The changing world order and its implications for the "wider Europe"
The European Union has succeeded to considerably expand its influence during the past 20 years. The three rounds of enlargement and the strengthening of the EU’s economic and political presence in its neighborhood are among the most remarkable successes of its post-Cold War history. The European Union is one of the key facilitators of stability in the Western Balkans; it represents an institutional and normative anchor for Eastern Neighborhood countries and acts as a partner for a thriving economic partnership with most of the Mediterranean states.
During the past few decades, the Union was able to actively mold its regional environment by offering the benefits of integration and/or economic co-operation, based on a finely tuned selection of instruments. The number of EU member states has doubled in less than 15 years, providing a good deal of credibility for Brussels’ normative power. The co-operation with the EU and its main benefit – membership – became achievable for an unprecedented number of external actors, and the continued belief in it provided significant leverage for the Union. Moreover, the EU and its member countries became stakeholders in the US hegemony. Despite all controversies, European states and the EU acted keenly and in strong co-operation with the US in the continent’s neighborhood. Closer co-operation with the EU and a possible accession to the community had been a common strategic fundament for US and European policies vis-à-vis Turkey, the Western Balkan countries and even for the Eastern partners. Besides NATO, the EU itself became the strongest institutional link in the transatlantic community - a well accepted fact both in Brussels and Washington. The EU – and some of its member states – also developed a strong coercive authority, due to their dominance in foreign trade, the area financial subsidies and within other areas traditionally subscribed to soft power. On the basis of these instruments, and its increased global weight, the EU was able to acquire a strong influence and an institutional credibility in its broad neighborhood.
During the past few years, however, the changing international order, the deterioration of European competitiveness and the need for internal compromises have begun to challenge the belief in the Union’s future capabilities to actively mold its environment: First, the decreasing US attention towards Europe and the changing nature of the transatlantic relationship began to put it in question the very fundaments of the EU’s role in the international context that had existed since the 1950’s. Second, the Union’s swiftly decreasing share in the global economy - particularly trade and investments – have undermined its prestige and regional influence.
Furthermore, the EU faces a major challenge in each of the three distinct dimensions of the immediate environment in which it has to act. One, a reinvigorated Russia has demonstrated ambitions to act as an alternative source of benefits for states in the Eastern neighbourhood seeking to escape EU conditionality – a development which may prove especially problematic in the case of Ukraine. Two, partner states in various external actions are typically not fully committed to the transformatory vision of the EU and have remained – based on available evidence – more opportunistic actors than fully aligned supporters of this vision. This is in stark contrast to the experiences of the 1990s and of Central European enlargement. Three, the EU’s public has also looked at some dimensions of external actions with increasing reservations. As a result, enlargement (beyond Croatia) is distinctly a hard sell, while other programs lack a clear political will rooted in the preferences of member state societies that would propel them forward, leading to an increase in symbolic and all too success-dependent interaction at the cost of deep reform.
The EU and its member states will have to accommodate to this new situation in order to preserve and further strengthen their leadership in the wider Europe. The Union will have to keep its credibility as the main facilitator of integration, it will need to launch new sectoral initiatives and remain as an attractive aim for elites. All this has to be done in a rapidly changing global environment, with a competent European leadership that is able to reverse the declining fortunes of the organization. The current research aims to analyze the interaction between these two processes, the EU’s adaptation to the changing global environment and the parallely developing influence of the Union on the wider European environment.
In view of the change in circumstances the project aims to find answers to the following general and particular research questions:
1. How does the changing US policy - its decreasing attention toward Europe - impact upon the Union’s external influence? Is the European model of external action capable to address neighboring actors alone? Is the a European leadership in “wider Europe” possible with less US commitment?
2. What are the consequences of the EU’s gradually decreasing share in global economy? Can cultural, institutional and political benefits compensate for a lesser extent of economic co-operation in the regional environment?
3. How could the EU preserve its integrating credibility with more bleak accession perspectives? Can the Union’s normative, institutional power survive Europe’s decline? Can the Union provide stakeholders’ rights for the neighbors in general or in particular policies?
4. How can the EU involve its regional partners in global governance? Can it distribute its benefits, channel their interests and harmonize their policies in the new international order?
5. Are the existing patterns of external actions sufficient to produce synergies and permanently create win-win situations?
The project is expected to have the following results:
I. Published material
Two edited volumes on the theme of the project
Book No.1 “EU regional interaction in the new world order”
(1) Global trends and their effects on the EU and its environment – Péter Balázs
(2) Discourses on the EU’s international role and external policies /Bibliographical research and literature review/ - PhD Student 1.
(3) Harmony or disorder? – Searching for convergence between EU enlargement, neighborhood and foreign and security policies – Péter Balázs
(4) Divided leadership? - The changing transatlantic relationship and its effects on EU external action – PhD Student 1.
(5) The weakening magnet - Economic Prospects of the EU and its effects on the neigborhood – Student Contributor 1.
(6) Post-Lisbon strategies strategies and their external implications – Péter Balázs
(7) The promises and future of the Eastern Partnership – András Rácz
(8) The forever candidate - Turkey and the EU - Student Contributor 2.
(9) Challenging the Union’s finalité – the EU and the Western Balkans – Student Contributor 3.
(10) Emerging rival or dynamic partner? – the EU and Russia - András György Deák
(11) The Moslim courtyard - the EU in the Maghreb – Student Contributor 4.
(12) The situation and prospects of Central and Eastern European States in view of the changing EU – Péter Balázs, András Deák and András Rácz
Book No.2 “Sectoral policies for a broader EU”
(1) EU sectroral politics – regional and/or global leadership of the Union – Péter Balázs
(2) Politics or policies? – The European visions of large EU powers and the EU’s role. – Ph.D. Student 1.
(3) Regional without global? – shaping the framework for climate change policies – András Deák
(4) Managing dependency through technology – the EU energy policy – András Deák
(5) Extending the borders of stability – security co-operations with regional partners - András Rácz
(6) Migration – challenge or opportunity - Student Contributor 5.
(7) EU and International Trade - PhD Student 2.
(8) Searching for synergies – infrastructure development in the broader EU - PhD Student 2.
(9) Closing study: The future of EU enlargement and neighborhood policies - Collective authorship edited by Péter Balázs
The finished studies will be concurrently published on a dedicated page on the website of the Center for EU Enlargement Studies.