This paper tries to shed some light on factors influencing the positions of the new member states of the EU on Eastern Partnership in its initial phase. It utilises an analytical approach developed by Copsey and Haughton (2009) and argues that the two most important factors affecting positioning of newcomers towards the initiative are: perceived size and geography. While the new members were especially keen to support their immediate neighbours, they were using a common policy towards these countries to increase their presence and influence in the region since the initiative helped them to deal with neighbourhood issues they were not able to solve on their own. The paper suggests an amendment to the theoretical approach and proposes an assumption explaining positioning of the member states towards the third countries that better reflect the empirical evidence than the original framework. Moreover, the research showed that Poland differed from the rest of the new EU countries, was much more active and influential and rather resembled the old members. However, due to its not very positive image (caused by its assertive approach and strong effort to play a prominent role within the EU) its influence within the EU was limited and, therefore it proposed the Eastern Partnership together with Sweden that held a much better image.
This study analyses the status of the new EU member states and, in particular, Poland as it is perceived by the representatives of the older EU members. On a theoretical level, it argues that the transformation of the newcomers into “normal players” or even “regional leaders” is dependent on five specific conditions that each of these countries must fulfil. These range from (1) simple compliance with the EU’s basic norms and (2) a sufficient level of orientation in EU decision-making to (3) establishment of the country’s unique policy expertise, (4) the ability to create winning coalitions and finally and above all (5) a willingness to defend the interests of the Union as a whole. On an empirical level, we draw on an extensive set of interviews with diplomats belonging to the permanent representation of the old member states in Brussels. Based on these data, we conclude that (1) Poland has already established itself as a normal EU player fully comparable with the older member states. In terms of the country’s leadership status, (2) Poland has also moved to the position of frontrunner among the new member states. However, the country still fails in at least one criterion: (regional) leadership. This precludes it from becoming a fully respected and leading state in the EU.