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Olga Potyomkina

Doctor of Political Science, Head of the Regional Research Department of Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences

Speaking at the European Parliament’s plenary session on September 12, 2012, President of the European Commission Jose Manual Barroso said that “the EU should move toward genuine economic and monetary union, alongside political union and a more harmonized foreign and defense policy.” Despite the painful failure of the Constitution replaced by the half-way Treaty of Lisbon, the European Commission seems to be resuming its ambitions plans. This time, it goes about renewing the Treaty on European Union, which could be discussed at the next intergovernmental meeting.

Speaking at the European Parliament’s plenary session on September 12, 2012, President of the European Commission Jose Manual Barroso said that “the EU should move toward genuine economic and monetary union, alongside political union and a more harmonized foreign and defense policy.” Despite the painful failure of the Constitution replaced by the half-way Treaty of Lisbon, the European Commission seems to be resuming its ambitions plans. This time, it goes about renewing the Treaty on European Union, which could be discussed at the next intergovernmental meeting.

The reform to come should be focused on establishment of the fiscal and banking union. However, the aim is obviously to raise the EU role in the world politics, the central goal of European integration.

The EU Foreign Policy after Lisbon

The prospect of making the EU members a single foreign actor is determined by a host of factors, the main being the Union’s institutional reorganization, the global financial and economic crisis, and the Eurozone misfortune. On the one hand, the Lisbon reform has strengthened the EU as a global geopolitical player. Such steps as establishment of the Union’s international legal standing and the post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security assisted by the European External Action Service, as well as bolstering the role of the EU agencies (Europol, Eurojust and Frontex) in the fight against international crime have been definitely intended to improve the Union’s capacity in formation of an independent foreign policy and having a single voice in the global arena.

Quite logical for continued rescue of the Eurozone seems replacement of the votes of EU member states by its consolidated representation as the world’s biggest donor one seat for the Eurozone members and single representation in the World Bank.

At the same time, the Lisbon Treaty by no means infringes the right of member states for a self-sufficient foreign policy, building relationships with other countries, and having missions in international organizations. The Lisbon reform has not impinged upon the intergovernmental nature of cooperation that has actually remained intact.

But the financial and economic crisis does affect the Union’s foreign policy. In the short term, the Eurozone troubles taint the EU’s reputation both as an economy regulation model and an example of successful regional integration. International community is unhappy about the European predominance in key international organizations like the IMF, the World Bank and UN Security Council. Quite logical for continued rescue of the Eurozone seems replacement of the votes of EU member states by its consolidated representation as the world’s biggest donor in the IMF and World Bank, i.e. one seat for the Eurozone members and single representation in the World Bank. Likewise, the EU could obtain a seat in the UN Security Council instead of the British and French seats, and gain a lot in view of its prominence as a global actor. The perspective would definitely meet the interests of Germany, although Great Britain and France might not be content with the idea.

Photo: gtmarket.ru
European leaders at the signing ceremony
Treaty of Lisbon, December 13, 2007

The Union’s post-Lisbon unified foreign policy has been also seriously tested by the Arab Spring. The crisis had weakened the member-states’ consensus in seeking solutions. Differences, primarily between Germany and France, and the drive to unilateral action had thwarted the formation of a single position on the Libyan military campaign. The urgent approval of the EU new strategy A Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean, an attempt to step up the EU policy in the region, is not likely to reinforce its influence in the Arab world. Similarly, there seems to be no consensus on the Syrian problem, with a distinct joint French and British approach taking shape.

The EU is undoubtedly still seen as a source of soft power, remains the key donor for developing countries and international organizations, and successfully leads peacemaking operations that increase in number. However, the member states preserve the prerogative for taking key foreign policy decisions.

