Another litmus test for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy

As NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently observed, the crisis in Ukraine is “the gravest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War.” It is somewhat ironic that this crisis unfolded as a result of discussions surrounding the planned signature of an Association Agreement, which essentially aims to create a zone of stability, prosperity and security on the European continent. This raises the need for self-reflection on the part of the EU. Does the crisis in Ukraine illustrate the limits of the European Neighbourhood Policy? And, how can the EU play a constructive role to solve the crisis?

Looking back: deficiencies of the European Neighbourhood Policy

In light of the current crisis it is an interesting exercise to retrace the first ideas and proposals on what gradually developed as the European Neighbourhood Policy. Very relevant is a non-paper on ‘Wider Europe’, jointly written by – at that time – external relations Commissioner Chris Patten and High Representative Javier Solano in August 2002. In this document, the authors observed that redefining the EU’s relations with its Eastern neighbours constitutes “the most immediate challenge” of the new policy. Significantly, they also devoted attention to the Russian Federation: “The EU’s dialogue and co-operation with Russia on specific challenges emanating from, or relating to, the other countries of the region are crucial to chances of solving them.”

However, such dialogue never really materialised. The ENP developed separately from the EU-Russia Strategic Partnership and largely copied the methodology and rationale of the EU’s enlargement policy be it without the carrot of accession. The Russian-Georgian military conflict of August 2008 was a first warning that simply extending the EU’s norms and values to the Eastern ENP countries is not sufficient to stabilise the region ...

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