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EU candidacy among conflicts – Ukraine. Based on dr Michael Richter’s paper.

The granting of EU candidate status to Ukraine, took place in the shadow of the Russian aggression of 2022, and it signifies an impending European shift. Previously, the literature presented Ukraine mainly as an example of a country integrating with the EU, with no realistic prospect of joining the union. According to researchers, perceptions hindered the effectiveness of the conditionality mechanism – the lack of credible benefits for compliance did not change the incentive structure of recipient governments [1].

Challenges in evaluation metrics

The measurability of policy advice under the EU’s Eastern Partnership Program, particularly for Ukraine, faces inherent limitations. The lack of comparative quantitative evaluations for this program complicates the assessment of progress [2]. The lack of quantifiable and comparable benchmarks, combined with the inability to track various reports, creates challenges in assessing the effectiveness of policy initiatives.

Approaches to EU external governance – analytical perspectives

In examining the performance of the EU’s external governance, researchers have examined three different analytical approaches. The institutionalist perspective emphasizes that success depends on the internal consistency and coherence of policy rules in the EU, as well as the legitimacy and legitimacy of certain rules [3]. This approach recognizes the role of both internal factors and external constraints, including EU bargaining power, in determining outcomes. The power-based framework, represents a second set of analytical approaches, viewing it as dependent on the interactions between competing external actors within a country. In the case of Ukraine, the EU’s relative influence becomes crucial, operating within a zero-sum game known as rival conditionality [4]. However, external constraints and negative incentives also play a role, influencing the extent to which Russia can impede the adaptation of EU rules. The country approach, a third analytical perspective, attributes the success of external governance to structural factors in the target country. It argues that the impact of EU conditionality depends on how well it interacts with the national context [5]. This approach accounts for differences in country performance and has been particularly applied in single-country case studies, including those focusing on Ukraine.

Addressing analytical gaps

Recognizing conceptual and empirical shortcomings, hybrid concepts such as transnational democracy promotion networks have emerged. These networks encompass multiple channels of interaction between external and domestic actors, state and non-state actors, offering a more nuanced understanding of external governance outcomes. In the Ukrainian context, these networks demonstrate differences across sectors, particularly in reform-resistant areas such as anti-corruption efforts [6]. These hybrid approaches, intersect with institutional and national explanations, reinforcing the analytical framework. Moreover, issues of agency challenge the traditional assumption of unity of subject in international relations research, emphasizing the need to account for internal dynamics within the EU, including power dynamics between technocratic and political layers.

Seeking clarity

EU external governance scholars recognize the challenges of providing clarity and systematization regarding the impact of both structure and agency factors. Questions persist about why the EU and European countries continue to invest efforts in helping Ukraine fight political corruption despite years of perceived failure [7]. Geopolitical considerations have been cited as a factor, but this claim has no detailed explanation or reference, highlighting the complexity and depth of the topic. Some saw the soft official narrative as necessary to prevent feeding Russian propaganda, emphasizing the need for a balanced approach that takes geopolitical factors into account. However, a split emerged between realists preferring a softer stance for geopolitical reasons and idealists advocating strong public signals to put pressure on Russia [7]. 

Structural factors, perceptions of sovereignty and geopolitical considerations contribute significantly to the nuanced discourse around EU-Ukraine anti-corruption efforts, creating a dynamic interplay between official narratives and reality. Considering the dynamics of too big to fail raises intriguing questions about whether Ukraine can become a victim of its own success. The moral hazard equation, particularly highlighted by realists who recognize unconditional support for geopolitical reasons, prompts further reflection [7]. The role of the membership perspective, often a cornerstone in explaining the performance of external management, elicits different perceptions. While some see it as a facilitator of reform, others see it as a convenient excuse for lack of progress.

Adnotation: It is worth noting that the Polish market, as a strong player within the EU structure, can play a crucial role in promoting norms and values associated with European integration, which in turn can support Ukraine in its efforts to approach the EU.

The article was based on the work of Dr. Michael Richter. Authorized.


[1] Schimmelfennig, F. (2015) ‘Europeanization Beyond Europe. Living Reviews in European Governance, Vol. 10, No. 1, p. 34.

[2] Schimmelfennig, F. (2017) ‘Beyond Enlargement: Conceptualizing the Study of the European Neighborhood Policy’. In T. Schumacher, A. Marchetti and T. Demmelhuber (eds) The Routledge Handbook on the European Neighborhood Policy(Routledge), pp. 17-27.

[3] Lavenex, S. and Schimmelfennig, F. (2009) ‘EU Rules Beyond EU Borders: Theorizing External Governance in European Politics’. Journal of European Public Policy, Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 791-812.

[4] Ademmer, E. (2016) Russia’s Impact on EU Policy Transfer to the Post-Soviet Space: The Contested Neighborhood (Routledge).

[5] Wolczuk, K. (2009) ‘Implementation Without Coordination: The Impact of EU Conditionality on Ukraine Under the European Neighborhood Policy’. Europe – Asia Studies, Vol. 61, No. 2, pp. 187-211.

[6] Nitsova, S., Pop-Eleches, G. and Robertson, G. (2018) Revolution and Reform in Ukraine: Evaluating Four Years of Reform (PONARS Eurasia).

[7] Richter M. (2023) Victim of Its Own Success (?) – The European Union’s Anti-corruption Policy Advice in Ukraine Between Grand Visions and (Geo)political Realities, JCMS.

Zuzanna Czernicka
I am deeply immersed in the dynamic world of banking and FinTech. My focus encompasses critical areas such as foreign exchange, payments, and the cutting-edge landscape of FinTech regulation. My academic interests span a broad range of topics including electronic payments, Open Banking, blockchain impacts, the DeFi ecosystem, NFTs, ICOs, and tokenization. I am dedicated to understanding and analyzing the new regulatory frameworks shaping the FinTech world. Currently, I am writing my Bachelor\'s thesis on the robo-advisory services. This work reflects my commitment to understanding and contributing to the regulatory frameworks that are vital for the growth and governance of emerging financial technologies.
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Zuzanna Czernicka

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