Dr.Karoly Gruber (Szechenyi Istvan University of Gyor, Hungary): The European Union, Central Europe and Russia: Cooperation and/or containment?

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1 Dr.Karoly Gruber (Szechenyi Istvan University of Gyor, Hungary): The European Union, Central Europe and Russia: Cooperation and/or containment? Perspectives on Political Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe: Past and Present July, 2009 Tartu, Estonia Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies (CRCEES), UK University of Tartu, Estonia

2 The present state of the European Union The EU is neither a traditional international organisation nor a federal state. Due to its political system (multilevel governance) its decision-making process is slow and complicated. For the EU to have a political power which is similar to its economic weight on the global stage, there needs to be a really efficient and and unified foreign policy. This is not the case (e.g. lack of unity over EU-Russian relations). In lack of substantial hard power, the EU`s soft power cannot have its real impact. The present constitutional crisis (Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty) hinders the EU`s room for manouvre in the international arena. The Union`s systemic weaknesses (demographics, energy dependency etc.) have a grave impact on its global competitiveness. The diverging national interests of member-states do limit the EU`s strategic clout (climate and energy policy). The new Central European member-states are more sensitive than old members to global challenges (outside the Euro-zone, more dependent on Russian energy).

3 The present state of Russia Petro-state with missiles? At first sight strong state, but a lot of systemic weaknesses (demography, no innovation and R&D, lack of public services and institutions, crumbling army). Centralised state during the Putin-period: replacement of independent minded governors with persons close to Putin ( siloviki ). Increasing state intervention in economy, consolidation of energy firms (Yukos vs Gazprom). Managed or sovereign democracy : Increasing controll of the media and civil society, unexplained political murders (e.g. Politkovskaja, Litvinenko). Fear of the coloured revolutions Official ideology: mixture of Soviet nostalgia, Russian nationalism and Ortodoxy. More assertive foreign policy, energy dependence as a strategic tool.

4 EU-Russia relations The type of EU government (multi-level governance) and Russian government (centralised state) are apparenly more often than not are incompatible. EU officials whether from the European Isntitutions or memberstates speak with a different vocabulary. This hinders cooperation. Russian officials find the EU s soft power as weakness, they are much more interested in NATO, whick speaks with a voice (hard security) with which they are more familiar. The EU should speak with a more unified voice to convince Russia to treat the EU as equal partner. Soft power sometimes should be supplemented hard power. With enlargement, a number of memberstates joined the EU, which have bilateral problems with Russia (Poland, Lithuania, Estonia). These open issues are now europeanised and have a serious impact on institutional EU-Russia relations. The new memberstates as a result of their historical experiences are much more cautious with Moscow, while some old memberstates (especially Germany and Italy) are much more interested in stable relations with Moscow.

5 Energy Perhaps the most important aspect of EU-Russia relations is energy. The whole of the EU, but especially the new memberstates are very dependent on Russian energy. The Union s energy package and supporting the NABUCCO-project is a way to decrease dependency. The European Union must convince the Russians to ratify the Energy Charter and open up markets to European investors. Russian energy companies must comply with European legislation when they appear on European markets. Vested national interest must not undermine the EU s common position. Possible means of standing up to Russian energy monopoly: (1) complete unboundling (2) separation of gas storage and gas pumping capacities (3) bilateral deals with Russia and other third countries (e.g.turkey) to allow free transit of energy (4) supporting projects such as NABUCCO and LNG projects which can contribute to decreasing dependency.

6 Near abroad/neighbourhood policy By strengthening the Neighbourhood Policy, the Union should send strong signals that the Russians have no veto right in their Near Abroad. It is the EU s primary interest to deepen relations with the energy-producing Central Asian states, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine. Europeans must play bigger role in trying to find solutions for the frozen conflicts of the neighbourhood area (e.g. Moldova, Georgia). After the Georgian crisis, it cannot be business as usual. Make Russia understand that it cannot violate the rules of the international community. Engagement is better than isolation, but there should be a very clear and tough EU mandate for the PCA-negotiations.

7 Conlusions: Cooperation and containment Russia s new challenge to the EU runs deeper than the threat of energy cut-offs or blockages in the UN. It is setting itself up as an ideological alternative to the EU, with a different approach to sovereignty, power and world order. Where the European project is founded on the rule of law, Moscow believes that laws are mere expressions of power and that when the balance of power changes, law should be changed to reflect it. Russia is trying to revise the terms of commercial deals with western oil companies, military agreements such as the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and diplomatic codes of conduct like the Vienna Convention. And it is trying to establish a relationship of asymmetric interdependence with the EU There are 2 new aspects of the EU-WEST-Russia relationship, one is the impact of the global economic crisis and the new American president s foreign policy. These are too early to assess for now. Russia is a state far too important for the Euro-Atlantic community not to have a uniform and clear-cut position on the management of its relationships with her. In trying to find a new consensus Central European states can contribute to a great extent. The new policy consensus on Russia must be based on cooperation mainly, but if the resurgent Russia endangers the interests of the Western community, we cannot forget about containment and confrontation either.

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