From Russia with love

Why the EU is being nice to Russia

Why the EU is being nice to Russia

Or in other words, how the EU’s behaviour with Russia is symptomatic of the flaws in its foreign policy.

Last week’s Economist writes of Russia’s withdrawal from Georgia and how the EU is too quick to accept it and go back to ‘business as usual’ with Russia. This brief article manages to touch upon the actions of Nicolas Sarkozy, the power Russia has over its European neighbours due to its energy reserves, and most importantly, partnerships with the EU. This is what drew my attention and finally gave me the inspiration for my latest article.

Having spent a whole year studying in depth the practicalities of EU foreign policy, the tools that the EU has at its disposal have always been an interesting subject, as has their usage. Some will argue that the EU does not in fact have many foreign policy tools at hand for the simple fact that it does not have military might. Moreover, it is not a single entity but composed of 27 different countries who all have their own word to say. Both of these facts are true, but one cannot neglect the importance of the EU, particularly in economic terms, and also as a trading block. The EU does have a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and it does have success in this area. As for its failures, it is not unlike any other country and is therefore not immune to failure, one cannot solely put the blame on the nature of its existence.

However the obstacles that the EU faces in its attempts at a common foreign policy are present, and prevent it from making further progress. One of the biggest problems it faces (in my opinion), is that of credibility. In order to have political influence and clout, the EU must be able to give the impression of a strong, united and unmovable entity. It cannot afford to get bogged down by problems of disunity, internal squabbling or contradictions. If it does so, it will instantly lose credibility abroad. This is exactly what the Economist picks up on in its article. Its opinion, is that the EU is being too lenient towards Russia because it would rather keep it on its side than risk being openly hostile to it.

This is an instant loss of credibility for the EU’s attempts at a CFSP. How can one say one thing and do another? Be harsh with some countries yet not with others? Allowing Russia to re-enter negotiations with the EU sends the wrong message completely. Not only does it mean that Russia can get away with things, but it also shows that the EU does not act even handedly and is not as fair and just as it should be. This is even more offensive judging by the fact that the EU has a very strong rhetoric on equity and justice. This also means that the next time the EU wants to exert pressure on a country that is not part of the 27, it may have more difficulty doing so due to its loss of credibility.

This is not the first time that the EU has turned a blind eye and decided to overlook a certain country’s actions when it is in its favour to do so. It is also not the first time that the EU shows a preference towards a certain country rather than another. If it continues to do so, it may make itself enemies, or in any case make things more difficult for itself.

I firmly believe that the EU is a good thing for us, that its existence is essential, that it bring us many benefits and that it must continue to thrive. I also believe that undertaking a CFSP was a good idea and that the EU should try and impose itself more politically. But in order for this to work it must stand its ground, it must learn from its past mistakes, and it must at all costs gain credibility. Re-entering negotiations with Russia is not the right way to go about it.

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