Tag: European Union (page 2 of 2)

The strong do what they will…

Russian Foreign Ministry pleased that the European Union eschewed sanctions.

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Medvedev’s five principles


There’s been a fair amount of reporting on an interview that Medvedev gave to German ARD, in which he talked about seeking “constructive dialogue” with the European Union. He also laid out “five principles” of Russian foreign policy, including opposition to unipolarity and a defense of sphere of influence… most notably, Russia’s.

Paul Reynolds of the BBC provides a cynical analysis:

Those therefore are the stated principles. What implications do they have?

To take them in the order he presented them:

The primacy of International Law: This on the face of it sounds encouraging. But Russia signed up to Security Council resolution 1808 in April this year, which reaffirmed “the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia… ” – and has since abandoned that position.

It argues that a Georgian attack on South Ossetia on 7/8 August invalidated its commitment and required that it defend its citizens there. But it perhaps cannot proclaim its faith in international law and at the same time take unilateral action.

This principle therefore has to be seen as rather vague.

The world is multi-polar: This means that Russia will not accept the primacy of the United States (or a combination of the US and its allies) in determining world policy. It will require that its own interests are taken into account.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hinted at what this really means. “There is a feeling that Nato again needs frontline states to justify its existence,” he said in a speech. He was putting down another marker against the extension of Nato membership to Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia does not seek confrontation: Again this sounds hopeful but it based on the requirement that Russia’s needs are met first. If the world agrees to its demands, then it is happy to be friends. But if not… therein lies the warning.

Protecting its citizens: The key phrase here is “wherever they are”. This was the basis on which Russia went to war in South Ossetia and it contains within it the potential for future interventions – over Crimea, for example, populated by a majority Russian-background population yet owned by Ukraine only since 1954. If Ukraine looked set to join Nato, would Russia claim the protection of its “citizens” there?

Privileged interests: In this principle President Medvedev was getting down to the heart of the matter. Russia is demanding its own spheres of influence, especially, but not only, over states on its borders. This has the potential for further conflict if those “interests” are ignored.

However we read the significance of such statement, it is clear that (1) Medvedev has articulated a classical realpolitik vision, albeit it one tempered somewhat his invocation of rules and norms of international conduct. I also think recent statements from the Kremlin suggests its awareness of the growing danger that the conflict with Georgia has greatly undermined Russia’s international position, even if, as Nicholas Kulish reports, many Germans, consider the “Caucasus… a distant concern, if they believe they concern them at all.”

But Medvedev’s statements call attention to a more analytic question. Is this, as a number of prominent scholars in my field would argue, merely more evidence of “rhetorical balancing?” Or can we now start to talk about balancing dynamics in the current international system?

Image source The BBC.

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Kosovo declares independence

The BBC:

Kosovo’s parliament has unanimously endorsed a declaration of independence from Serbia, in an historic session.

The declaration, read by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, said Kosovo would be a democratic country that respected the rights of all ethnic communities.

The US and a number of EU countries are expected to recognise Kosovo on Monday.

Serbia’s PM denounced the US for helping create a “false state”. Serbia’s ally, Russia, called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting.

Correspondents say the potential for trouble between Kosovo’s Serbs and ethnic Albanians is enormous.

Serbia’s Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica blamed the US which he said was “ready to violate the international order for its own military interests”.

“Today, this policy of force thinks that it has triumphed by establishing a false state,” Mr Kostunica said.

“Kosovo is Serbia,” Mr Kostunica said, repeating a well-known nationalist Serb saying.

The Washington Post:

Kosovo’s parliament declared the disputed territory a nation on Sunday, mounting a historic bid to become an “independent and democratic state” backed by the U.S. and European allies but bitterly contested by Serbia and Russia.

Serbia immediately denounced the declaration as illegal, and Russia also rejected it, demanding an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

President Bush said the U.S. would work to prevent violence after the declaration and the European Union appealed for calm, mindful of the risk that the declaration could plunge the turbulent Balkans back into instability.

“Kosovo is a republic _ an independent, democratic and sovereign state,” Kosovo’s parliament speaker Jakup Krasniqi said as the chamber burst into applause. Across the capital, Pristina, revelers danced in the streets, fired guns into the air and waved red and black Albanian flags in jubilation at the birth of the world’s newest country.

Sunday’s declaration was carefully orchestrated with the U.S. and key European powers, and Kosovo was counting on swift international recognition that could come as early as Monday, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels, Belgium.

Doug Muir thinks independence is the “least bad” outcome. The Serbian Church disagrees, calling for a “state of war.” For once, the Georgians agree with the Russians.

