Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

Opinion

EU foreign policy: More for more, or more of the same?

Almost a week ago, the Polish EU presidency proudly announced that over 500 media representatives had asked for accreditation to attend the Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw on 29 and 30 September. From the outset it was clear the meeting was mainly a PR exercise and an opportunity for the Polish government to revive one of its pet ideas, especially in the context of elections coming up on 9 October.

Commentators in Poland were not easy on their foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, calling the lack of a joint declaration on Belarus a "failure of Polish diplomacy." So what should European leaders learn from this summit?

More of the same

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Silent protests in Belarus - is the EU repeating its mistakes in the east? (Photo: charter97.org)

The review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, which was presented in May this year, urged the EU and its neighbours to co-operate in following the "more for more" principle - an idea that links EU support with makig real reforms on the ground, not on paper.

But the results of the summit clearly show that while the EU is taking a strong stance in its mid-Arab-Spring southern neighbourhood, it is repeating its old mitsake in the post-Soviet east.

Rather than paying respect to 'more for more' the EU has again turned a blind eye to lack of reform in the region by promising more financial support and deeper political co-operation.

The EU's $9 billion offer to Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, in exchange for freeing political prisoners and holding free and fair elections (which do not require him to step down) is surprising, to say the least, and is an unfortunate reminder of the mistakes the EU has made in the southern Mediterranean. This suggests that the EU has not learnt from the Arab Spring and will continue to repeat the same mistakes it has made in the past.

Those who think the summit was a success will argue that renewing the EU's commitment to the region will help maintain stability in the east while keeping the region out of the grasp of Russian influence. And they will argue, too, that renewed commitment in the east will more closely align the region with European values.

But this kind of jargon is the only consistency in the EU's rebranded initiatives toward the region. The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is yet another incarnation of a weak EU pledge - one that has still not been reciprocated by commitments of the region's leaders to democracy, the rule of law and political reforms.

The declaration on Belarus, which the EU's Eastern partners refused to sign, was a simple expression of "deep concern over deteriorating human rights, democracy and rule of law." Considering the amount of money Europe spends in the region, if there is no agreement on such basic principles, value for money becomes a massive issue.

And if much of the EU’s financial aid is channelled through direct budget support - where spending is not controlled - EU taxpayers may also start wondering what exactly they are sponsoring. Simply throwing a lot of mud at the wall in the hope that something will stick will obviously come at a high price. And Russia can sit back and grin while the EU pursues this approach. The EU's semi-committal and consistently half-baked proposals are ambiguous enough to make no real difference, leaving Russia considerable room for economic and political manoeuvre. In this sense, Moscow's support for the EaP is most probably genuine.

Making the East a better place

Before the EU organises the next Eastern Partnership Summit, it would be wise if its leaders asked themselves: is the other side as serious about this as we are?

This is not only about geopolitical and financial concerns. The tormented societies in the region may end up seeing the EU as being co-opted into this miscarried model of economic and political development they suffer from in their own countries. This is not only bad for the EU brand, it also deflates any sense of hope about improvements on the social level, let alone from the political echelons in the region.

The last time we checked, it was the citizens whom the EU wanted to make the world a better place for.

Patryk Pawlak is a research fellow at the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris. Xymena Kurowska is assistant professor at the Central European University in Budapest and has conducted extensive research on security sector reform in Georgia and Ukraine

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU offers to buy Belarus for $9bn

EU leaders have promised authoritarian Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko $9 billion if he frees political prisoners and holds normal elections.

Ukraine trial restarts on eve of EU summit

Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko will return to court at 3pm Kiev time on Tuesday in a trial that could decide the country's political and economic future.

How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires

Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Blackrock, and Vanguard collectively own more than $1.1bn in debt in the three largest soy, and the three largest cattle companies, and own $6bn worth of shares in these companies.

Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal

The European parliament debates on Tuesday the fires in the Amazon region. "It goes without saying that, in light of the gravity of the situation, Europe will need to renegotiate the Mercosur agreement", writes MEP Kathleen Van Brempt.

EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin

With Donald Trump unable to fill the US's traditional role of standing up to authoritarian regimes - and his inner circle even putting pressure on Kiev to investigate the Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden - Europe should take a harder line.

News in Brief

  1. Apple and Ireland appeal €13bn EU tax ruling
  2. UK PM should provide witness statement, court told
  3. Italy's ex-PM Renzi quits ruling Democratic Party
  4. German top lawmaker scolds Bettel over Johnson snub
  5. Greens decide on Tuesday on talks on Five Star joining
  6. Belgian mayors give Juncker a tongue-lashing
  7. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  8. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  2. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  3. Trumpworld In Europe
  4. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  5. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  6. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  7. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  8. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us