Monthly Archives: May 2008

Kosmolinks #14

  • The state of the elites in Eastern Europe. It seems as if especially anti-corruption agencies and justice ministries are very reform resistant. Or as the Economist puts it: “Yet from the Baltic to the Balkans, even politicians facing the most startling accusations of corruption seem not to suffer at the polls. A bit like Italy, really.”

  • “A survey made amongst Romanian judges showed that most of them don’t consider corruption as being a serious crime. “It’s not like you kill someone. And how can I sentence someone to many years of prison for corruption, when I have to bribe myself nurses and doctors if I go to the hospital”, said a judge as quoted by a German expert who ran the survey.”

  • A Chatham House Report that sets out ten key policy recommendations for the EEAS.

  • A customized google search drawing on 172 websites (at the moment), including EU Blogs, Industry Federations, NGOs, Think Tanks, etc. Brought to you by the guys behind “Blogactiv”. It is certainly an interesting tool, however, it would be very helpful to have access to the list of these 172 websites… otherwise it is a bit difficult to suggest new content!

  • Another critical analysis of the developments during 8 years of Putin written by two former ministers.

  • Indeed an argument that should not be forgotten despite all the shortcomings of the EU…

  • Interesting but lenghty think tank paper…

  • After 18 months of opposition, the 27 European Union member states finally agreed to launch strategic partnership talks with Russia. But how did the EU manage to get its act together? – A Lithuanian diplomat explains the procedure: “Now all of our concerns have been put into the annexes, we are happy.”

  • The latest “news service” discovery and it looks as if it could become my favourite news aggregation page…

  • “This issue of the Russian Analytical Digest analyzes Gazprom’s strategy toward foreign markets. It considers Gazprom’s perspective on international markets and examines the natural gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, the publication includes statistics on Gazprom sales and the Russian–Ukrainian natural gas trade.”

  • Undergraduate essay on the concept of sovereignty with an emphasis on “internal sovereignty” with chapters on history, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, French Revolution, Soviet Revolution, National Socialists, Liberal democracy…

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The regionalisation of the EU neighbourhood

There is quite some interesting developments going on in the realm of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). To start with the basics: The ENP aims at developing a secure and prosperous neighbourhood, in a way a “ring of friends” around the EU.  So, the EU offers a wide range of cooperation possibilities coupled with economic incentives and EU  funding. However, the ENP is “everything but membership” and does explicitly   rule out any prospect of EU membership for the participating countries. The relations between the EU, or more precisely the European Commission, and the ENP countries are based on bilateral agreements. This bilateral approach is obviously a rather traditional foreign policy that is often criticised to have “double standards”, since every country is treated differently depending on its willingness and capabilities to engage with the EU. The latest state of the play can be found in numerous “Action Plans, Country Reports and Progress reports”.

But now the EU is moving towards a more regional approach in ENP questions. First there was the publicly unnoticed Black Sea Synergy, followed by the much discussed Mediterranean Union; and now a new Eastern Partnership seems to be in the making…

So let’s have a look at the different approaches:

The “Black Sea Synergy” was developed in early 2007 in order to increase cooperation among and between the countries in this particular region. Through the Black Sea Synergy, the EU is also proposing more common projects in areas like transport, energy,  the environment, maritime management, fisheries, migration, and civil society development, the information society and cultural cooperation. At the same time, the  “Black Sea Synergy” also addresses “soft” security issues, such as drug smuggling, human trafficking, migration, as well as “hard” security  issues, ranging from frozen conflicts in the region to European energy security. But the specific aims of this foreign policy initiative are quite broad:

  • To stimulate democratic and economic reforms;
  • To support stability and promote development;
  • To focus on practical projects in areas of common concern;
  • To respond to opportunities and challenges through coordinated action in a regional  framework; and
  • To develop a climate more conducive to the solution of conflicts in the region.

