- Students’ Column
- War and Military
The very recent results of the EU Parliamentary elections should determine us to reflect on the success of the European project so far. A large proportion of the good results the radical right and left obtained have to do with the frustration and fears that member states’ citizens share in relation to the federalist idea. More than this, the propaganda and mythology associated with the damage that the enlargement waves brought to the Union, especially in security terms are to be ‘blamed’ for the rebellious voting behaviour.
Whenever it comes to discuss about the enlargement process of the EU and the security it brought with it, a strong debate emerges between promoters and skeptics. In this short writing, I will present a few reasons why I consider enlargement to be a policy full of security essence and also why I consider a larger EU as a more stable and safe project. Nevertheless, I am compelled to also share in the view that too much expansion in other political actors’ ‘backyard’ could become a source of bad external relations and regional or international instability.
I will begin with what I call the power of example of the EU. This first argument suggests in short that the EU proved how soft power can replace hard, violent power in achieving its goals. The consequence would be that the world could be a bit safer if the need for military is reduced. Why is that? First, because obviously if non-military action is enough, then it means that violent conflict was absent in the first place. Second, because a reduced use of weapons lightens the armament and security dilemma.
But is the EU a good example of soft power success? With regard to enlargement, the common understanding is that the EU did not force Central and Eastern European countries to join. They have been drawn into cooperation schemes by EU’s power of attraction. Accession to the EU represented a seat at the table of decision-making, access to funds, political legitimacy and economic credibility: ‘membership of this most exclusive European club’. This type of ‘civilian’ power politics can be seen as a pragmatic but peaceful foreign policy, one based on political negotiations, regulations, and economic leverage. One that could truly replace force.
The second argument is that enlargement brought security by handling the neighbouring unstable countries. By adopting the aquis communautaire, these ex-Soviet countries became ‘European’ and were absorbed in a post-modern system characterised by security, transparency and interdependence. Enlargement was intended as a civilizing process, and by moving the level of relations between states from external to internal, actors became ‘domesticated’. The way to achieve this leveling among different member states was done through the so-called conditional accession and through a high level of EU intervention in the national affairs of the applicant countries.
Even the official aim of the enlargement was for Western Europe related to security, prosperity and democracy. There are strong reasons to believe in the success of such an objective, at least when thinking of security. For example, local conflicts based on ethnicity or territorial claims never took place in Central and Eastern Europe, which ought to be applauded more, considering its potential. Moreover, it was NATO that securitized the path the EU enlargement by expanding its protection to Central and Eastern Europe beforehand.
Finally, EU’s Internal Security Strategy projects a future security model centered around judicial and enforcement cooperation, intelligence sharing, border management, integration and solidarity. With countries like Romania and Bulgaria still not part of the border-free Schengen Area, the EU seems to be serious in its intentions to fully integrate members only based on their satisfaction of internal security expectations. Furthermore, the restrictions on the two countries with regard to the free movement of workers are also proof that the EU chose first to create the proper path for a secure final enlargement, and only after 7 years to put together its last piece. Keeping all these in mind, the Internal Security Strategy and the restrictions to new member states, we can notice how the security agenda is being incorporated into the enlargement process to create a safe and prosper Union.
The opposing view is that there is also such a thing as too much enlargement, especially when accompanied or preceded by NATO expansion. As mentioned earlier, the two appear to be going hand in hand. Even if this were not the case, meaning that a military expansion would not occur, the idea that economic power – and its product, an economic sphere of influence-replaces hard power still allows to understand the defensiveness of political actors that could be affected by an enlarged EU. To be more specific I will refer here first to an increase in the military interest of NATO in the Caucasus and the Black Sea Region. Second, I will consider the economic aspects of attracting Ukraine to the EU and issues related to energy diversification that could alter EU-Russia relations.
As stated in the Report on EU’s Security Strategy, under the ENP the EU expresses its strong interests in Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, the Black Sea, and Georgia, as well as famously in Turkey. Furthermore, NATO’ s enlargement policy considers Georgia and Ukraine as future members. Turkey is already part of the organization. This year, Moldova is expected to play an interesting part in NATO’s 10 year celebration of Eastern European expansion. Considering the Cold War history, these movements might appear as NATO-US encirclement to the Russian Federation. There has already been present a strong tension between the US and Russia caused by the placement of the Missile Defense System in Europe, which could go beyond a turning point after the recent events in Ukraine. In this atmosphere sewed with mistrust, any EU enlargement attempt would definitely be perceived as security threat to the Russian Federation, which would ruin security aspirations.
Lastly, Europe is energy dependent and this dependency is increasing steadily. This is a major factor in EU-Russia relations which obviously requires a diversification of sources of supply and transit routes. The alternative to Russian energy could be Azerbaijan’s. The current winning project is the Trans- Adriatic pipeline which replaces the famous Nabucco project. Greater involvement of the EU in the South Caucasus could be seen as an intention to replace Russia as number 1 energy supplier, which could also bring more Russian tough policies on its southern neighbors, thus destabilizing that region. In the case of Ukraine, a free trade agreement is seen by Russia as dangerous to its own market because of a pre-existing free trade regime between the former members of the Soviet Union. Current events in Ukraine show us how the cost for an association agreement with the EU is the grave deterioration of EU-US-Russia relations, which reminds of the Cold War.
To conclude, I would say that achieving international or regional security is the product of good intentions, ideals and prudent calculations. Enlargement of the EU to Central and Eastern Europe is an example of such good intentions and strategic thinking. Stability and order have been brought and maintained so far on the Old Continent. However, European policy-makers and leaders must also keep in mind that other powers in the international system have interests of their own and that history is is still present in the collective memory of nations. Because of this, boundaries to expansion -both geographical and cultural ones – must be put in place. Even if EU’s imperialism is a benign one, as Zielonka puts it in Europe as Empire, the risk to instability and conflict is too great when trying to project too much power, soft one included.
• Cooper R., The new liberal imperialism, Observer Worldview Extra, 7 April 2002;
• Internal Security Strategy for the EU, Council of the European Union, 2010;
• Report on the implementation of the European Security Strategy, 2008;
• Rees W., The US-EU Security Relationship, 2011, Palgrave Macmillan;
• Zielonka I, Europe as Empire. The Nature of the Enlarged European Union, 2006,
Oxford University Press.
• Bbc.com, website: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-25108022
• EU Commission, Memo, End of restrictions on free movement of workers from
Bulgaria and Romania, 2014;
• euractiv.com, website: http://www.euractiv.com/energy/eu-favoured-nabuccoproject-
• NATO, website: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_49212.htm;
• novinite.com, website: http://www.novinite.com/articles/159230/Capitals+of+US,
• reuters.com, website: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/21/us-ukrainecrisis-
• voiceofrussia.com, website: http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_03_20/US-using-missiledefense-