Archive for December, 2009

Of euro-pessimism and failures

It is not difficult to be depressed about the EU these days. A recent re-read of the Laeken declaration that set in motion the whole European Convention, the Constitutional and Lisbon Treaties exercises just made me think (more) how far is EU’s current state (and institutional basis) from the stated ambitions of 2001. Here us a useful reminder of the spirit of the declaration:

“What is Europe’s role in this changed world? Does Europe not, now that is finally unified, have a leading role to play in a new world order, that of a power able both to play a stabilising role worldwide and to point the way ahead for many countries and peoples? Europe as the continent of humane values, the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the French Revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall… The European Union’s one boundary is democracy and human rights…  Europe needs to shoulder its responsibilities in the governance of globalisation. The role it has to play is that of a power resolutely doing battle against all violence, all terror and all fanaticism… In short, a power wanting to change the course of world affairs.”

The truth is that throughout most of its existence the EU was as frustrating and depressive for its supporters as is it now. And yet, it still is the single most successful international organisation in history. So how do we balance euro-pessimism and optimism, history and future, success and failure, analysis and wishful thinking? Read the rest of this entry »

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Germany’s new Ostpolitik (again)?

(with updates)… I have just returned from Germany from a joint ECFR-Bertelsman event on the “Eastern partnership or Partnership with Russia”. Of course, the answer is with both. No need to spend time on this. But I got a certain sense that the German debate on Russia and the Eastern neighbourhood might be changing. Of course this is only a snapshot and such trends are far from consolidated. And they have yet to trickle down through the German foreign policy machinery, not least in the Brussels committees. But here are some of the interesting nuances I have heard in my convesrsations with a few experts as well as FDP and CDU (the new coalition partners) voices.

On Ukraine

There might be an increasing sense that Ukraine, Moldova, and perhaps Belarus will “of course” join the EU. Though with two caveats:  1) in the long run (defined as 20-30 years), and 2) “this should happen at our own pace, not due to geopolitical considerations”. The language is still more positive than I ever heard in Germany.

Much has been made about the fact that FDP’s election manifesto mentions an EU accession perspective for Ukraine. The Ukrainian foreign minister Poroshenko even says the new German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle (and FDP leader) gave him such a manifesto with the word “Ukraine” underlined and Westerwelle’s signature next to it. I tended not to overdo the importance of this point in the manfesto. But my FDP interlocutor stressed that the Ukraine point in the manifesto was thought through, discussed and “voted twice in an electoral year by the party convention, and this is not a backdoor policy paper, but a key document”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Russia’s Chinese neighbourhood

I recently spoke at the Sino-European forum co-organised by ECFR/Centre Asie and CICIR about the EU-Russia-China triangle. While thinking about the non-existent triangle I ran into the proceedings of another ‘strategic dialogue’ – between Russia and China. And the following exchange of views on Russia’s desire for a sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space caught my eye.  One of the Russian participants (Alexey Arbatov) asked the following question (page 19):
“A certain part of Russian political elite thinks that our central objective should be the re-establishment of the Soviet Union in this or that form, the establishment of uncontested Russian domination in the post-Soviet space. This is not what the leadership thinks, but in political circles, the media, in political parties, and the parliament such a desire is very strong… My question is what is [your country’s] attitude to such a policy line? Would your attitude towards such a foreign policy direction be positive of negative?

The reply: “We understand that Russia has special interests in this space, and that Russia tries to preserve its influence, but only if this takes the form of a civilisational community, because these states are still independent states… Russia should treat these states as independent states from a legal point of view, and from the point of view of international norms.” Read the rest of this entry »

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“Ukraine fatigue” vs “EU fatigue”

It might seem that EU-Ukraine relations are poised for a new start. The end of EU’s institutional crisis and the entry into force of Lisbon opens the way for the EU to move beyond its institutional reform into a great new era of outward-looking foreign policy. In a couple of months many expect that Ukraine will get a more stable (even though more centralised, perhaps) Tymoshenko administration. So, the hope goes, internal stabilisation in both Ukraine and the EU might open up new avenues for co-operation.

But there is also a fear that some underlying trends might be pointing in the opposite direction. IN the aftermath of the January gas crisis  a comment on EUObs by my fellow blogger from spoke of the pro-European consensus in Ukraine (as well as the danger that it might fade). And now it seems Ukraine is growing increasingly frustrated with the EU. This is no big news and the feeling in the EU is mutual. There is “Ukraine fatigue” in the EU, but there is also “EU fatigue” in Ukraine. And this mutual fatigue augurs nothing good for any potential of a new start. Read the rest of this entry »

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