Guest lecture: EU-Russia relations: cooperation or confrontation in the common neighbourhood?

On 17 February 2010 students of the Master programme in Advanced European and Inter­na­tional Studies organized by the Centre inter­na­tional de formation européenne (CIFE) had the oppor­tunity to attend a lecture under the title: “EU-Russia relations – coope­ration or confron­tation in the common neigh­bourhood?”, which was given by Dr. Andras Racz, SPES research fellow at the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP).

Racz started by giving an overview of the European Neigh­bourhood Policy (ENP) in terms of its evolution, archi­tecture and main goals. Although the EU has been developing a mutually beneficial policy towards the neigh­bourhood since 2003, Racz stressed that the political tools of the ENP are merely weak (no accession perspective, the visa question). Moreover, the EU is lacking a unified political will, which is exhibited by the “Russia first” approach of some member states.

By contrast, Russia has not developed a unified and compre­hensive approach towards its own neigh­bourhood. Instead, Moscow approaches its neigh­bours mostly on a bilateral basis and pursues a policy of „co-ordinated integra­tions”, i.e. it operates separate organi­za­tions for different purposes and with differing membership. As Racz put it, one of the main problems of Russia today is the fact that it does not serve as a positive example any more, and thus, is not attractive to its neigh­bours. Instead of having a strategic, positive political agenda on offer, Russia uses mainly coercive and negative measures. For these reasons, the only thing Russia can do is attempt to preserve the status quo (e.g. no further NATO enlar­gement).

In his conclusion, Racz stressed the assumption that the common neigh­bourhood countries were likely to pursue a balancing foreign policy between Brussels and Moscow, as unila­teral orien­tation proved to be unsuc­cessful in the past.