During the last several weeks a range of interesting events happened in EU-Russia and in NATO-Russia relations. After quite some time full with “new cold war” rhetoric, new partnerships are being negotiated:
– Russia will support the EUFOR Chad mission by deploying 6-8 helicopters. According to some EU officials, these helicopters are quite crucial for the mission…
– At the NATO summit in Bucharest, Russia agreed to give logistical support to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The plan foresees that Russia will provide a land corridor on its territory for NATO transports. Given the troublesome history between Russia and NATO, this can be seen as a milestone development.
The Kremlin in Moscow
It seems as if a constructive dialogue has started between European diplomats and their Russian counterparts. Of course it is too early to come to a final conclusion but basically two scenarios are possible: (1) in a more positive outlook, this could be the first sign of a new partnership between Europe and Russia; (2) a more negative (‘realist’ if you want) interpretation would also take into account all other problematic areas/ disagreements ranging from CFE , missile defence and energy issues to Kosovo, Ukraine and Georgia. One could even conclude that Russia sees itself in a stronger position which led to the perception that it can deal with the “West” on a more equal basis. In that context, the above mentioned issues are perceived to increase Russia’s relative power position.
Another scenario is relatively simple: It may only be a ” diplomatic present” of the “new” Russian president/government in order to symbolize a kind of new beginning … whatever the direction may be! (the fact that Putin was responsible for these negotiations is not a contradiction: Medvedev and Putin are, at least for the time being, a very efficient team)
Sometimes it is quite revealing to change perspective. Andrew Moravcsik comments in Newsweek on the upcoming 50th birthday of the EU and comes to this conclusion:
… it’s significant that 50 years after the EU’s march to unity began, it is now Europe, not the United States, that’s held up as a new lamp unto nations.
…ok, not physically but virtually (thanks to web 2.0)! During my work on a policy briefing I came across this page. The first impression you get (especially as a wordpress user) is that of another blog, but after a while you realise it: This is an official (online) consultation process initiated by the EU and the AU (African Union) to prepare a joint strategy to be adopted at the second Euro-Africa Summit which will take place in Lisbon at the end of 2007. Interestingly, this official consultation is designed pretty much like a blog, with a wordpress blog design, rss feeds and the possibility to comment on every part of the joint strategy (that includes shared vision, governance issues, key development issues (such as Financial and External debt, Migration, Socio-economic development and Infrastructure), trade & regional integration, peace & security).
So what can we make out of this? Of course this is an excellent idea how to involve a wide range of people and civil society organisations in a process like this. (I wonder if the EU could not introduce this model for the ‘usual’ consultation processes.) No doubt, relations between the EU and Africa need to be strengthened and a shared strategy seems to be a useful thing. But it is also true that the topic is far to broad, a shared vision of Europe and Africa is somewhat very ambitious. The organisers also present a timeline of consultations that will eventually allow people to discuss more detailed topics, so there is something to look forward to.
Nevertheless, this promise has been made:
The European and African experts will meet in an EU-Africa expert meeting on the 19-23 of February, where they will start to discuss the content of the joint strategy. Since we want to ensure an optimal linkage between the public debate and the official negotiation, we will submit the initial comments and ideas presented on the web site to the official negotiators at the end of next week. The same will be done for future official expert meetings (see calendar and timeline of the consultation for details): we will submit each time a short summary of your comments and contributions to the experts
It also remains to be seen how the comments will be used in the EU-AU negotiations and how short these ‘summaries’ will be in the end. I hope the process is that transparent that we eventually see also these summaries. But then again, the consultation does not seem to be very popular: 2060 visitors and only 35 comments during one week (which should not be too difficult to summarise …. unless some more comments are made in the next days and months!!).
Posted in European Foreign Policy, European Union, International Politics
Tagged blogging, Civil Society, EU, Europa, Europe, European Commission, European Politics, international affairs, international relations, media, politics, web 2.0