Solidarity, Trust and Differentiation are the Weak Links of the Integration Process

Photo: Photothek/Trutschel
Meeting in Warsaw, a group of
11 foreign ministers of the EU countries
drafted a "Future of Europe"

The crisis in solidarity and citizens’ trust to the EU institutions has become a major strength test for the European integration process, although the Union’s structures keep doing a lot for solution of modern problems. The words solidarity and trust seem to make a mantra in virtually all speeches of the EU and member-state leaders. But in practice the EU countries make no haste to display understanding and mutual support in important matters, either on assistance to bad debt payers or fair distribution of refugees over the Union’s territory.

As a result, more importance is attached to such aspects as integration and differentiation that have already been seen in the Eurozone, the space of freedom, security and justice, and in the common security and defense policy. The European Union is facing a dilemma. On the one hand, certain states do not seem ready for advancing to greater integration, whereas on the other, problems solvable only by joint efforts are getting more pronounced.

The member states’ differences in approaches to further integration arise from the huge complex of historical, geographical and socio-economic reasons. For example, the insularity of Great Britain and Ireland effectively prevents them from joining the EU visa and border protection policies, and hence from becoming part of the Schengen Area. At that, Great Britain is active in the police cooperation of the Schengen countries, although retaining the right to opt out from the criminal law field. Forced to contain the migration flows, the EU Mediterranean countries have long lobbied creation of the European Border Service, whereas the Scandinavians totally reject the idea.

The perspective would definitely meet the interests of Germany, although Great Britain and France might not be content with the idea.

Varying principles and models of the EU states’ socio-economic development define the employment and social policy structure and, hence, the selection of the interaction perspective within the Union. The Anglo-Saxon economic model evades deeper integration, gravitating to intergovernmental cooperation, innovative development, and expansion of the common domestic market through inclusion of more countries.

Countries with high employment in the farming sector (not just Eastern and Southern Europe but also France) insist on the agriculture support and greater communitarization of the farming policies. In their turn, the new members would be happy to integrate deeper but are not able to do so. For instance, preparations for joining the Eurozone and Schengen Area are time-consuming. Most countries of the Union’s last-wave enlargement are still beyond the Eurozone, whereas inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen zone is permanently delayed. Finally, differences in the states’ foreign policies are conditioned by their varying historical connections and geopolitical interests [1].

The words solidarity and trust seem to make a mantra in virtually all speeches of the EU and member-state leaders. But in practice the EU countries make no haste to display understanding and mutual support in important matters.

The chief proponents of advancing toward the banking, fiscal and political union are Germany and France, the countries that form the European nucleus. In spite of differences on ways to rescue the Eurozone, leaders of the founding states agree on generating more Europe. The drive has been confirmed by the official statement of the Future of Europe Group of September 18, 2012 following the Warsaw meeting of eleven member-states. Apart from France and Germany, the forum was attended by representatives of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal. The suggested institutional and political changes do exceed the rejected Constitution in ambitions. The ministers have proposed to reanimate the idea of electing the EU President by direct vote in member states, expand the powers of European External Action Service, establish the European Border Police and even a European army, and cancel unanimity in matters of common foreign and security policy for its harmonization. Implementation of the suggested reform would require a revision of the current Treaty of Lisbon. Bearing in mind that early this year some states refused to sign even the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union initiated by Germany, the ministers proposed an unmatched solution, i.e. to approve future EU treaties not unanimously but by qualified majority so that the accords could be effective only in the ratifying states.

Note that the debate on multi-speed development of Europe, flexibility and variable geometry has been invariably boosted in the period before institutional reforms. In view of the Eurozone debt crisis, prospects of differentiation and establishment of advanced cooperation groups within the EU seem quite palpable.

Varying principles and models of the EU states’ socio-economic development define the employment and social policy structure and, hence, the selection of the interaction perspective within the Union. The Anglo-Saxon economic model evades deeper integration.

So far, the family law, actually annulment of marriages between citizens of different member-states, makes the only field of the advanced cooperation practice. The rules introducing common standards for the appropriate procedure have been adopted by 15 EU countries. Clearly, divorcing international couples does not make the Union’s paramount political issue but the practical value of the new rules for EU citizens should not be underestimated. Besides, there are detailed plans to extend advanced cooperation to more significant politico-economical areas like setting up the European public prosecutor’s office, elaboration of the European defense initiative, introduction of a transactions tax or a single EU patent (supported by all countries except for Italy and Spain).

