Deep free trade with the EU and its effects on post-Soviet regime stability

Coordination: Dr. Julia Langbein

This project examines how EU agreements to create Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) affect regime stability in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. In all three countries, the regimes are conceptualised as social orders where elites exploit their privileged access to political and economic resources for the sake of private gains, albeit to different degrees.

DCFTAs are not only based on comprehensive trade liberalisation. The EU also commits to assisting its three Eastern neighbours to support their compliance with EU market rules and improve the competitiveness of their domestic industries. Against this background, DCFTAs are likely to contribute to broadening access to economic resources such as trade and entrepreneurial activities.

Based on an in-depth analysis of sectors that are key for the Georgian, Moldovan, and Ukrainian economies in terms of their share in GDP and total exports, this project poses the following questions: Have more economic actors, such as small and medium-sized enterprises, been able to gain access to economic resources, or have elites with access to economic resources at least diversified in the context of the DCFTAs? Or have trade liberalisation and assistance simply helped create new winners without broadening the group of actors with access to economic resources?

The project aims to reveal the partly unintended consequences of economic integration with the EU for the social orders in the three Eastern neighbours. The results will provide important insights into how to help bring about economic and political competition, rather than stabilise existing regimes that limit access to political and economic resources to the benefit of the dominant elite.