A new strategy for Europe’s East: the EU’s role in a changed dynamic
5 February, 2015
During our forum to chart a new strategy for the EU in the context of an overtly confrontational Russia, the consensus was that relations between the two cannot return to the pre-crisis status quo.
A new strategy for Europe’s East
Monday 2 – Wednesday 4 February 2015 (WP1360)
In partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, European Commission, The German Marshall Fund’s Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Poland, we convened a dialogue between key partners to map out the situation and potential ways forward. This forum drew on the discussions at the The Eastern Partnership: moving ahead event that we held in October 2013, providing a strategic reappraisal of EU interests, goals and policies towards Russia and the EaP countries
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in Eastern Ukraine, together with its insistence on the right to take action on behalf of Russian-speaking populations outside its own borders, have dramatically changed the political and security environment in Europe. This step change in Russian actions has prompted a reassessment by many western nations of their policies toward Russia and the EU’s wider Eastern neighbourhood.
In both plenary and breakout groups, a strategic evaluation of EU interests was carried out, looking at goals and policies towards Russia and the EU’s Eastern Partnership countries. This included a look at how to strengthen policy coordination, coherence, and a consideration of how the EU, its member states, key partners and other organisations can play complementary roles in promoting stability, economic prosperity, and democratic norms in Europe’s east.
There was general agreement that Russia is now acting as a strategic hegemon in the region and is not looking for a face saving off-ramp from the crisis. Whatever the policy instruments utilised, the EU’s response has to be robust, sustained, and united. The view was however, that these actions will potentially only impact Russian tactical behaviour, not strategic goals, and that it has the capacity to resist EU and wider western efforts to oppose it in the short to medium term but that the Russian model is untenable in the long term. The opinion was also repeatedly put forward that the best riposte to Russian actions is for Ukraine to be a success as a stable state.
Continuing engagement with the other EaP countries that have signed association agreements with the EU, Georgia and Moldova, was also noted as critical but that support for all countries needs to be conditional on the reaching of clear and firm benchmarks on political, economic, and judicial sector reform. Participants broadly agreed that the EaP needs to be maintained as an umbrella framework that also includes Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, but that there should increasingly be more tailored forms of engagement for each.