However, this initiative is not a fully-fledged policy strategy, since EU policy towards the region is already set out in various bilateral agreements, such as the pre-accession strategy with Turkey, the  ENP and the Strategic Partnership with Russia. It is nevertheless a sign that the EU has started  thinking strategically about the region.  However, the Black Sea Synergy can also be understood as an attempt to make EU foreign policy more coherent, more effective and more flexible. Moreover, one of the main aims of the Black Sea Synergy is the promotion of regional cooperation among the countries in the region and between the EU and the Black Sea region.

A lot has been written about the Mediterranean Union, originally proposed by French President Sarkozy but significantely changed (some would say “watered down”) over the past months following a French-German disagreement. Now it is called the “Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean”  and it aims at enhancing the partnerships between the EU and its Mediterraneean neighours. The new initiative will be “project-oriented”,  which means it will focus on energy security, environment, civil protection and transport as Ms Ferrero Waldner, the Commissioner for External Relations pointed out:

Potential projects will be the opening of new sea traffic routes, a clean-up of Mediterranean waters, improvements to maritime security and exploitation of solar power in North Africa to help meet the energy needs of the region.

Contrary to the “Black Sea Synergy”, the proposed upgrade of relations with the Mediterranian neighbors also includes a political dimension with biennial summits of Heads of Government, the establishment of a co-Presidency to manage these summits as well as a annual Foreign Affairs ministerial meetings and sectoral ministerial meetings and a range of “Euromed Committee” meetings. Moreover, a joint secretariat will be established to promote and follow up projects, while the Commission also proposes the creation of a permanent committee of Euro-Mediterranean representatives. At the same time, a very striking similarity to the “Black Sea Synergy” can be found in the official EU press release:

While the European Neighbourhood Policy already addresses the needs in the region by a differentiated approach in the bilateral relations with Mediterranean partners, the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean will complement this by building on the strong points as the expression of regional political commitment.

The latest addition to the regional approaches is the “Eastern Partnership” , which can be described as a mixture of both initiatives described above. The EUObserver writes about the aims and the structure of this new instrument:

The “Eastern Partnership” envisages a multinational forum between the EU-27 and neighbouring states Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Polish press agency PAP reports. The forum would aim to negotiate visa-free travel deals, free trade zones for services and agricultural products and strategic partnership agreements with the five countries. It would also launch smaller, bilateral projects on student exchange, environmental protection and energy supply, but would avoid the controversial topic of EU membership perspectives. It would also launch smaller, bilateral projects on student exchange, environmental protection and energy supply, but would avoid the controversial topic of EU membership perspectives.

The structure of the Eastern Partnership forsees a special coordinator within the European Commission but no special secretariat. Interestingly, the ENP budget will be used for projects within that initative whereas the budget for the Mediterranean Union will be “dependent on the mobilisation of additional funding outside the traditional existing budget allocations. Financial resources are expected to come from the private sector, international financial institutions and bilateral cooperation and contributions from EU member States and Mediterranean Partners.”

This short overview makes it clear that all these new regional approaches of the EU have similar aims and objectives and are all connected to the ENP.  One underlying aspect is also the hesitation of EU policy makers to offer membership perspectives to countries such as Turkey and Ukraine. However, a more interesting aspect is the emerging regionalisation of the EU neighborhood which is promoted (some would say “invented”) by the EU. At the same time a new kind of conditinality will be introduced. The “old” ENP approach works with a simple conditonality: country A fulfils benchmark X and receives EU reward Y. The “new” regional approach will add a new conditionality: county A must cooperate with country B  (+C,+D..) in order to receive EU reward Y. Theoretically, this could support the argument that the EU is trying to replicate its own model of cooperation through its foreign policy. However, the question is of course whether the ENP countries welcome these new approaches and whether those newly added “ENP layers” contribute to a more effective EU foreign policy?

Kosmolinks #13

  • “Leak of latest European Commission proposals for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, known as the ‘health check’. These proposals will form the basis of an internal Commission discussion on 14 and 15 May 2008. The agreed proposals are due out later in the month.” –  Is this the first online leak of an important EU document?

  • A new balkan blog with this hilarious post: “In the early days of the siege of Sarajevo in the mid-1990s, a photo of a half-ruined post office with three items of graffiti written on its wall captured the imagination of the world. The first graffito read “This is Serbia!”; the second stated “This is Bosnia”. And someone scrawled underneath, “No, you idiots, it’s a post office!”

