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Completing Europe: A Response to Ronald Asmus

Completing Europe: A Response to Ronald Asmus

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Important institutional building blocks for further enlargement of NATO and the European Union led by the EU are being put into place and a new narrative can and should be framed around the theme of "Completing Europe."
Important institutional building blocks for further enlargement of NATO and the European Union led by the EU are being put into place and a new narrative can and should be framed around the theme of "Completing Europe."

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Aug 11, 2010
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Foreign Policy and Civil Society Program

July 13, 2010

Summary: In an earlier essay in this series, Ronald Asmus argued that the consensus and strategic paradigm that has guided the enlargement of NATO and the EU to Central and Eastern Europe since the mid 1990s has crumbled and no longer fits today’s strategic circumstances. He says that absent a new narrative for further enlargement and a revised strategy for accomplishing it, the historic window for extending core Western institutions to new democracies as part of building a Europe that is unified, free, and at peace is likely to close. Iris Kempe takes issue with that view and argues that it is too pessimistic. She contends that key elements of that narrative already exist, that important institutional building blocks for further enlargement led by the European Union are being put into place and that a new narrative can and should be framed around the theme of “Completing Europe.”

Completing Europe: A Response to Ronald Asmus
by Iris Kempe*
In his essay “Is Enlargement Dead?” Ronald Asmus argues that there is a real risk that the historical window of opportunity for enlarging transatlantic and European institutions is coming to a close, and that the West needs a new moral and strategic narrative about why enlargement still matters if it hopes to keep that window open. In my view, the most concise answer to that challenge is that Europe is starting to tell the story of its completion. This is a more optimistic view. In a foreseeable if somewhat long-term future, the enlargement part of the European Union’s history will definitely come to a close — not because of enlargement fatigue and policy failure, but rather because the EU will have brought in all those states that aspire to membership and it will border on states that do not. This is not to say that many of the points Asmus raises are not legitimate. At first and perhaps even second glance, prospects do appear dim for extending the benefits of close European and transatlantic integration to a wider selection of states to the east of the European Union’s present borders. Following the big-bang enlargement of 2004 and the subsequent disappointment with Romanian and Bulgarian membership in 2007, the EU has indeed been suffering from a case
*

of enlargement fatigue. The Russia– Georgia War of 2008 may have slammed the door on additional memberships in NATO for Eastern European countries. The domestic weaknesses and democracy deficits of Eastern governments — from Viktor Yanukovych’s perceived tilt toward Russia in Ukraine to Mikheil Saakashvili’s alleged impulsiveness in Georgia and other challenges in additional eastern neighbors — make many EU members cautious and mitigate against opening European and transatlantic institutions to these states. Analysts should not deny the potential risk that these countries could end up lingering in gray zones, neither fully integrated nor completely cast adrift. The challenges are real and daunting. Eventually, extending offers of membership to these eastern neighbors would significantly alter the character of the European Union. With Ukraine, the EU would admit another medium-sized state whose population is roughly similar to that of Spain and Poland. If Turkey joins the EU, it would be the EU’s secondmost populous state, and one with a growing population. Admitting countries of this size would require recalibrating the internal voting rules by which the EU runs. The eastern neighbors are also poor. Budgets, transfers, subsidies and all of the

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Dr. Iris Kempe is the Director of the Regional Office South Caucasus, Heinrich Boell Foundation.

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financial programs of the EU will be affected by bringing in additional net recipients. Entrenched interests will fight hard for their prerogatives. At the same time, there may also be reasons to be more optimistic. In reality, the number of countries that seek or could seek membership is shrinking, and the fear that enlargement will never end is exaggerated. In addition to the Balkans, enlargement concerns a limited number of states in Wider Europe, including those in the South Caucasus. While these countries may be weaker and poorer, they are also the final tranche likely to seek membership. More importantly, the European Union of 2010 and beyond has changed; it is no longer the same EU that admitted new members in 2004 and 2007. Negotiations to modify EU institutions to accommodate a larger number of members began in 2001, continued through the constitutional convention and the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty, and eventually led to the Treaty of Lisbon. This treaty, which entered into force on December 1, 2009, offers advantages for further enlargement even if its implementation will take some time, including the time needed to negotiate competencies between member states and European institutions. The Lisbon treaty gives greater weight to the European Parliament, provides highprofile offices to make EU policy more personalized, and increases political coordination between member states and EU institutions. Simplified working methods and new voting procedures such as the “double majority” make it possible for EU institutions to function more efficiently. To shape Wider Europe, the Lisbon treaty provides a three-pronged strategic toolbox. First, on the institutional level, the new office of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union gives greater weight to the EU in external matters, such as relations with eastern neighbors. The European External Action Service, as a nascent European diplomatic corps that builds on the EU’s existing missions, will also enable greater efficiency in external affairs. At the very highest level, the establishment of a permanent President of the European Council, to drive the work of the EU’s heads of state and government, has the potential to give EU policy greater coherence than it had in the pre-Lisbon era. Second, an innovation in the current Barroso Commission is Czech Commissioner Stefan Füle’s responsibility for enlargement and neighborhood policy. In the course of his hearing in the European Parliament on January 12,

