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Research Report

Game of Zones The Quest for Influence in Europe’s Neighbourhood

Sven Biscop
Copyright Date: Jun. 1, 2014
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 19
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-3)
    Sven Biscop

    Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and subsequent meddling in Ukraine does not constitute a game-changer. It is just a reminder that at least since the war with Georgia in 2008 Russia has been and still is playing the same game: a “game of zones”, aimed at (re)establishing an exclusive sphere of influence. Many of us Europeans had forgotten that, or had pushed it to the back of our minds, preferring to believe that we were not engaged in a zero-sum game in our eastern neighbourhood.

    While we were dealing with Ukraine, we tended also to forget the crises still going...

  2. (pp. 5-6)

    The European Union’s (EU) hope was that the countries of Zwischeneuropa, wedged in between itself and Russia, would be able to make their own choices, instead of Brussels or Moscow choosing for them. If they would choose to develop close ties with us, we would gladly oblige, on the condition that they would undertake economic reforms and commit to improve democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. But the EU never asked that they would sever relations with Russia. Russia however does not see the world through this lens. And because a win-win situation requires that both...

  3. (pp. 7-8)

    The European burden of responsibility does not just include our eastern periphery, but our southern neighbourhood as well. Successive crises eclipsed each other in Libya, Mali and Syria until now all eyes are on Ukraine. But the violence in the former three countries has far from abated, and a grave crisis has now erupted in Iraq as well.

    At first sight, the ENP seems to have suffered from the same weakness in the east and in the south, which led to the EU being overtaken by the Arab Spring and the crisis in Ukraine. A focus on the “low politics”...

  4. (pp. 9-10)

    The start of a new Commission, including a new High Representative, is the perfect opportunity to make a new start in the neighbourhood. Fortunately, nobody seems to doubt any longer, as was long the case, that the EU should set priorities in function of its vital interests. They are obviously at stake in the neighbourhood: preventing spill-over of security threats to our territory, ensuring trade routes and energy supply, managing migration and refugees, combating trafficking of humans, arms and drugs, maintaining international law, safeguarding the autonomy of our decision- making.

    Europe cannot keep quiet therefore, but that does not mean...

  5. (pp. 11-11)

    Before any new long-term regional policies can be put in place, the EU must address the ongoing crises in its neighbourhood.

    To start with we must make it clear that we do consider the security of this broad region to be our responsibility. Not because that is what the US expects from us, but in the first place because our comprehensive regional policies will not be credible if the impression persists, as in the past, that our engagement ends where hard security problems begin. Europe must be the first-line security provider in its own neighbourhood. Whenever a security problem arises,...

  6. (pp. 13-15)

    These long-term security obligations provide the framework for the EU’s short-term crisis management.

    In the East, the EU actually has responded pretty adequately to the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis: adopting sanctions to signal its dissatisfaction with the annexation of the Crimea, keeping further sanctions in reserve to warn Putin against similar military incursion in mainland Ukraine, providing economic support to the Ukrainian government and helping to organize the presidential elections, and engaging in high-level diplomacy. Indeed, Obama aligned himself with this approach in his Brussels speech on 26 March 2014, putting paid to rather more belligerent utterings in some...

  7. (pp. 17-18)

    In recent years, awareness has sharply increased across the EU that security in the broader southern neighbourhood concerns all of the 28. That does not yet translate, unfortunately, into a great willingness to act when forceful intervention is required. In Libya and Mali ad hoc coalitions outside the EU had to take the military lead, at the initiative of Britain and France, with the EU as such not coming onto the stage until the follow-up phase. But the EU does now have comprehensive regional strategies for the Sahel and the Horn, in the implementation of which is has deployed training...

  8. (pp. 19-20)

    If the security situation can at least be kept under control, the EU can revitalize its long-term multilateral and bilateral relations with the countries in the five subregions of its broader neighbourhood.

    A multilateral forum would add value to bilateral relations, at least as a confidence and security-building measure for the countries of each region, which often are embroiled in tensions and disputes, but also to foster cooperation between sets of countries on concrete issues. The more operational the multilateral forums can be the better, of course, which requires a focused agenda. That certainly holds true for the existing forums,...

  9. (pp. 21-21)

    As violence and foreign intrusion threaten the stability of many of Europe’s neighbours, with full-blooded war going on in several countries, our broader neighbourhood certainly is in the worst state since a long time. But that does not mean that Europe is impotent to deal with this. If we deploy them pragmatically, our diplomatic, military, civilian and economic instruments, and indeed our values themselves, can have a great impact. The key, as ever, is strategy: setting clear objectives and choosing instruments and allocating means in function of those priorities. In the simplest of terms: not just doing things with the...