The paper provides an overview of the modes of political integration of the EU in the Eastern Partnership countries. It discusses the role of EU membership, and the absence thereof, as well as alternative modes at the EU’s disposal and explores how the EU has been using different instruments to achieve its goals in EaP countries, specifically in two areas: state- and institution building and the reform of the judicial system. Overall, over the past two decades, the authors observe continuity rather than change. Although the EU has sought to improve its strategy by introducing new incentives, strengthening the non-governmental channels of influence, increasing the amount of financial assistance for domestic reforms and encouraging more competition among EaP countries, its transformative impact has remained rather moderate. In this regard, the analysis highlights the neglect of security concerns of EaP countries by the EU as the greatest challenge to the EU’s external integration capacity in its Eastern neighbourhood. Accordingly, the authors propose that it remains questionable whether the opening of membership perspective can serve as a game-changer under these conditions when the political and economic reforms in the EaP countries are challenged by the presence of acute security threats.
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