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Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
meeting report
Ambivalent Neighbors: The EU, NATO and the Price of Membership
January 14, 2003
A panel discussion to launch the new Carnegie book edited by Anatol Lieven and Dmitri Trenin.

Dmitri Trenin is the deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. His latest book, co-authored with Alexei Malashenko, is Time of the South: Russia is Chechnya; Chechnya is Russia. Anatol Lieven is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington whose publications include the book Chechnya:Tombstone of Russian Power. Trenin and Lieven coedited the volume in discussion at the event, Ambivalent Neighbors:The EU, NATO and the Price of Membership. Charles King contributed a chapter to the book titled "The Europe Question in Romania and Moldova" and is an associate professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. Andrew Kuchins, the director of Carnegie's Russian and Eurasian Program, moderated the event.

Dmitri Trenin explained that Ambivalent Neighbors grew out of an attempt to study the dual enlargement of the West-the expansion of both the NATO alliance and the European Union (EU)-as one of the most important and least understood developments in contemporary foreign and security policy. The book is predicated on a belief in the dynamism of what are often viewed as static institutions, to which acceding nations must conform, but which will not change as a result of their new members. The editors and authors of the book explored the ways in which this enlargement will transform all those participating: both institutions and nations, members of the "old west, the new west, and the left-outs" alike. The writers avoided the notion that the process of dual enlargement was inevitable or automatic, attempting instead to give depth to the "cardboard images" of the EU and NATO, the countries they accepted into their ranks, and those that remain on the fringe. The intended audience of the book spanned from readers in Europe to readers in countries affected by but not part of the process, including the United States and Russia.

"In order to survive its own victory and digest its own success," Trenin continued, "the old West, in part the EU but also NATO, needs to rise to the challenge of change." The EU needs to think and act as a unit, aligning its policies with its ambitions. While the internal workings of the Union are changing, in most important European nations, parochialism is a very serious barrier to realizing the full potential of European integration.

New members of both the EU and NATO are forced to transform themselves in order to integrate. The changes range from the political and economic to the cultural and social; a conversation with farmers in Poland revealed a consequence of integration for them was that they had to begin washing their cows every day.

Most important to Russia is the nature of the Europe lying beyond the EU and NATO. The fate of Turkey in the process of Europe's enlargement will determine the character of the Union to come, while it is clear that Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova are neighbors whose prospects of integration are at best a long way off. If Russia's integration is equally distant, as is likely, what is the meaning of the "Russia in Europe" mantra? Russia's goal should be not to join Europe but rather to become more European. The process of Europeanization, which is also a process of modernization, is most sensible for a country like Russia, though the incentives for Europeanization are unclear in Russia itself. Paradoxically, the prize of Europeanization, meaning integration, does not look much like a prize worth fighting for from Moscow. While Russia is of Europe, it stretches to the Pacific. Subsuming itself to a union of thirty other nations does not appeal to a country of Russia's size. The process of changing Russia, however, dovetails with bringing it more into conformity with EU and is worth the effort it will require. Perhaps the best way to achieve Russian integration into the modern world would be through a tri-partite formula: a strategic global relationship with the United States (US), an integrationist relationship with the EU, and a modernization partnership with Japan.

Charles King opened with the question of who will join Europe and who will be left out, highlighting three points. "First, the promise of enlargement was a catalyst for domestic reform and was also the context for a series of spectacular historical reconciliations along the European-Eurasian frontier." Examples include the development of a peaceful relationship between Poland and Lithuania in the first half of the 1990s, and between Romania and Hungary in the second half, neither of which need have emerged so easily or peacefully. The promise of enlargement helped create an atmosphere in which pressure could be put on domestic leaders to reconcile, simultaneously providing them with a language in which to discuss historically troubled relationships.

