September 1, 2014
A recent report from Euractiv Greece unveiled an ambiguous position of the European Commission regarding the question of alignment of candidate member-states Serbia and Turkey with the EU against Russia with reference to bans in food imports. Similar news reports of the past couple of weeks pointed out that both countries have benefited from the current embargo on food supply from the EU, increasing their exports to Russia and gaining a comparative advantage. In this respect, the following question comes in mind: Should the EU’s stance be a denominator for candidate member-states when such crises see the light or we should expect a more lenient approach, accepting the temporary free-riding?
To answer this question, I believe we should first define in which context the so-called Common European Foreign Policy is operated. The first step of the analysis should be whether EU has a true, institutionalized, and abiding foreign policy that all member-states should follow and respect. For the moment, it is clear that we do not have something like that. Instead, we do have member-states that use diplomacy more as a tool to promote national interest rather than as a tool to promote broader European interests.
The second step of the analysis should be whether candidate member-states have to abide by certain policy guidelines and decisions of the EU. From a legal perspective, no. From a political and diplomatic perspective, maybe. In other words, both Serbia and Turkey are not obliged to follow the decisions of the EU as long as they are not full member-states; but even if they were, empirical evidence shows that the EU is not behaving with one voice and one policy. Yes, there are decisions like the one against Russia taken by the last EU Council, but we should also acknowledge the delicate balances that exist in geopolitical and economic terms for Serbia and Turkey vis-à-vis Russia. For the time being, and as both countries are not full members of the EU, such “balances” should be at least respected by the EU.
Turning back to the EU’s stance against Russia, we need to stress out that if the EU wants to be considered as a prominent geopolitical power exerting influence in its area, it should first protect its member-states (i.e. regarding Russia, from the risk of gas shortage in the coming winter) and then respect the regional capacity and scopes of other adjacent geopolitical powers, like Russia. That is, to reconsider its position against Kremlin and try to find a compromise in Ukraine. As conditions change quickly, and after the last meeting between Poroshenko and Putin, it is time for the EU to come in terms with Russia and restitute the former status quo. In the meantime, EU leaders should also freeze any expansion plan of NATO in neighboring countries and control statements over “military capacity”, “security assertiveness” and “protection shield”.
As Baroness Catherine Ashton foresaw the pivotal role of Iran as a potential energy and geopolitical partner for the EU in the Middle East during the negotiations ended up to the Geneva Accords last November, it is now the time for Federica Mogherini to act accordingly with Russia and conceptualize the security risks involved.Dimitris Rapidis