Issues of low political salience

United Kingdom
Federal Trust for Education and Research
 
The official position of the British government is that both Georgia and the Ukraine should become members of NATO, in accordance with the conclusions of the NATO ministerial meeting of April 2008 and in due course members of the European Union. These questions are not issues of high political salience in the United Kingdom, although their discussion was temporarily enhanced by the events of August, 2008, and the dispute on energy provision between Russia and the Ukraine at the turn of the year. British public opinion was divided in its response to these issues, with some commentators at least accusing the Georgian and Ukrainian governments of provocative behaviour.[1] Perhaps for this reason, the British government has not sought to focus public attention recently on the European Union’s relations with its Eastern neighbours, a topic certainly rendered less immediate to British voters by the geographical remoteness of these neighbours.




[1] See e.g.: Tyranny of the red lines, The Guardian, 5 September 2008.

Turkey: very active in the Caucasus region

Turkey
Center for European Studies / Middle East Technical University
 
The military conflict in Georgia (aka the 5-day war) has been debated largely in Turkey by civil society organisations, political parties and the media. After the outbreak of war in South Ossetia, the Turkish government pursued a very active foreign policy in the region. After Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to the region, Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, paid visits to the countries involved and the Foreign Ministry of Turkey revitalised the idea of the Caucasus stability pact under the name of “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform” in order to secure stability by involving Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in the process.
 
Caucasus stability pact
 

Swedish issues: ENP, Eastern Partnership and enlargement

Sweden
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
 
Sweden has since long advocated the importance of good neighbourly relations as well as the need to give the perspective of enlargement also to European countries outside the Balkans. The Polish-Swedish proposal for Eastern Partnership is based on the view that a new impetus is needed in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). It concerns the 27 EU member states and six ENP countries: Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Belarus. (With Belarus, cooperation would take place if and when conditions allow.) Projects within this framework can also be extended to Russia.[1]
 

Repercussions of ‘Georgia’

Spain
Elcano Royal Institute
 
The military conflict in Georgia during the last summer was mainly perceived in Spain as a clumsy, an even illegitimate, move of Georgia to try to recover control of the region of South Ossetia. Russian reaction against this reintegration was also perceived as disproportionate and therefore criticised but, at the end of the day, it is clear that Russia has been able to take a great advantage of the crisis vis-à-vis the Union and, specifically Spain. First of all, Moscow has preserved its influence in the Caucasus, reinforcing the pro-Russian and separatist regions in the area. Secondly, Russia has been successful in its opposition to a fast further enlargement of NATO (and, implicitly, the EU in the mid- or long-term) towards Ukraine or the Caucasus, as some Western European countries – including Spain – tend now to see the perils of the entry of any Russian neighbour into the Western organisations rather than its advantages in terms of democratic and economic stability expansion eastwards.[1] Finally, Moscow was able to reinforce its weak political, economic (energy, finance and tourism), cultural and security ties with Madrid during the autumn and the winter. For March 2009 an important visit of the Russian President Dimitri Medvedev to Spain was programmed.[2]
 

Bringing the Western Balkans in

Slovenia
Centre of International Relations
 
Slovenia’s primary interest in Europe’s neighbours for a long time has been (almost exclusively, apart form good relations with Russian Federation) in the Western Balkans. Following the 2006 and 2009 gas-crisis, in combination with the experience of holding the EU-presidency, Slovenia’s policy towards the region has become more structured. If prior to these events, Slovenia supported European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) for reasons of principles and legitimacy, it now sees direct interest in (energy) security as well as more structural reasons in terms of human rights policy and general consistency of EU’s policies towards its Southern and Eastern (extending over Caucasus to Central Asia) neighbours. A clear example of this is support for continued talks with Ukraine and for a necessity of closer relations with Belarus, provided there is a satisfactory move in Belarus towards respect for rule of law, democracy and human rights.
 

Coping with security threats: a challenge for the European Neighbourhood Policy

Romania
European Institute of Romania
 
The conflict in Georgia shifted back attention from the subtleties of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) – instrument diversification, liberal principles of openness and trust building – to one of its fundamental, hard power related principles: security.
 
Insofar as security is one of the key dimensions of the ENP, as underlined by the former Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lazăr Comănescu, the ENP action plans are seen as “instruments that we have at our disposal for pursuing our security policy in the neighbourhood”[1]. From this perspective, the conflict in Georgia raises a threat to the security of the Eastern neighbourhood of the EU and thus to the EU itself. The Romanian President, Traian Băsescu, translated this European security threat in terms of national interest: “Romania is extremely interested in its own security and the events that take place in the Black Sea area, occurrences or developments that might directly affect both the state of Romania’s security and the economic developments, especially the energy related ones”[2].
 

´Future enlargement after ‘Georgia’ shows decline in popular support

Portugal
Institute for Strategic and International Studies
 
The military conflict in Georgia was followed in the press – namely with correspondents being sent to the war zone.[1] But it did not generate a great deal of public attention or any in-depth debate, namely in terms of its possible repercussions for the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and enlargement of the EU. These are not high salience issues in Portugal, since they tend to be relatively consensual.
 
Official positions of the government regarding the enlargement of the EU have, in line with public sentiment as expressed in successive polls, traditionally been favourable to enlargement. This persistent trend seems to be based largely on normative preferences, for giving other European countries following the path to democratization and economic development the same opportunities that the young Portuguese democracy had in the 1980s and 1990s. Still it is worth noting that for the first time the polls seem to show a trend towards a decline of popular support for future enlargement of the EU.[2]
 

Georgian-Russian conflict: Poland’s concerns with Russia

Poland
Foundation for European Studies - European Institute
 
The Georgian-Russian conflict was carefully observed in Poland and arouse keen interest among politicians, political commentators, the public opinion and media, who in turn were following with deep interest the EU reaction and in particular the position of the French Presidency.
 
In the opinion of both the society and the politicians, one can observe the conviction that Russia’s actions towards Georgia not only constitutes threat for Georgian sovereignty, but also marks the beginning of the wider-scale Russian offensive meant to subordinate former Soviet republics and the entire area of the former Soviet Block. This conflict has been seen as an important factor for the future development of EU-Russian relations, the European Neighbourhood Policy, as well as EU and NATO enlargement to the East.
 

The future of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and enlargement

Netherlands
Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
 
The Netherlands considers it important to itself and the EU to be surrounded by a ring of prosperous and democratic neighbours.[1] In a national context, it promotes this goal through initiatives such as the Matra Social Transformation Programme and the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ PSI programme.[2] Stabilisation of the eastern neighbourhood is relatively high on the Dutch policy agenda. Needless to say, this cannot be explained by geographical reasons. Instead, considerations about eastern countries being potential trading partners, as well as energy transporters, provide the incentive to engage with this region.
 
The Netherlands is of the strong opinion though that stabilisation does not require a membership perspective, and considers the ENP not to be about enlargement. Rather, it provides an alternative. It believes that both the eastern ENP countries and the EU are not ready for enlargement.[3] The government is especially concerned about the public opinion. Fear for more countries joining the ‘club’ was one of the reasons why the Dutch population voted ‘No’ in the referendum on the Constitutional Treaty.[4]