In the long run, the fate of EU would hinge on its ability to adequately respond to the citizens’ expectations and needs, withstand threats to exterior and domestic security, and maintain economic growth and justice in the conditions of the growing menace to economic and social stability – and all that when the center of global decision-making is shifting from Europe to the growing economies of the Pacific. The Union is seemingly facing an impossible task. However, the financial and economic crisis has failed to tame the EU leaders’ federalist drive that is now even more potent with the unconditional support of Germany, the main donor and engine of the integration processes. The crisis has visibly shown the differences between areas of supranational (communitarian) regulation and spheres based on intergovernmental cooperation including common foreign and security policy. Movement toward the fiscal, banking and political union, as well as plans for the EU institutional reform beyond the Treaty of Lisbon appear unworkable in absence of a stronger common foreign and security policy.

Russia and EU: Toward a New Strategic Goal?

Photo: Wikipedia
"Union of Europe" is based on
the concept of Greater Europe

The EU traditionally regards the U.S.A., China and Russia as its main strategic partners. The Union is also interested in cooperation with other BRICS countries due to the European belief in the group’s potential for solving issues on the global agenda. At that, Brazil, India and RSA (as distinct from Russia and China) are seen as those who share the EU political ideology. Supporting the Brazilian and Indian claims for UN Security Council permanent membership, the EU in no small measure counts on their assistance in driving Russia and China toward European values [2]. To what extent the approach matches the Russian vision of strategic partnership?

Unlike the probable accession of Russia to the EU on the basis of European rules and criteria – a theme popular in the 1990s – currently Moscow proposes quite a different perspective. i.e. establishing a Union of Europe that suggest integration on a mutually beneficial and equal basis, creation of a harmonious community of economies from Lisbon to Vladivostok, and construction of symmetrical relationships including the human rights field. Does the ambitious initiative have a viable ground?

By year 2011, Russia and European Union restored the bilateral trade turnover (badly damaged in 2008-2009) and even increased it by one third to 307 billion euros, with 40 percent of Russia’s currency reserves held in euros (article by V.A.Chizhov, Russia-EU Strategic Partnership: European Crisis is no Excuse for a Pause, Mezhdunarodnaya zhizn magazine, № 6, 2012). Russia is interested in stabilization of the Eurozone and contributes significantly in taking common decisions within the G8 and G20. Dynamic work is in progress to develop a roadmap on Russia-EU energy cooperation, as Russia needs cooperation on development of low-carbon and resource-efficient economy. Sectoral dialogues are on the rise to cover harmonization of legislations and practices. Cooperation in humanitarian operations also expands. However, positive experiences and interaction potential bluntly retreat under the pressure of differences.

Photo: 3 rus.ruvr.ru

Russia's accession to he WTO was expected to stimulate the resumption of talks on the trade and investment basket of the new basic bilateral agreement. However, the negotiation barriers remained, for example the differing approaches to inclusion of the WTO plus provisions for further trade liberalization and the energy chapter based on the Energy Charter Treaty that Moscow has repeatedly declined. Energy cooperation is also complicated by the damage to Russia's export from the EU Third Energy Package that prescribes to separate the function of vertically integrated companies into production, transportation and distribution. The stumbling block emerged from its anti-Gazprom clause that extends the distribution rules to the third-country companies and deprives Gazprom of managing gas pipelines in the EU territory. Priority of the spot trading mechanisms to the detriment of long-term contracts is killing the guarantees for Russian gas exports, with investing the transportation infrastructure becoming tricky. (N.Yu.Kaveshnikov, The European Ordeal of Gazprom. As a result, the prospect of Russia-EU single energy space is turning utopian against the background of aggravated confrontation of the EU Commission, certain EU member-states and Gazprom. At the same time, the Russia-EU supplier-consumer interdependence should make the parties try to find solutions in the legal and political realms.

