-Soviet states of Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) the prospect of eventual political
and economic alignment with the EU while dampening hopes of actual
accession. In 2008-2009, a series of crises (conflict in Georgia, a gas
crisis in Ukraine and the burning of the Moldovan parliament) indicated a
need to rethink the EaP. In 2008-10 whilst a Senior Policy Fellow at the
ECFR, Wilson collaborated with Nicu Popescu, a Moldova expert, to draw on
his arguments in [a] to show that the EU's policy of `enlargement-lite'
would not be successful in eastern Europe. Wilson and Popescu argued that
the EU was ineffective in responding to crises in partnership countries
and that, consequently, Russia was strengthening its influence in the
region [c]. Moldova had recently held disputed elections with serious
violations of human rights. As a result, relations with the EU were at an
all-time low. Wilson and Popescu argued that the best way to improve EU
relations was through `soft' approaches such as sending policy advisors to
support the development of democratic institutions.
This report was widely praised in the press, including by the Economist
and the Guardian . Wilson and Popescu launched a highly
activist advocacy strategy, including three EU-Russia seminars in Brussels
with key EU officials (July 2008-May 2009), private meetings and
delivering briefing notes to key policy makers, such as French Foreign
Minister Bernard Kouchner (August 2008), and EU Foreign Policy High
Representative Catherine Ashton (June 2010). The report was quoted in a
speech by Poland's Foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski, at the Eastern
Partnership summit in Warsaw in September 2011 , demonstrating that
policymakers were listening.
Wilson and Popescu's arguments proved successful. The EaP was upgraded,
made more conditional (the `more for more' policy) and given greater
resources . In 2011 the EU declared a need to revise its European
Neighbourhood Policy which governs EU relations with countries to the East
and South of the EU: Wilson's research and advice [c] is evident in one of
the four strands of the new approach, "to provide greater support to
partners engaged in building deep democracy" (rights to free speech,
competitive political parties and impartial justice) .
Wilson's and Popescu's recommendation to send policy advisors to Moldova
to support democratic reforms was adopted: the EU High Level Policy Advice
Mission (EUHLPM) to Moldova was constituted in January 2010, with a team
of 15 international expert advisors, and a current budget of €6.6 million
funded by the European Union and co-funded and implemented by the United
Nations Development Programme in Moldova . Since then, the EUHLPM has
helped to make this tiny and impoverished country a `star pupil'. By 2012,
Moldova ranked first in the Eastern Partnership Index for the liberal
reforms encouraged by the EU and was the only one to buck a trend towards
increasing authoritarianism . The importance of the EUHLPM's
contribution was recognised by the extension of its term to October 2013
and the increase of resources allocated to the EUHLPM from €1.5 million
initially to €6.6 million in 2013 .
EU sanctions policy in Belarus
Shortly after a rigged election in 2010 and an aggressive crackdown on
protests by Belarus, Wilson argued in an ECFR policy paper that, based on
his analysis of President Lukashenka's hold on power [d], the EU needed to
raise the stakes for both Belarus and Russia through a mixture of targeted
and `smart' isolation, selective sanctions and engagement , including
the cessation of high-level contacts, visa bans for those responsible for
the December 2010 election fraud (the `sticks') and simultaneous
investment in civil society (the `carrot'). These recommendations were
disseminated among EU policymakers through meetings, briefings and
discussions, including two events (2010, 2011) where Wilson was lead
speaker at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). As a direct
result , EU sanctions policy for Belarus changed to a `twin-track'
policy of selective sanctions against Belarusian officials and support for
civil society. This was announced by the European Commissioner for
Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy (Štefan Füle) on 2 February
2011, who also announced an increase in funding for civil society from €4
million to €15.6 million .
Suspension of the EU free trade agreement with Ukraine
The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) aims to give Ukraine a
framework for modernising its trade relations with the EU through market
liberalisation and various trade-related regulations to bring key sectors
of the Ukrainian economy into alignment with EU standards. With a
population of 45 million, Ukraine is the largest country in the Eastern
Partnership and the EU is one of its most important trade partners. Yet
relations were at an impasse because of concerns about the selective
persecution of regime opponents and increasing authoritarianism and
In 2011 when EU-Ukraine relations were at a low point and negotiations on
the DCFTA almost at an impasse, Wilson argued in a memo  for the ECFR
that, based on his findings in [c], the EU should take a `sign and
sanction' approach to keep the DCFTA alive and allow Ukraine time to
implement the policies recommended by the EU. As a result of Wilson's
advice  disseminated through policy papers and talks, these
recommendations were adopted by the EU in late 2011 .