The promise of enlargement, however, was sometimes more powerful than the reality. Reconciliations were most successful when they occurred within what a growing numbers of leaders called the 'natural borders' of Europe, and reconciliations attempted across these borders often failed. Beginning in 1992-93, with roots in the late 1980s, Poland initiated a deep and creative relationship with Ukraine. Poland became Ukraine's intercessor with the rest of Europe, while historians and professors attempted to deal with the legacy of the brutal Galician civil war. An attempt was made to ease immigration restrictions betewen the two. Later in the 1990s, however, this new relationship fell victim to the process of integration. When it became clear that Poland would be included in an Eastern enlargement of the EU, Poland undertook to secure its border, chilling the process of reconciliation with Ukraine.

Secondly, the negotiating process itself may constrain the domestic politics of acceding nations in ways that are not helpful to growth and deepening of democracy. Particularly in southeast Europe, analysts note that the price of accession negotiations seems to be the removal of politics from the realm of public debate, and their repositioning in technocratic debate. The discussion of the national interest, whether it concerns EU food packaging policy or adoption of the euro, is lodged behind closed doors, especially in countries further from accession. The substance of politics is left to small group of extremists, and, as occurred in the West with the rise of politicians such as Pim Fortyun, often becomes the purvue of the far right.

Finally, the EU and NATO need a strategy for Europe's near abroad. While Europeans argue that new nations may always apply for membership, King noted, the policy of "the door always being open" is not the same as a strategy for new relationships. A strategy must consider the countries that over the next thirty years are unlikely to move closer to EU membership. An earlier attempt at a strategy was the creation of "subregions," designed to "ease the relationship between in or out of Europe." With Europe as the primary region, subregions were meant to smooth border crossings and promote cross-border economic development in areas within and around EU boundaries. The lesson learned from the subregion endeavor, King explained, was that "a [successful strategy] needs a strong state." Paradoxically, the states in Europe's near abroad needed to implement state-building reforms-in order to ultimately unbuild their states. The experience of Europe's near abroad points to the conflict between two processes that are contradictory but must be accomplished simultaneously: increasing state capacity while sharing state sovereignty with an entity beyond the state's borders. While the European strategy was well intentioned, it did not account for certain realities of state building, and the negotiating process itself worked at cross purposes with building state capacity.

Anatol Lieven began with a quotation from the 19th C. British politician Lord Palmerston, who in commenting on the Schleiswig-Holstein question stated that "only three people understood it: one was mad, one was dead, and Palmerston understood it once but had now forgotten." Similarly, it is neither surprising nor blameworthy that ignorance on both sides of the Atlantic persists regarding what the EU is and how it works. The weakness of the EU is precisely the fact that its own populations in the west and prospective populations in the East do not understand the EU, and what of it they understand, they do not necessarily like.

Lieven noted the stark disparity between attitudes towards the euro printed in the broadsheet newspapers in Continental europe and those printed in the tabloids. The broadsheets favor the euro, and the tabloids, with ten times the circulation, oppose it. While the euro was adopted with remarkable smoothness in member countries, the rift between the popular and elite opinion begs the question of how durable it and other EU institutions would be in the face of severe crisis. Perhaps equally threatening to the durability of the Union is the origin of the transformation being undertaken by acceding nations. While the process of EU enlargement has garnered positive effects in both the internal and external policies of acceding countries, these effects are due in no small part to the requirements of accession. Latvia relaxed its policies towards the acquisition of citizenship by Russian speakers largely because of the process of Europeanization brought on by EU and NATO membership. If these positive changes are the product of accession, will they last after membership is achieved?

The EU's strength has been its creation of a process; it built a web of rules, laws, and traditions codified in the Aequis Communitaire and applicable to the Union's expansion. But the process of expansion is complex and revolutionary, involving a fundamental transformation of the economics, politics, and cultures of the countries required to undertake it. Furthermore, enlargement to the East will transform the EU itself. Lieven agreed with Trenin that Turkish membership remains a critical unresolved issue. While some believe Turkish accession to the EU to be simply "an act of will," others argue that Turkish membership would mean a "fundamental transformation of the EU, possibly even its destruction. Turkish accession would require changes so profound that they would revolutionize Turkey on the one side, but [also] the EU on the other." The depth of change at stake makes it easier to understand the hesitations and fears of Europeans, even those who are not culturally hostile to Turkey. Those who desire deeper integration within the current boundaries of the EU fear that the process of greater Eastern expansion will ruin prospects for a more cohesive Europe. Many in France look with deep suspicion on the motives of Washington and Britain in their commitment to rapid enlargement, believing it to be an attempt to prevent deeper European integration.