The chief proponents of advancing toward the banking, fiscal and political union are Germany and France, the countries that form the European nucleus. In spite of differences on ways to rescue the Eurozone, leaders of the founding states agree on generating more Europe.

Are Russia and European Union drawing closer on the Partnership for Modernization initiative? The EU's main aim is still development of the Russian market and natural resources. Understandably, Russia would prefer the modernization's technological aspect. But the Russian society is also displaying growing demand for political modernization that is essential for economic changes. In its turn, the EU cannot ignore the obvious fact that political modernization is impossible within the raw-material economy, which brings the need to balance the two aspects.

For the Russian foreign policy, the priorities lie in the integration within the post-Soviet space, as well as establishment of the Customs Union, Eurasian Economic Community and Eurasian Union. The agenda for the new basic agreement with the EU now contains the issue of redistributing the powers between Russia and Eurasian Economic Commission. However, the prospects of a Russia-EU free trade zone has been complicated by the fact that the European Commission has to hold appropriate negotiations with Belarus and Kazakhstan, also members of the Customs Union, which requires a new mandate. In a broader sense, it goes about compatibility of integration processes in the post-Soviet space, although creation of the Customs Union and Eurasian Economic Community did account for the European practices.

More vague seem to become the prospects for cancellation of short-trip visas for Russian and EU citizens. Although unhurriedly, implementation of the joint steps list is advancing, but Russia's hope for cancellation of Schengen visas by 2014 have not been supported by relevant declarations of European politicians, who keep insisting on a long-term solution. The two partners find it difficult to agree even on adaptation of the effective Agreement on Simplification of Visa Procedures. At that, within the no-visa dialogue the Russian delegation fails to separate the issues of human rights violations from visa negotiations proper, as the political linkage is still a key EU's foreign policy tool. Russia's drive to resist the European monopoly in the human rights area so far has not been constructively perceived by the Europeans, which generates the growth of the dialogue's confrontational component.

In view of the solidarity crisis, the trust and flexible integration phenomenon and differentiation within the Union, consolidation of the EU as a global player seems quite awkward.

Major differences between Russia and the EU on Syria display a deeper contradiction on sanctions as an instrument increasingly used by the Union in foreign affairs. The political culture of the Russian-European consensus, whereas the former is extremely advanced within the EU, as well as mutual recognition of the needs and interests still fails to reach the level that would ensure palpable fruits of cooperation.

At the same time, contacts between businesses, specialists and experts do grow to strengthen the trust and understanding of each other's goals and tasks, which is really scarce at the top political level. And it is the EU business community that insists that the European leaders cancel Schengen visas to open new opportunities for both sides.

The idea of creating the Union of Europe emerged during the difficult period of the bilateral relationship largely defined by the global financial and economic crisis, international instability, aggravated national egotism and diluted solidarity. The idea is clearly as debatable as the EU advance to the banking, fiscal and political union. Nevertheless, the Union of Europe is intended to save the European continent from sliding to the rank of a peripheral global actor.

The contradictory status of the EU common foreign and security policy is a product of the Lisbon reform and the financial and economic crisis. Meanwhile, the Union leaders' federalist schemes about moving toward a political union logically suggest greater harmonization of the common foreign and security policies. In view of the solidarity crisis, the trust and flexible integration phenomenon and differentiation within the Union, consolidation of the EU as a global player seems quite awkward.

While acknowledging that the center of gravity for global decisions is shifting, Russia may not neglect the European vector, with the Union of Europe growing into the new strategic goal of integrating on the basis of mutually beneficial and equal relations.

1. See L.O.Babynina Flexible Integration in the European Union: Theory and Practice, Moscow: URSS, 2012.

2. Emerson M. Implications of the Eurozone Crisis for EU Foreign Policy: Costs and Opportunities. Brussels: CEPS Commentaries. 1 June 2012. P.2

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