2010, Füle spoke in favor of adding more substance than procedures when it comes to enlargement and neighborhood policy. Third, Article 8 of the Lisbon treaty includes the option of developing a special relationship with neighboring countries. These internal adjustments show that the EU has recognized its need to adapt to a changed Europe and to create institutions able to accommodate a membership that may eventually include some 40 states. That framework already exists in the European Union on paper and is increasingly being put into place in reality. This new framework has the potential to change the debate on enlargement. It will enable debates within the EU and its member states to advance productively. The other major challenge lies with the eastern neighbors who hope to eventually join the EU. They must still formulate and implement a European orientation as a top national priority on all levels. Compared with those in the previous rounds of enlargement, the countries that now aspire to EU membership must come up with arguments that are even more convincing and demonstrate through their actions that their inclusion is not only in their own interests, but would also increase security and stability in Wider Europe. They must show that they are capable of functioning within an ever-closer European Union, and that their admission will be a net gain for the existing members. Achieving the goal of completing Europe will require both changes in the European Union’s Eastern policy as well as paradigm changes in the countries of the Eastern neighborhood. The Neighbors in Wider Europe Have Work to Do Of the six countries that fall under the rubric of Wider Europe — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine — none has established a fully functioning and stable democratic system. There are key differences among them in terms of both political and economic reform. Despite important breakthroughs such as Georgia’s in 2003 and Ukraine’s in 2004, the political systems in these countries range from autocracy in Belarus and Azerbaijan to unsteady democracy in Georgia and Ukraine. In their steps toward democracy and a market economy, these countries have generally lacked an overall master plan linking internal change and foreign policy orientation. The current commitments from the EU and NATO are not substitutes for prospects of membership. Far more than the West needs an open

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debate on enlargement, these countries in the East need wide-ranging discussions of their future orientations. Without stronger civil societies, deeper democracy, more effective state institutions, and a broad national consensus on integration, the EU’s neighbors will not be ready to take advantage of any offers that might come from Western institutions. The eastern neighbors also have their work cut out for them in terms of overall development. To make credible bids for accession, their govern-

In reality, the number of countries that seek or could seek membership is shrinking, and the fear that enlargement will never end is exaggerated. . . . [And] the EU has recognized its need to adapt to a changed Europe and to create institutions able to accommodate a membership that may eventually include some 40 states.
ments and public institutions will likely have to function at a level at least comparable to that of the Baltic states; Bulgaria and Romania are widely perceived as having gained membership without being truly prepared, and the EU is unlikely to let that happen again. Furthermore, any enlargement comprising more than one state will have to be seen as a net gain for the EU; otherwise, the current members will simply declare that more time is needed before accession can proceed. The European Union is nevertheless taking steps to help the neighbors to prepare. With its Eastern Partnership, officially launched in December 2008, the EU has opened

a new chapter in its Eastern policy. For the first time, it aims from the very beginning to include civil societies as driving forces of Wider Europe. With this step, the EU is showing that previous processes of enlargement cannot simply be replicated. The interactions between institutions and governments must be different from those that led to Central and Eastern European enlargement in 2004. The new drive toward EU membership is more likely to be guided by sectoral integration in areas such as free trade and visa facilitation. Nongovernmental organizations in the neighboring countries are a potential source of change. At the same time, the NGOs are themselves part of the transition process. They are still undergoing emancipation from the legacies of the former Soviet Union, and very often they are restricted by the conditions of transition such as lack of free media or lack of a legal and financial framework. A Different Route Taken together, these developments suggest that in contrast to the states of Central and Eastern Europe, the current neighbors are likely to forge closer relations with the EU more rapidly than with NATO. In part, this is because the EU is continually innovating in its relations with the region; the plethora of programs means that the European Union is constantly present in these countries’ domestic political discussions. This preference also stems from a view that the EU bridges their relations with both Europe and Russia; the neighbors can improve one without necessarily endangering the other. Finally, this preference is partly due to the existence of more points of contact between the neighbors’ governments and civil societies and the EU institutions. NATO’s Partnership for Peace, for all of its benefits, works with a narrower selection of local partners. The United States and the EU need to be clear on what anchoring the eastern neighbor states to the West will mean in practice. The depth of integration implied in eventual EU membership will hopefully provide a continuous impetus for social change throughout the process. Meeting European norms, incorporating the acquis into national legislation, and the enormously detailed ways in which European states work together will give the neighbors continuous opportunities to strengthen their local institutions and support from their civil societies. Very little of this progress will make headlines, and for much of the time it may appear very technical and as if enlargement fatigue is continuing. But as long as the neighbors