Thus the creation and enlargement of the EU and NATO is neither the completion of a historical process nor an escape from history. While history may experience long plateaus, it never stops. Rather, a process of change is inherent in the EU itself. A potential for conflict lays in the sheer differential between the western and the former Soviet states, which could lead to a dangerous mood of frustration. The EU could prove a disappointment for new members in Eastern Europe, particularly as the terms for their membership are less generous than those given to previous new members from Southern Europe. While many Eastern European nations have concluded accession negotiations, it remains uncertain whether they will receive support in popular referenda. Even in Lithuania and Latvia, where enlargement is viewed more favorably, opinion polls reveal that accession "is not a done deal as far as the citizenry is concerned." Today's NATO-in which Russia is involved and the US is perhaps less interested than before-is not the organization acceding countries once envisioned joining. Moreover, the idea of playing any kind of role in parts of the world far from the west, as NATO is increasingly being called upon to do, will not appeal to Eastern European populations. NATO in the past was to be the seal of their escape to the west. Today's European institutions, though they define a great deal, seal nothing with finality.


Martin Walker wondered whether the assumption prevelant in Washington that new members of NATO will be more pro-American than their western counterparts is true. If it is, he asked, will it last, or will the influence of Brussels persuade central and Eastern Europeans to adopt a more Euro-centrist viewpoint?

Lieven replied that the new members' support for America would likely continue in the near future, noting in particular the influence of returned diasporas in the Baltic states and the potential accession of Turkey. Attitudes towards the US in the more distant future will depend in part on the evolution of Russia's relationship with the west. Favorable opinions toward America are the product of a belief that America was the liberator from the Soviet yoke and is the guarantor against Russian reconquest. As these feelings diminish, America might lose its influence. Other factors include the extent to which the US remains involved in Europe, and whether adherance to America requires serious costs, such as troops from European countries.

Kestutis Jankauskas commented that EU membership is not perceived to be the end of history in the Baltic states, suggesting that these states were most interested in meeting new goals, not simply concluding old ones. Referencing Bush's notion of "Europe whole and free," he asked whether the EU and NATO seem to have a plan for the next four to six years dealing with Eastern Europe beyond Poland.

King replied that no grand strategy exists beyond the next wave of accessions, largely because the nations farther south and east would have trouble meeting the baseline criteria for membership in either organization-that is, the existence of a state governed with a modicum of democracy and capable of controlling the territory it claims as its own. The challenge lies not in any ontological definition of Europe but in the absence of criteria necessary for statehood.

Lieven added that further enlargement might be more plausible for NATO, and has to an extent already occurred with Russia. The downgraded importance of NATO vis a vis the US makes enlargement easier, as America tends to want airbases, overflight allowances, and only limited peacekeepers from NATO countries instead of more intensive demands. The chief risk to continuing enlargement is the possibility of radical regression in terms of democracy. Expansion of the EU is much harder, and likely precludes the accession of Ukraine or Belarus in the near future. A process of demodernization has occurred in the power of the state particularly in the Caucasus but to lesser extent in Ukraine as well. No basis exists for opening negotiations with these countries. At present, the economies of Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus are still closely linked to that of Russia. Because Ukrainians and Georgians, for example, cannot move the EU to work, they go to Russia instead.

Trenin replied that while "Europe is clearly a process…for the foreseeable future, or at least for [the next] 15-20 years, the eastern border of the present enlargement will be the eastern border of the EU." The Europe beyond the EU, including Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, will feel the presence of its integrated neighbor. "Ukraine, having ceased to be Russian, has remained too Soviet for its own good. Throwing off the tutelage of Moscow Politburo has not made [Ukraine] democratic or market oriented." Russia may find that its best interests do not lie in EU membership, and Russian membership would certainly wreck the EU. [a nation of russia's size] Even so, Russia should use its proximity to the EU to assist its own modernization while also working with the US on a security partnership. Russia's most troubling security threats in the coming years will not emerge out of Europe.

