The CSS Blog Network

One Year after the Sanctions: Is Europe Ready for the Belarus Crisis?

This article was originally published by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) on 9 February 2017.

The results of the ongoing normalization in relations between the EU and Belarus have been very modest, as have the domestic changes, which the turn in the European policy was intended to assist. Meanwhile, Moscow reacted to Alexander Lukashenko’s perceived “drift to the West” by toughening its approach towards Minsk. A new crisis in the east of Europe may be in the making.

On February 15, 2016, the EU decided not to prolong the sanctions it had imposed five years earlier on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in response to brutal repressions against the Belarusian political opposition. The sanctions were lifted as a reward granted to Minsk in return for the release of remaining political prisoners, for the less oppressive presidential campaign of 2015 and – perhaps above all – for Belarus’s refusal to fully support Russia in the conflict over Ukraine. At the same time, the decision was driven by hopes and expectations that the normalization of relations between Europe and Belarus would stimulate the latter to start domestic liberalization and economic reforms.

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Eurocentrism and the Global Strategy: How Do Others Perceive the EU’s Role in the World?

Euro Blog

The Eifel tower lit up with the EU flag, courtesy looking4poetry/flickr

This article was originally published by European Geostrategy on 3 June 2016.

The idea of eurocentrism has been both debated and somewhat discredited in recent years. Philosophically, a realisation that European Enlightenment thought was perhaps more hegemonic than universal has led to a wider appreciation of alternative knowledge systems from further afield. Politically, a similar shift in the centre of gravity has displaced ‘the West’ as the paradigm of progress and development, helped by the economic rise of ‘the rest’. And on a more profane level, the navel-gazing of European policy-makers has also been challenged as too inward-focused in an increasingly competitive world.

As the European Union (EU) prepares to launch the new Global Strategy, it is worth examining how much it really has moved on; has it managed to come to terms with an increasingly non-eurocentric order? Can it craft a strategy which is assertively European yet realistically conscious of its external partners? A key consideration in gauging this is examining how these partners view Europe – what they think of its global role and how they see it developing. Such perceptions, although not fundamental drivers of policy formulation, nevertheless shape the reality within which decisions are taken, and are arguably often overlooked in the study of international relations.

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The Paradox of EU Defence Policy

EU and NATO Flags

Polish, EU and NATO Flags, courtesy Pawel Kabanski/Flickr

This article was originally published by European Geostrategy on 9 March 2016.

There is a paradox at the heart of EU defence policy. On the one hand the strategic demand for a more active and effective EU defence policy has been growing in recent years, mainly due to the increasing number of complex security crises in Europe’s neighbourhood. On the other, political interest in member-state capitals in EU defence policy has been declining. If this strange dichotomy continues, it will demonstrate the increasing irrelevance of EU defence policy for international security, and will hamper the ambition of the EU global strategy to have a full-spectrum set of foreign policy instruments and more comprehensive foreign policies.

Growing strategic demand

It has become obvious to say that the EU faces a number of security crises in its broad neighbourhood. This is not to say that the EU does not have global security interests, it does, for example maritime security in East Asia. But its role in East Asian security is likely to remain mainly a non-military one. In contrast, the EU’s extended neighbourhood is currently very turbulent, and crises there are causing a number of internal security challenges, such as the refugee crisis and terrorist attacks. » More