Influencing election monitoring in Ukraine
Wilson's research [a] had showed how some political elites in post-Soviet
countries systematically use political technology to `fake
democracy'. This was instrumental in shaping the strategy used by the
Election Observation Mission (EOM) of the Organisation for Security and
Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for the 2012 parliamentary elections in
In 2006, Wilson was appointed advisor  to the OSCE, which monitors
elections to check compliance with standards for democratic elections.
Here, he drew on [a] to argue that election monitoring in post-Soviet
countries should consider the election process as a whole instead of
focusing on election day itself. Manipulating the cast list for the actual
participants in elections, he argued, is as important for the elections
outcomes as fraud in the counting process.
As a result of this advice, there were tangible changes in how the
623-member strong OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
(ODIHR) EOM approached the 2012 parliamentary elections in Ukraine. In the
early 2000s, the OSCE-ODIHR only looked at due process and clean counting
on election day, whereas in 2012 its EOM in Ukraine was an embedded
mission lasting several weeks to examine whether the whole process may be
corrupted . As a result, the EOM identified specific political
technologies used to `fake democracy' [a], including abuse of state
resources, lack of transparency of campaign and party financing and the
lack of balanced media coverage . Following the recommendations of
this report, Ukraine announced the start of an electoral reform process,
and the OSCE was requested to comment on the draft laws in April 2013.
Some of the positive changes of the proposed reform which derive
ultimately from Wilson's research are:
- Introducing requirements for reporting on the origin and use of
campaign funds before election day and for publication of these reports
on the CEC website;
- Including provisions intended to result in less biased coverage of the
elections by the media and to reduce privileges given to government
candidates over other candidates (p. 5, ).
Sources to corroborate the impact
 Press reports include `Summer time blues: Will warm weather stiffen
European spines?' The Economist, 19 June 2009. http://econ.st/1cCpuJz;
`Stormy outlook over the Black Sea' The Guardian, 6 August 2009.
http://bit.ly/17yfnkm (ABC circulation:
 Sikorski's speech, quoting Wilson (in Polish), at http://bit.ly/17Rue91.
 On the decision to increase allocation for the Eastern partners by
€150 million in 2011-2013, see the website of the EaP community http://bit.ly/H84nDn.
 EaP review (May 2011), A New Response to a Changing
Neighbourhood: A review of European Neighbourhood Policy, available
at http://bit.ly/H1IC8Y [PDF]. See
point 1, p. 2.
 Eastern Partnership Index, see http://www.eap-index.eu. On the
revised budget of the EU High Level Policy Advice Mission (EUHLPM) to
Moldova and its extension to October 2013, see the website of the EUHLPM:
http://www.euhlpam.org. On the
initial budget of the EUHLPM in January 2010, see: http://bit.ly/1ewJWw3.
EU Policy Advisors presented (2010): http://bit.ly/1ewJWw3. EU brochure
(2012) on the successes of the Eastern Partnership, including the work on
consolidating democracy in Moldova on page 5: http://bit.ly/19XSvyM
 Wilson policy paper (with Jarábik and Kobzova): The EU and
Belarus after the Election (January 2011), http://bit.ly/16kPbJZ.
Influence of research on decisions regarding Belarus and DCFTA with
Ukraine corroborated by Senior Principal Research Analyst, the Eastern
Research Group Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).
 Press release of speech by Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for
Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy International Donors' Conference
"Solidarity with Belarus" International Donors' Conference Warsaw, 2
February 2011 European Commission - SPEECH/11/63 02/02/2011. http://bit.ly/18sX0RG.
 ECFR Policy memo: Ukraine after the Tymoshenko Verdict (December
2011): http://bit.ly/19Wy07t. Council
of the European Union conclusion on Ukraine - 10 December 2012. http://bit.ly/19Wy4UR
 Wilson's position as advisor to OSCE and influence of his advice on
the mission can be corroborated by the then-head of the OSCE/ODHIR
Migration Unit, now Senior Fellow at the Jefferson Institute.
 Advice to the OSCE Election Monitoring Mission to use embedded,
long-stay missions lasting several weeks can be corroborated by the Head
of OSCE Election Monitoring Missions.
 OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
(OSCE/ODIHR) Election Observation Mission Final Report UKRAINE
PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS on 28 October 2012, report available at
http://bit.ly/19ethLM. See p.16.
 OSCE and Venice Commission opinion on Ukraine's draft election
reform law. http://bit.ly/1c2c2Si.
Page 3: electoral reform instigated by OSCE election monitoring report.
Pages 4-6 (specifically p. 5 for recommendations derived from [a]): OSCE
election monitoring recommendations implemented in the draft reform.