Archive for July, 2009

The limits of EU’s transformative power

For almost two decades the driving force of EU foreign policy was the idea of the EU as a transformative power. “Transformation” was achieved by enlarging the union and exporting its acquis, values and prosperity. The EU managed to successfully transform Central and Eastern Europe (though the business is still unfinished) and push the Balkans in the right direction. Then the EU tried to transform the Eastern neighbourhood through a similar policy mix of dialogue, economic assistance and exporting the acquis, though all in reduced doses.

But after 7 years the European neighbourhood policy the EU discovers that its policies are failing to even prevent the drastic deterioration of the situation in the Eastern neighbourhood. Even the fact that the EU tries to relaunch its neighbourhood policy on an almost annual basis (ENP Plus, New Ostpolitik, Black Sea Synergy and now the Eastern Partnership) is proof of a lingering dissatisfaction of how things stand. In the last years every single eastern neighbourhood country went through a series of major political, economic or security crises: Georgia cracked down on demonstrators in November 2007 and ran into a war with Russia in august 2008; post-electoral violence in March 2008 in Armenia left at least 10 persons dead; Moldova recent post-electoral protests lead to riots, the burning down of the parliament, and then a crackdown against the protesters Read the rest of this entry »

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The end of “de facto states”

For years the secessionist entities of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria have been refered to as “de facto states” and the conflicts around them – “frozen conflicts” (see previous posts on South Ossetia and Abkhazia). There has been a wide consensus that the term “frozen conflicts” is a misnomer. The conflicts have never been frozen, their settlement was. But the evolving realities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are making the term “de facto states” also increasingly obsolete.

Scott Pegg launched the debate on de facto states with a book published over a decade ago. He referred mainly to North Cyprus, Taiwan, Somaliland, and Tamil Eelam. Dov Lynch took the debate into the post-Soviet space with his book on the “Engaging Eurasia’s Separatist States: Unresolved Conflicts and De Facto States”. The argument in both books is that secessionist regions which control a more or less well-defined territory, population and have a set of state-like institutions can be termed as “de facto states”. They are unrecognised, but de facto independent.

The truth is of course more complicated because most “de facto” states have always relied on various levels of external support to ensure their security and/or economic development (think of Taiwan, North Cyprus or Abkhazia). So the term has always been relative. Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria have outsourced a large chunk of their de facto independence to Russia: Read the rest of this entry »

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