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Adrienne Warren

Neue Ostpolitik: The EU’s New Game Face for Russia?

There has been no end to the discussion of how the Eastern Partnership Summit this week has shaped, and will continue to shape, EU-EaP relations. However, according to a new report by The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, the summit is also a milestone for the EU’s relations with Russia.  The report by the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies comes in tandem with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcement last week that pressure from Russia would not be tolerated, citing the OSCE principle of non-intervention–a charter signed by Russia. So how do these two aspects go together? Let’s take a look…

Angela Merkel, author: World Economic Forum, source: Flickr

Angela Merkel, author: World Economic Forum, source: Flickr

Analyst Ingo Mannteufel of Deutche Welle explains why Chancellor Merkel’s statement last week was more ground breaking than it might first appear:

“Merkel’s firm language on Russia’s neo-imperialist foreign policy in an official government statement is a clear signal to Moscow and to Russian President Vladimir Putin. But it’s more than that: it is also a clear indication of one of the cornerstones of future policy towards Russia under a new German government.”

Read: 
WIIW’s “Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit:
A Milestone in EU-Russia Relations – not just for Ukraine”

How did Merkel’s statement signal a change in policy? Mannteufel elucidates:

“In Germany, there was initial disillusion when Putin returned to presidential office, but that is now changing into a new direction in policy. Merkel never took the position of her predecessor Gerhard Schröder, who saw himself as an “advocate for Russia in Europe,” but she, too, has tried to increase understanding for Russian interests in Europe. Her position was widely put down to German respect for Russian interests at a time when the recent election of Russian president Dmitri Medvedev had led to hopes for a new era in Russian-European relations. But that time is over. German euphoria over Medvedev has long since dissipated. Germany now sees the realities of Russia with a sober pragmatism. Putin’s third term in office as president is linked in German minds with repression at home and what looks like neo-imperialism abroad. And the chancellor made it clear in her official policy statement that the government now shares this view.”

Read also:
Carnegie Moscow Center’s “A New Russia Policy for Germany”

Analyst Dmitri Trenin of Carnegie Moscow Center also shares his opinions on the future of Germany’s policy towards Russia, and how instrumental Germany is on behalf of the EU in this regard:

“More than any other European state, Germany is responsible for developing and implementing the European Union’s (EU’s) policy toward Russia. Berlin needs to accept this responsibility, assume leadership, and develop a Russia policy fit for the twenty-first century. To succeed, Germans need to closely watch the evolution of the economic, social, and political situation in Russia and adapt their policy as necessary. The next several years in Russia will be interesting, and the next two decades will be decisive for the country’s development.”

Trenin offers a view recommendations for German policy changes, outlining some guidelines which may help relations to become more effective, in Trenin’s view:

“It is time that Germany came up with a Russia policy fit for the twenty-first century and united the rest of the European Union behind it….The goal of the new policy should not be to help a democratic Russia emerge—this is up to the Russian people themselves. Before Russia can become a true democracy, it needs to embrace the rule of law. There is no ‘other Russia’ standing in the wings, ready to take over. Russia has not become, and is unlikely to become in the foreseeable future, another Poland (an EU member) or another Ukraine (an EU aspirant and associate). It will not join the European Union or enter into an association with it. Russia’s domestic transformation will take longer than those of former Soviet satellite countries or former provinces because of its history, demographics, and ambitions.”

Trenin continues:

“With this in mind, the realistic German policy goal vis-à-vis Russia should be achieving a growing degree of compatibility between Russia and the European Union. Such compatibility rests above all on stronger ties between ordinary people, professional communities, and civil societies, and it is ultimately reflected in the standardization of social, legal, and political practices. Compatibility does not mean that Russia will fully assume a European identity or accept all EU norms as its own. Russia and the European Union will remain separate units, and their relationship will be based on cooperation and coordination.”

Read also:
ECFR’s “Thinking Beyond Vilnius:
How Germany and Poland can shape Europe’s Eastern policy”

The benefits of identifying ways for cooperation and coordination? According to Trenin:

“EU-Russian compatibility does not do away with differences and does not exclude all conflict, but it ensures that conflicts, when they occur, are peaceful. It guarantees that all sides act in a transparent and predictable manner. And it solidifies deeper mutual understanding, which helps avoid missteps rooted in misperceptions and miscalculations.”

The current lack of the transparency and predictability Trenin calls for is deeply tangible in EU-Russia relations. Russia’s influence and relations with the Eastern Partnership has proven to be the cause of shock-waves in recent months, in the case of Armenia’s sudden withdraw from the path of EU integration, and again last week with the uncertain case of Ukraine.

The Vienna Institute of International Studies in their report, entitled “Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit: A Milestone in EU-Russia Relations – not just for Ukraine” touch on the effects of an unpredictable EU-Russian dynamic:

“The turbulence and numerous speculations regarding expectations about the signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (comprising a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement – AA/DCFTA), as well as progress in initialling similar future agreements with Georgia and Moldova, have been escalating before the summit. The association agreements would bring EaP signatory countries closer to the EU: not really closer to EU membership, but closer to the application of various EU norms and standards (takeover of the ‘acquis communautaire’) and –significantly – out of the Russian orbit, for the beginning at least symbolically.”

The report continues:

“The postponement of the EU-Ukraine AA/DCFTA signature – Ukraine’s government stopped the related preparations just one week before the summit – represents a serious setback for the EU while Russia has gained another strategic point, at least for a while. Though the EU has no ‘Plan B’ and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton expressed her disappointment immediately after Ukraine’s announcement, life will continue after the summit and new initiatives will have to be started.”

With many wary of celebrating Moldova’s and Georgia’s initialing of the Association Agreement until the closing of the summit this week, speculations are mounting over whether the Eastern Partnership project has failed altogether–as only 2 of the original 6 have chosen a “European” path.  If these speculations prove to be true, the Vienna Institute’s notion of “new initiatives” will have to come into play.

Sources: Carnegie Moscow, DWWIIW

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Graduated in International Relations and Russian. Resident of Estonia, but a citizen of the world. Most interested in contributing to the progress and education of mankind--as the primary tool of achieving global unity.

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