A series of questions followed, to which the panelists responded in closing remarks. Wayne Merry observed that the event audience was populated mainly by embassy representatives instead of Americans, demonstrating both the European interest in what the US thinks of it and the lack of reciprocal interest on the part of Americans. Washington has not given the EU the institutional prominence it deserves. Merry asked how enlargement will change the European institutions in addition to the new members, noting that until now, Luxembourg has been the EU's only small economy, and that enlargment will bring nine new small economies lacking the experience of working together.

Andrew Pierre asked about the views and potential influence of incoming countries on the future expansion of the EU and the deepening of its common foreign defense policy. He wondered whether these new members might work to inhibit further integration, referencing Lieven's point about those in England who advocate expansion so as to stave off deeper European integration.

Kempton Jenkins disapproved of the automatic inclusion of Ukraine in a block with Belarus and Moldova, arguing that Ukraine does meet necessary criteria of statehood and has the capability to become more Western. He suggested that Ukraine must be encouraged to move toward Europe if it is to continue reform. Jenkins asked about the impact of the grain war between Ukraine and the EU on their relationship, as well as the involvement of Russia in the conflict.

Ed Berger asked about the changes to be expected in the relationships between countries without prospects for EU membership and the US, EU and Far East as a result not having EU membership. Because the EU is an economic entity, he wondered, might one expect new alliances from the nations left out of these two clubs.

Lieven replied that the grain dispute between Ukraine and the EU highlighted the tension between the EU's aspiration to spread at least some kind of integration beyond EU borders while simultaneously attempting to fortress Europe, reflected in attitudes to labor and tariffs as well. Europe must learn from the US, whose policies towards Mexico have been more enlightened and generous than those of the EU towards the East. "The EU exports not prosperity but poverty…causing intense bitterness in Russia, Ukraine, and the rest of the world." He disargreed, however, with the characterization of Ukraine as one firmly united country, noting that like Moldova, Turkey, and Belarus, Ukraine comprises "many different countries and bits of countries," particularly in attitudes to the West.

Lieven foresaw three scenarios for the further enlargement of the EU. The first was paralysis and breakdown-enlargement could wreck the EU. The second he called the Holy Roman Empire scenario, in which the EU would comprise a "unity which is in many ways united, where cultural, economic, tariffs, laws and rules apply, but which is not a weight in the world." The third was a Europe of overlapping, not concentric, circles. For example, while Britain is on the periphery of Europe, it is at the heart of its security identity. Britain shares pro-American policies with Eastern Europe and could be leader within the EU.

King first responded to the question of new, smaller economies in the EU, noting that the key factor determining the degree to which any country will become team players is the extent of the western European investment it receives. One can expect a higher degree of cooperation in the most vibrant economies, and less cooperation in those with less to gain. In the political and strategical spheres, cooperation will be related to the degree to which countries are pro-American or pro-European, especially when those two groups diverge. He suggested that Romania's integration would be an important test case. "It was no accident that Romania was the second country in the world to give the US a pass on prosecution in the International Criminal Court, and there is some degree of worry about the extent to which Romania might be a pro-American Trojan horse within the accession group."

Trenin replied that the treatment of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova as a block was not a negative judgement but a realistic assessment of each country's prospects for joining the EU. More important for the EU is the influence it will have on its new direct neighbors. The existence of the EU will change the internal dynamic of those countries, and the relationship between them will no longer be that between East and West. Whether Ukraine is in the Russian or the American pocket matters less than the progress of internal change within Ukraine. Grouping Ukraine with Moldova and Belarus does not consign it to the sphere of Russian influence, in part because of Russia's own changing foreign policy aspirations. Russia no longer views its foreign policy as a means of asserting itself on the global scale, as is illustrated by Russia's extreme reluctance to absorb Belarus. Russia's business increasingly is Russia itself; it will not become a challenger to the west. The question now is what kind of Russia will emerge.

Summary prepared by Anne O'Donnell, a junior fellow in the Russian and Eurasian Program.

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