  • Very interesting article about Jeffrey Berman, Barack Obama’s director of delegate selection…

  • Andrew Duff (MEP) on the Lisbon Treaty and the upcoming referendum in Ireland and why the Irish eurosceptics are wrong.

  • “Global Power Europe” makes the case for a more decisive European approach towards Ukraine. And this “firm commitment” is EU accession..

  • Another shocking story on human rights in the US: “The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.”

  • A CEPS research paper that looks at “serious limits across three strands of democracy policy – the magnitude of incentives offered in return for democratic change, the degree of critical pressure exerted for democratic reform and the scale of European democracy funding.”

  • This interactive map developed by CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe shows 50 damaging projects planned or already underway in Central and Eastern Europe at a total cost to EU taxpayers of €10 billion.

  • The new Lisbon treaty is (probably deliberately!) very vague on the issue of a EEAS (European External Action Service). Indeed, clarity is something else, as some of the rather basic things still need to be solved, for example the interaction between the Council, the Commission and the member state staff, the role of the European Parliament, the formal title of the head of the missions and the formal title of the delegations…as well as the question “where the EEAS and the foreign policy chief will be situated.” Luckily, only in 2010 the final proposal need to be finalised.

  • Good and comprehensive analysis of the election results in Serbia.

  • “Do we—Europeans—have the political vision and will to make it happen? Do we want to remain the shapers of history, or would we rather continue under the delusions so ruefully picked apart by people like Kagan?” (…) On the present trajectory, of declining European military budgets; ill-equipped and under-prepared armed forces; poorly crafted foreign and security policies, particularly on the part of European Union Member States like Germany, Italy and Spain, one could be forgiven for thinking that the European Union’s future looks rather bleak. And as Kagan warns us, we need more than hope to prove them wrong…”

The new cold war

Edward Lucas talks about his new book (The new cold war – How the Kremlin Menaces Both Russia and the West) at Google HQ:

Kosmolinks #12

The “Kosmolinks” are finally back, and with the help of diigo I will try to make it a weekly feature! You can also watch and navigate through a slide show of all live pages of “Kosmolinks”: Just click here to start the “WebSlides”!

Happy Europe Day!

Europe day 2008

It is 9 May, aka Europe Day, commemorating the Schuman declaration. Probably most people in Europe are not aware of it, regardless of the various events organised in each member state. However, if you work for one of the European Institutions, you actually get a day off (also some NGOs in Brussels have this tradition). I am wondering if it would make sense to have 9 May as a public holiday throughout Europe, in order to raise awareness and celebrate the European project? Of course it would be a purely symbolical decision (and EU symbolism is not very popular at the moment…) and another public holiday would have to be replaced (it seems impossible to introduce a “new” public holiday in light of current economic paradigms)

And herewith lies the problem: Nobody wants to get rid of “National days” in favour of a European one. Christian holidays are not public holidays in all European countries, and replacing one of them might not be particularly welcomed by many conservatives. Labour Day (+ May Day bank holiday in the UK) might be too historical and labour unions and many socialists would not support it (let alone any UK government). Some other related problems are: May 9 is traditionally known as “Victory day” in Russia, many countries celebrate the end of WWII on May 8, and the Council of Europe also has a Europe day on May 5

So, what are your ideas on this? Do we need a public holiday on 9 May? Or would it actually be better not to change anything (and rather focus on “real” problems)?

Return to Europe – A journey of discovery

Interesting TV documentary project about the Balkans. Unfortunately not online and only broadcasted by 3sat and ORF (both in German).

More details here and here:

This ten-part documentary series is one of the most ambitious TV projects on South Eastern Europe produced in recent years. It gives people who have contributed to the region’s progress since the mid-1990s the opportunity to comment on their present situation: artists, lawyers, journalists, activists, mayors and football players tell their version of the story. With powerful images, these ten 52-minute episodes provide a new perspective on the present and possible future of the region.