In recent years, the United States and its European Union partners have often diverged in their policy outlooks towards the wider European periphery—the diverse region stretching from the Balkans and Turkey, to the Westernmost former-Soviet republics and Russia. Whether a temporary hiatus or a more profound strategic divergence, this state of affairs reflects a departure from the mission of extending peace, freedom and prosperity to the European continent that the two sides have pursued in the post-Cold War period.
Fabrizio Tassinari, PhD, is Head of Foreign Policy and EU Studies Unit at the Danish Institute for International Studies in Copenhagen. He is also a non-resident Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels and at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins’ SAIS in Washington, DC. He has written extensively on European security and integration. His book, Why Europe Fears Its Neighbors, was published on September 30, 2009.
Dr. Tassinari's talk draws upon his recent book, "Why Europe Fears its Neighbors" (Praeger Security International, 2009), which attempts to survey and quantify the many challenges facing Europe with respect to its borders. Tassinari describes Europe's position toward neighbor countries as being influenced by the threat of immigration. He describes a "security-integration nexus" in progress since 1945, involving a gradual economic opening of Europe's borders to promote stability. While the EU today maintains to some degree its enlargement policy toward Turkey and the Western Balkans, other border-region states are classified under a "European neighborhood policy" with no prospects for EU membership. Recent policy discourse has decoupled security concerns from integration. The neighborhood approach, undermines EU policy by keeping neighbor states at too great a distance.
Next Tassinari offers Turkey and Russia as case studies. The debate within Turkey is leaning away from EU membership as the primary path toward modernization. Recent dialogue focuses less on meeting technical standards for EU membership and more on reckoning with issues of religion, identity and history within Turkey. With regards to Russia, in the past decade the country has become more assertive abroad and moved away from cooperation with the EU, preferring not to be grouped with countries like Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia in the EU's approach to foreign policy.
In addressing the transatlantic relationship, Dr. Tassinari reflects that the US and EU have long disagreed about EU membership for Turkey, the direction of state building in the Balkans, and integration of some of Europe's neighbor states into NATO.
Finally, responding to the question of whether this divergence comes from a conflict over the "European power constellation" or rather is simply the result of issue-specific philosophical differences, Dr. Tassinari offers three arguments:
- Strategic: EU policy reflects multi-level integration, wherein countries can be "more than partners and less than members." Tassinari believes even countries with no prospect for membership should be integrated as much as possible.
- Normative - in reality, the US and EU share goals for Europe's "neighborhood" - promoting democracy, human rights, and other values. Despite this, each side's initiatives are viewed with suspicion by the other.
- Institution - US policymakers buy in to the EU enlargement policy, with its firm commitments and well-rehearsed conditionality process, and don't see alternative policies such as the "neighborhood" approach as being useful.
A Q&A session following the talk raised such issues as: Will the EU’s problems with “deepening” its relationships with neighbors hurt its prospects for “widening” through enlargement? What are the reasons for the mixed signals to Turkey from the EU? Do arguments about the EU’s denial of Turkey’s membership being based on racism hold any merit? If the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, what cross-border policy areas will remain the prerogative of nation-states and which might fall under EU Commission jurisdiction?