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Introspective Peacebuilding in Eastern Europe: Cooperating with Local Actors on the Ground

Madalina Dobrescu

The EU's foreign policy is conspicuously self-referential in nature and manifestation. Either because the common security and defence policy is still a young and on many aspects quite unpracticed endeavour of the EU or perhaps due to the EU's overconfidence in its power of attraction, the Union's foreign policy largely neglects the needs and aspirations of partner countries. This paper argues that this is a regrettable omission and that the "consumer side" of the equation, namely the host countries and what they expect from the EU, is an important aspect of the Union's effectiveness and legitimacy as an international actor. In order to show this, the paper focuses on the cooperation between the EU's civilian missions in Moldova and Georgia (EUBAM Moldova-Ukraine and EUJUST Themis) and local counterparts. I specifically look at two dimensions of the "local cooperation" aspect which provide a good understanding of the nature and extent of the EU's interaction with the local environment: the EU's ability to foster local ownership of the reforms it promotes and its ability to build trust-based relationships with local interlocutors. Despite the two missions' commonalities warranting expectations of similar outcomes, the findings indicate that EUBAM and Themis performed differently. Themis failed to involve the Georgian authorities in the reform of the criminal justice system and faced lack of confidence from Georgia's elites. On the other hand, EUBAM has been more successful in fostering local ownership and forging trust-based relationships with national actors. The paper argues that this variation can be explained by the fact that EUBAM responded to the needs of and benefited from the support of Moldova and Ukraine while Themis did not address Georgia's needs nor did it enjoy the support of Georgian authorities.

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