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

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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.