EU & EEU – C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute!

EU & EEU – C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute! (It’s worse than a crime, it’s a blunder!)
As the UK’s referendum on continued membership of the European Union draws closer debate continues apace on the complex matter of ‘remain’ or ‘leave’. Populist points have been raised about immigration, the common fisheries policy, TTIP, and the sacred right of sovereignty and national self determination, but there has been little close analysis of just why continued membership of the EU is or is not truly in the national interest of the UK.
One of the larger elephants absent from the debating chamber shall be briefly examined here: The EU’s ability to craft and conduct safe foreign policy on behalf of its Member States. The EU’s relations with the EEU makes for a specific case study.
The idea of a Eurasian Union had been originally proposed in 1994 by the Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev during a speech at Moscow State University. The EEU ( Eurasian Economic Union ) was formed in May 2014 by Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. The EEU came into force on the 1st January 2015.  The EEU is a trading bloc that spans geographically from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, currently skipping the Baltic nations of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. The EEU can be regarded as a reactionary response to the EU and ‘Greater Europe‘.
In 1990 Russia adopted the Paris Charter ( Charter of Paris for a New Europe ), along with most European governments, Canada and the US. The charter is founded on the Helsinki Accords and with Helsinki forms the basis for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe ( OSCE ) Gorbachev was a strong advocate of the idea of a ‘common European home‘ and hoped that it would be built by both sides on an equal basis. The reality of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which created a serious institutional and geopolitical vacuum as well as socio-economic chaos in the ex-Soviet Space made equal partnership functionally impossible for Russia at that time.

After Gorbachev’s referendum on forming a Federation was derailed by the attempted coup of hardline Communists in August 1991, the USSR was dissolved in December that year and the CIS ( Commonwealth of Independent States – Russian Commonwealth ), a regional organization of former Soviet Republics, was created.