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Foreign Policy and Civil Society Program

are working toward European standards and the present members are helping them in these tasks, European integration will be proceeding apace. Bringing the neighboring countries into an institutional framework of Wider Europe requires a tailor-made approach to both NATO and the European Union. NATO commands immediate attention and highlights some of the deepest internal divisions in the neighbors’ societies, along with the most difficult choices in their relations with Russia. The promise of security guarantees is balanced by internal and external challenges, such that decision-makers in the neighboring countries are reconsidering the priority they have given to NATO. In this context, the EU has become a more attractive goal, at least for the time being. Western partners should therefore focus on convergence with the European Union, particularly the low-key work of sectoral integration and accustoming the neighbors to the habits of working within EU processes. This does not mean wavering on each country’s right to choose its own alliances and security arrangements, but it does mean choosing which parts of anchoring to emphasize and provide with resources. The Largest Neighbor: Russia The overall goals for Brussels and major Western capitals have not changed: a united and free Europe, no gray zones, democratic governments and market economies, and eventual integration into European and transatlantic structures. As part of the path to these goals, Europe — the EU and its member states — as well as the United States will adjust the way in which they deal with the largest neighbor in Wider Europe: Russia. On European issues, the transatlantic partners are challenged to find means to encourage Russia to be cooperative. One aspect is to consider not only official Russia, but also the many elements of Russian society that play a role in that country’s relations with the EU’s other neighbors. European integration and change within Russia are both long-term processes. The EU should include civic partners from Russia in its programs for the Eastern neighborhood, and it should work to reach beyond current ruling structures. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not the whole of the country, nor will it shape Russia’s relations with Europe over the full time frame that integration is likely to take. EU institutions and actors will benefit from taking a long view in relations with Russia.

At the same time, U.S. and EU leaders will be signaling to Russia that there are limits to the influence it can expect to exercise within the territory of the former Soviet Union. The positive signals after the tragic airplane crash near Katyn should be used to help overcome legacies of the past. Momentum gained in the immediate aftermath should be used for sustainable efforts toward more effective cooperation. Maintaining a discussion requires the appropriate programs and financial resources, as well as porous borders. This will require effort from the neighbors, as well as from Russia. For example, societal dialogue between Georgia and Russia is not possible in the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries. One of Europe’s tasks is to initiate a dialogue and to create the necessary diplomatic conditions for open dialogue to take place. Energy supply and energy security are key parts of any EU Eastern policy. No other field of policy so tightly ties or deeply influences the interests and interdependence of Russia, the neighboring states, and the European Union. Shaping Wider Europe means changing Europe’s energy supplies. The more effectively Europe uses its energy, the less it depends on Russia, a point that applies doubly to the EU’s eastern neighbors. At present, the EU’s neighboring states have the least efficient energy use in Europe, offering considerable scope for improvement. The use of renewable energy sources should also be expanded. In addition, improving efficiency and using more renewables should be reflected in EU technical assistance programs. From a strategic perspective, security of delivery is every bit as important as security of sourcing. European policymakers have chosen to improve the security of both by diversifying potential sources and the pipelines required to deliver oil and natural gas. The goal should be to tie the interests of energy consumers, transit states, and producers together so that all sides benefit. Finishing Touches “Is enlargement dead?” Ronald Asmus asks. Rumors of its death are greatly exaggerated. A more constructive way forward might be to frame the issue in terms of enlargement’s completion as a finite and politically achievable challenge. The first step in meeting that challenge is for Europe to begin telling the story of its completion. In a foreseeable, if lengthy, future, the European Union still has the chance to integrate those countries that wish to and are able to join, after which it will border on states that do not aspire to membership. Then the enlargement 

Foreign Policy and Civil Society Program

part of the EU’s history will indeed come to a close — as a success. The EU’s new institutions are just beginning their work in the starting blocks; there are member states whose leaders can see completion approaching, and the eventual roster of members is increasingly apparent. Completing Europe is a vision of Wider Europe that can drive change in the neighbors, guide relations with nearby states that do not aspire to membership, and shape debates among the present members. Civil society dialogue and sectoral integration are two approaches to overcoming enlargement fatigue. Along with the new institutions, they will help current EU members find the means to accommodate the eastern neighbors. A discourse about Wider Europe that also includes a common European energy policy and linkage between Russian and neighborhood policy will promote open debates in both East and West, to the benefit of all participants. The eastern neighbors have hard work ahead of them in a drive to make European integration their national priority, based on ongoing transition processes and developing constructive relations with Russia. Prospects for a free, united Europe, with widening and deepening integration led by the European Union, are not as bleak as they appear at first glance. With a framework in place and determined efforts from the EU’s neighbors, the story of the next decade could still be a positive and successful one.

About GMF
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is a nonpartisan American public policy and grantmaking institution dedicated to promoting better understanding and cooperation between North America and Europe on transatlantic and global issues. GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship. In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has seven offices in Europe: Berlin, Bratislava, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, and Bucharest.

About the On Wider Europe Series
This series is designed to focus in on key intellectual and policy debates regarding Western policy toward Wider Europe that otherwise might receive insufficient attention. The views presented in these papers are the personal views of the authors and not those of the institutions they represent or The German Marshall Fund of the United States. We want to encourage creative thinking, offer alternative ideas and foster debate. Anyone with additional ideas should feel free to contact Ronald Asmus at rasmus@gmfus.org. We hope you enjoy these papers and they contribute to a constructive debate and better policies. 

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