And, in fact:

The breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are planning to ask Russia and the UN to recognise their independence following the declaration of independence by Kosovo, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

“In the near future, Abkhazia will appeal to the Russian parliament and the UN security council with a request to recognise its independence,” self-declared Abkhaz president Sergei Bagapsh was quoted as saying by Interfax.

“South Ossetia will in the near future appeal to the Commonwealth of Independent States and the UN with a request to recognise our independence,” South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoity was quoted as saying by the news agency, referring to a grouping of ex-Soviet states that includes Russia.

Both leaders said the moves were prompted by Kosovo’s decision to declare independence today.

Who will recognize Kosovo?

Diplomats said about 20 EU nations — led by Britain, France, Germany and Italy — are keen to recognize Kosovo’s break from Serbia. However, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Romania are vehemently against it. Slovakia, too, has voiced doubts but could move toward recognizing Kosovo’s statehood, diplomats said.

And over what timeframe?

Not very many advocates of national self-determination actually get states.I expect we’ll be studying this case, and dealing with its effects, for a while.

Chirol has pictures of the celebrations in Germany.

Sofia Echo has a decent backgrounder.

Thoughts?

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The British gift for understatement

From the Guardian:

The new EU member states of Poland and Lithuania have been arguing this week for the summit to be called off, and criticising the German preparations. For historical reasons, the east Europeans are highly sensitive to any sign of Germany cutting deals with Russia over their heads.



Yes, I imagine they would be.

Image source: https://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/triumph/pact-sign.jpg

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(Insert Clever Play on “Dutch” Here)

I am really not the person who ought to be commenting on the Dutch “no” vote, but in the spirit of “we ought to say something,” I’ll hum a few bars.

Dan Drezner has already weighed in with his usual insightful comments. Lots of good coverage over the wires and print media. Time to go track down Dutch bloggers as well.

What are the implications? Ivo Daalder is worried:

This is bad news for America — which needs a strong, outward looking partner to meet the many challenges we all now face. Even the Bush administration appeared in recent months to understand that Europe could be that partner. But if Europe is busy debating its future it cannot be an effective partner — leaving the United States to deal with the world’s many problems very much on its own.

We’ll have to wait and see. Recent evidence suggests that the Europeans can certainly walk and chew gum at the same time, and it isn’t clear that ratifying the constitution would have demonstrably enhanced the diplomatic leverage of the European Union. On the bright side, this may be just the shock that European elites need to really start addressing the fundamental problems faced by the EU, such as the “democratic deficit” (yes, I know the new voting system was more democratic, but I mean in the more fundamental sense of moving beyond the European Union as being what Andrew Moravcsik characterizes as, in essence, an “inter-governmental” bargain).

I suppose the worst-case scenario is that many of the gains since Maastricht could unravel. The most recent rounds of European integration have been driven, in part, by a sense of inevitability. The French and Dutch votes are certainly a blow to that notion. Some are even speculating that the EMU could be in trouble – and European officials are trying to squash such talk lest it spook the markets. The consensus seems to be that further enlargement is, in the short term, off the table.

There’s good coverage of these, and other, concerns in the Financial Times.

But even severe setbacks don’t necessarily mean an end to European integration. Since it began, the process hasn’t exactly been smooth. The fact that it will require more than inertia – or the ‘hidden hand’ of market imperatives – to sustain it doesn’t look, in retrospect, all that surprising.

UPDATE: It looks like European officials also think they can multitask:

“These are real, important, serious setbacks,” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said. “But at the same time, of course, we continue to work and nothing does prevent us from carrying (on) all the important work in cooperation with the U.S.”

“Some people have suggested we will now be too absorbed in our own crisis to pursue our external policies. I promise you this will not be the case,” she told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a joint news conference.

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Identities, Interests, and the EU

Patrick’s post regarding yesterday’s “Non” vote in France brings up an interesting point, one that is often missing from discussions of European integration in the MSM (mainstream media)–the importance of identity for political outcomes. Patrick argues that the vote yesterday was not driven by economic interests per se, but rather the successful framing of the issue by right and left groups as one of “us” (France) vs. “them” (other Europeans).

While I believe identity played a role in this outcome I think it is more complicated than a simple self-other distinction (not that Patrick has advocated such a simple distinction). The Non coalition included elements of the far right and left, leaving right-leaning centrists to account for most of the Oui vote (as far as I can tell). Given the nature of the Non coalition it seems worthwhile to explore exactly what identities were central to the Non vote.

The far right seemed to frame the issue along purely nationalistic lines; i.e. we should not allow some supranational body to determine our fate, policies, interests. This argument is not just about economic issues specifically, but rather encompasses a purely parochial notion of identity and the need to maintain sovereignty lest some distrustful other in Brussels becomes empowered.