While pro-Western views dominated in Russia, Moscow sought to fit into Greater Europe. The state of Russia-EU relations was described by then European Commission President Romano Prodi in 2002 as: integration with Russia to the point of ‘everything but institutions’, as he outlined the EU’s proximity policy. Moscow had to de-facto adopt EU rules and regulations without any opportunity to influence them or manage the common space. This power imbalance is largely responsible for releasing the forces which today threaten European stability.
The ‘Greater Europe’ concept emerged at the end of the Cold War. ‘Greater Europe’ had both a geographical and ideological nature. In particular ‘Greater Europe’ was predicated on the promotion of peace. Many of the concepts of the Paris Charter were carried into the founding principals of the EU itself as it was created in 1992 with the signing of the Treaty on European Union in Maastricht.
It can be concluded that lack of censure by the EU of some rhetoric issued by Member States in the course of the UK referendum campaign implies tacit approval of that rhetoric and confirms that the EU today indeed operates far from its founding principles.
The ideals of a Greater Europe as envisioned in 1990 have not been realised and what has been constructed is not what was intended. The EU has degenerated into a competitive expansionist trading bloc, now functioning far from its original peace promoting predicates.
Post Cold War European institutions which continue to formally exist and function, but increasingly fail to match reality, are one manifestation of this failure. The European unreality is seen most clearly in the intergovernmental dysfunction which became progressively more acute following the EU’s expansions to the East in 2004 and 2007. Inability to craft, let alone implement, policy to deal with the migrant crisis is a direct result of this dysfunction. The migrant issue is most serious as it has led to politicization of the Commission itself. The EU’s failure in its other important international duties, such as the reconstruction of post Gaddafi Libya, are numerous.
The spectre of a hegemonic empire which serves to exert influence in cultural, political and economic spheres is both sinister and provocative to many outside the bloc and some within it. It is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the Paris Charter.
The turn which Brussels has taken from this point has caused division between Member States and critically between Member States and the Commission itself. This is seen in the de-facto collapse of some aspects of the customs union which forms part of the foundation of the EU itself, and the general abandonment of Schengen across much of the continent in response to the migrant crisis. The extreme political polarization seen across Member States certainly represents failure of the post WWII European project’s mission to prevent conditions that could lead to war between EU Member States from forming again. Multi-factor decline across the continent demonstrates that ‘something’ has fundamentally ‘gone wrong’. The EU’s Resistance to reform, an EU perestroika, indicates that the elites which run the EU are in a deep state of denial.
The logic of ‘Greater Europe’ which governed relations between Russia and the EU during the 1990s and 2000s came to an end when Russia lifted CIS sanctions on Abkhazia in 2008. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt raised concerns at this time saying “That could look like a de facto annexation and that would be a matter of great concern if it were the case.” The subsequent Russo-Georgian conflict in South Ossetia proved that warning prescient.
In 2008 Sweden and Poland presented a joint proposal for the development of eastern Europe to a meeting of the EU foreign ministers’. This was the birth of the EU’s Eastern Partnership policy ( EaP ), the European Union’s 2009 leading policy initiative to forge closer ties with six countries in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus.
The EaP was called into question after it failed to realise an association agreement with Ukraine in 2013. The failure of policy resulted in violent protests in Kiev (Euromaidan), a revolution, and a still ongoing Russian military intervention. The EU itself has been faulted over its approach to EaP trade negotiations where in the case of Ukraine the offering of limited incentives has dangerously polarized the EU’s relations with Russia. As a foreign policy initiative the EaP has been a comprehensive failure for the EU.
Thomas de Waal of Carnegie Endowment has remarked of the EaP that ‘The EU cast the partnership as a bureaucratic and economic project, without sufficiently mapping out the politics to prepare for certain contingencies.’ In the case of Ukraine the EaP left the EU with no scope for appreciating Russian anxieties about Ukraine’s accession. The EaP goal of building pipelines bypassing Russia to ensure greater energy security for the EU’s partner nations could have only been perceived as a direct threat to Russia’s economic interests by Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s accusation that the EU was attempting to carve out a new ‘sphere of influence‘ in Russia’s backyard in this context has credibility. That the policy awarded such valuable propaganda points to Russia only further compounds the failure.
A further flaw to the EaP is that its objectives to modernize and liberalize the institutions of its partner States did not accommodate for the effect this may have on the partner States non-EU neighbours. In short, whilst to Western Europeans the idea of modern institutions and core European values of daily life is second nature and perceived rightly as good, to those outside the EU these values can be perceived as a threat. In short, ex Soviet-States which endured the socio-economic chaos after the collapse of the USSR have found a stable status quo which now defines their State. These States will react strongly against any perceived threat to that status quo which in part explains why Russia’s sign up rate to the EEU has been good whilst the EU has hit brick wall with its expansion.
It is worth noting that Ukraine would not have met the basic criteria for EU accession for at least a generation.
After Yanukovych decided to opt for Moscow’s offer instead of Brussels’, the EaP left no scope for the EU to de-escalate the events which the policy had set in motion in Ukraine, nor to repair the now badly damaged relations between the EU and Russia. That Brussels, which was meant to have been in equal partnership with Russia, somehow managed to allow itself to be drawn into direct competition with Moscow on the matter of Ukraine still defies belief. Such reckless action usually results in the end of nation States.
As Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand once remarked: ‘C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute!’ ( It’s worse than a crime, it’s a blunder! )
The miscalculations in Ukraine demonstrate clearly that the EU is unable to construct or conduct safe foreign policy. Any doubts Moscow may have had about the EU’s commitment to the Paris Charter’s equal partnership terms would have been confirmed when it found itself in direct competition with Brussels for Kiev. The symbolic and protracted destruction of Donetsk Airport, and other European infrastructure in East Ukraine by Russian backed separatists and actual Russian forces makes harsh mockery of the EU’s much vaunted belief in pure ‘soft power’. Russia’s coincident violations of the 1987 INF Treaty signal very clearly that it is serious about using ‘hard power’ to protect its own interests and advance its foreign policy as per Clausewitzian necessity.
Further blunt demonstration of what will happen next if the EU does not change course should not be invited.
The EaP was ironically the catalyst which moved Russia to develop the EEU. The EEU can be therefore be regarded as a reactionary entity, modelled on the EU, but unlike the EU not underpinned by any particular ideology. Moving forward the EEU looks to be the entity which will facilitate the proposed Lisbon to Vladivostok Free Trade Zone. It’s primary function will be to enable the continued trading pattern that sees technology being transferred from Western Europe to Central / Eastern Eurasia, and raw resources – in particular hydrocarbons – transferred from the Central / Eastern Eurasia to the relatively depleted regions of the West.
The Lisbon-Vladivostok trade zone idea was put forward by then Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin in 2010. And it keeps returning: 2014 – A United Eurasia from Lisbon to Vladivostok2016 – Austrian business leader suggests free trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
Poorly crafted EU foreign policy to which the UK and most other Member States are merely fait accompli has been proven to create unnecessary existential threats to Member States and complicate international relations negatively. This problem, compounded by the EU Commission apparently being able to ignore council from the wiser men and women of the Member States, Member States conducting their own policy at cross purposes to the EU – another manifestation of the intergovernmental dysfunction phenomena – complicates what should be relatively simple matters of State unnecessarily.
It is in the UK’s National Interest to be able to trade directly with the EEU as an independent Sovereign moving forward on its own terms, and perhaps without the need for a negotiated trade agreement.
The UK distancing itself from EU foreign policy failure which otherwise negatively harms the UK’s interests is in the UK’s interest. Secession from the EU is the only option available to the UK to achieve this.