But those on the left, especially the over 60% socialist voters who came out against the constitution, seemed to be more interested in their economic identities rather than their national identities. What this means is that the left objected because of the economic elements in the constitution which they viewed as Anglo-Saxon and ultraliberal–not simply for the fact that France may loose some sovereignty to Brussels. For the left, they were defining themselves as workers to some extent, a group that is likely to be harmed by such a constitution even though it might benefit the EU overall (i.e. by making labor markets more productive and increasing productivity–two things most commentators believe is crucial for EU economy). It seems to me they weren’t rejecting those outside of France per se, but rather the symbol of the EU as an entity which represents ultra-liberal, market values rather than socialist values. It could be argued that those on the left weren’t simply thinking of the damage to the French left but to workers, period, across Europe. But more data is needed to validate that assertion.

Identity certainly played a role in this, but there seemed to be a number of identities at play at the same time that just so happened to coalesce around the same goal–voting “Non”. The right framed the debate as one of “France versus Europe” while the left framed it as “socialists versus Anglo-Saxon, ultraliberals”. This has interesting implications for how Chirac as well as the other European elites move forward and attempt to reframe the debate as well as revise policy down the road; do they try to carve out more national sovereignty so as to quell the fears of the right in Europe or do they go ahead and revise the economic policies to bring the left along? Stay tuned…

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France votes no

French voters rejected the European Constitution yesterday in a referendum by a pretty decisive margin: 55% opposed, 45% in favor. Pollsters had been predicting this outcome for a while, so the returns came as no surprise; now begins the tussle over why the constitution was rejected. The New York Times [free subscription required] attributed the result to economic issues:

The debate had been colored by fear of the mythical “Polish plumber,” the worker from recent European Union members from the East who is increasingly free to move West and willing to work for lower pay than Frenchmen. … The schism was borne out in and around Paris, where wealthy neighborhoods seemed to vote yes, while poor neighborhoods voted no.

This kind of diagnosis is characteristic not just of the New York Times, but of a general tendency in our present-day public commentary on political behavior that tends to reduce people’s actions to their economic interests. While not exactly dismissing economic factors, I’d like to suggest that something else is going on in Europe. The debate about the European Constitution is primarily a debate about identity, and principally concerns the way that issues (including economic issues) are framed. As such, the French rejection of the European Constitution reflects not the victory of economic self-interest over supranational principles, but the victory of a nationalist framing of the issues over a supranationalist framing.

Consider the “Polish plumber” issue; instead of being framed as a net gain in economic efficiency for the European Union as a whole, or as an opportunity for French plumbers to retool or to rethink their vocations, what is striking to me is that it’s framed in nationalist terms: the mythical plumber is Polish, i.e. “not one of us Frenchmen,” and so his economic gain is “our” economic loss. It is this framework that is at issue in the campaign. After all, “nationalism” isn’t a policy or a group of policies; it’s a kind of conceptual framework, a rhetorical grab-bag of symbols and allusions that politicians can draw upon to justify certain courses of action rather than others. So the anti-Constitution forces rode to victory by successfully deploying these nationalist images, yoking together a coalition of people in a two-stage process: first, “we” are French and “they” are not; second, opening up to economic competition hurts “us” and helps “them.”

So why did the richer neighborhoods vote yes? I’d posit that it’s the same identity-construction process, but with a different outcome: they voted yes because the framework that structures their daily lives is a “European” one. Somewhere along the line, these people have learned to think of themselves as “European,” possibly through their involvement in international educational exchange programs or through engaging in more cross-border economic activity; regardless, the point is that their interests have been framed using a supranationalist vocabulary. Hence, their support.

If the European Union wants to move forward with its Constitution, it should learn a lesson from the early constructors of the postwar transatlantic community: as part of the Marshall Plan legislation, the United States Congress mandated that recipients of reconstruction aid be informed, as often as possible, where that aid was coming from. All over postwar Europe one could see graphics and publicity posters and the like that made it extremely clear that goods were being provided under the auspices of the Marshall Plan, and being provided by the United States to its fellow “Westerners.” The net effect of this was to introduce a novel way of framing people’s identities into their everyday experiences: the United States is providing us with these goods through the Marshall Plan because we are all part of “the West” together. Such public relations work delivered the most enduring impact of the Marshall Plan: a reconfiguration in the way that people conceptualized their interests, and thus constructed the interests of their country. The European Union needs to do something similar, so that the opposing nationalist frame can be replaced by a frame that points in a different, more supranational, direction.

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