EUROPEAN THINK-TANK REVIEW – XXVI. (August 2014)

Written by | Monday, August 25th, 2014
European Values

Towards a Fresh Deal for Ukraine, the EU and Russia and their Neighbourhood Policies : 15 Steps
Michael Emerson (Centre for European Policy Studies)

In this commentary, Michael Emerson proposes 15 steps to be taken by Ukraine, the EU and Russia in order to establish a stable economic situation in the Ukraine region and reinforce positive mutual relations.
First of all, the newly elected President Poroschenko must secure the peace and unity of Ukraine. Putin could try harder to contribute towards this objective. Poroschenko’s second step should be to join Moldova and Georgia in signing the Association Agreement with the EU (this step has already been realized). The author also recommends that the EU, Russia and Ukraine would engage in a regular trilateral cooperation process. However, such arrangement is hardly possible at this time when the context is one of overt confrontation. Furthermore, Emerson suggests that the EU move rapidly to conclude visa-free agreements with Ukraine and Georgia, and work towards this goal with Russia once the current crisis of relations had been deescalated. In the realm of Ukrainian domestic policy, Emerson stresses the need for Ukraine to declare military neutrality and complete the revision of its constitution, including appropriate safeguards for the Russian language. Examples of bi- or multilingualism being handled in a sustainable way could be found in Western and Northern Europe. One of the steps urges the EU to scrap the sanctions it imposed against Russia.

Many of Emerson’s recommendations are trade-related. According to one, Russia should agree to align the price of its gas sales to Ukraine on the average German import price, thereby removing this item from the political agenda once and for all. According to another, Ukraine and the customs union comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (RBK) should engage in negotiations for a high quality free trade agreement (FTA). Furthermore, the EU and the RBK customs union should open negotiations for a free trade agreement, on the understanding that Belarus and Kazakhstan would accede to the WTO during the course of the negotiations. Finally, Russia should propose its customs union partners to adopt European and international industrial standards for tradable goods as the standards of the Eurasian Economic Union.

One of the steps deals with Transnistria. The EU, Moldova (Chisinau and Transnistria) and Russia should work out arrangements for Transnistria to profit from Moldova’s signing of the DCFTA with the EU. Transnistria would be subject to an additional Protocol for basic free trade with the EU, with zero tariffs and acceptance of EU industrial standards. The last step is concerned with Armenia, whose accession to the Eurasian Economic Union was made difficult, if not impossible, by its request of 900 exemptions from the common external tariff. Practical solutions should be found, enabling simpler free trade with both the customs union and the EU, while Armenia could still otherwise integrate with the Eurasian Economic Union if it so wished.
(The study can be downloaded here: http://ceps.eu/book/towards-fresh-deal-ukraine-eu-and-russia-and-their-neighbourhood-policies-15-steps)

Russia’s Pivot to Eurasia
Kadri Liik (European Council on Foreign Relations)

The Eurasian Union is ever more widely considered to constitute an anti-Western alliance. Some politicians, such as the former US Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton, condemned the project as an attempt to revive the Soviet Union, even though the logic behind the founding of the Union is not specifically anti-Western. Rather, the Union is to serve Russia and its allies in attaining greater political leverage in an increasingly globalised world. This rationale is shared with the European integration project.

The reason for Russia’s eastward pivot lies in its disappointment with the West rather than a vision of better conditions or greater profits from cooperation with the East. Antecedents of such a disappointment may be classified into three categories: values, economy, and the West’s behaviour in the global theatre. Concerning values, the progressive societal attitudes that are taking hold in the EU have received a negative reaction in Russia. In economic matters, the recent financial crisis took its toll on international relations in general. The current sanctions concerning gas and oil exports serve to further deepen the divide between Russia and Europe.

As for the international standing of the West, Russia perceives itself as the victim who agreed to the German reunification, NATO expansion, the building of new US military bases in central Asia and other steps which directly benefitted the transatlantic power bloc, and was rewarded with an anti-ballistic missile system in central Europe. This device, although built solely for defensive purposes, grants the U.S. a first-strike advantage in the sense that it should eliminate any missiles fired by Russia in response to a U.S.-initiated aggression. However outlandish this fear may seem, in nuclear matters psychological deterrence plays a vital role. Russia feels it is becoming increasingly surrounded and cornered, and thus naturally adopted an ideologically defensive position.

Although cooperation between Russia and China is not new, the current crisis in Ukraine motivated the Russians to seek out an ever closer association. The EU will for some time remain Russia’s top trading partner, but the recent gas export agreement and the organisation of common army exercises with China point to visible Russian efforts to play a bigger role in Asia than before.
(The study can be downloaded here: http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/russias_pivot_to_eurasia310)

 Obstacles for a Strengthened Role of National Parliaments in the European Union
Adriaan Schout, Judith Hoevenaars a Jan Marinus Wiersma (Clingendael – Netherlands Institute of International Relations)

As a consequence of the financial crisis, there is a mounting support for strengthening the accountability of ‘Brussels’ at the national level, particularly in the context of economic governance. Calls for greater involvement of national parliaments in the European Union are growing in several European capitals. While putting an emphasis on the Netherlands, this study examines the discourse around this debate and looks for the limits of the national governments’ demands.

Attempts have been made – in the Treaty of Lisbon which entered into force in late 2009 but also in earlier treaties – to better involve national parliaments in European decision-making, for example by introducing the ‘yellow card’ system to increase scrutiny of the subsidiarity principle. Nevertheless, the Dutch government continues to work on strengthening the role of national parliaments and the democratic accountability of the EU at the national level. The Dutch Lower House has assigned a special rapporteur for democratic legitimacy, Liberal MP Rene? Leegte, to explore ways in which a greater influence can be exercised on European decision-making.

In the quest for a stronger role for national parliaments, much attention has been given to the subsidiarity check. The second Rutte cabinet has presented an alternative vision of Europe as a counterpoint to political union: less Europe in some policy areas, and more Europe where necessary. However, subsidiarity is hardly applicable with regards to political control over distribution, especially given that the government and also a number of opposition parties are in favour of further integration of the EMU.

A second method of strengthening the role of national parliaments is through inter-parliamentary cooperation. The Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC, established in 1989) is the primary forum for the exchange of information and best practices. Minister Timmermans and the Dutch parliament believe that there is potential here, especially with regard to the process of coalition formation in the yellow-card system.

However, the aim of strengthening the role of national parliaments stands in stark contrast to the trend of deeper European integration and an increased role for the European Parliament. Since they are mainly interested in the implications of EU policies on their own country, national governments can hardly follow the political procedures of the EU which are set for the EMU as a whole. It is also debatable whether nationally elected parliamentarians can rise above their inclination to make cost-benefit analyses at the national level. As for the yellow-card system, it was seldom used since it was introduced and attempts to strengthen this instrument by forming coalitions through inter-parliamentary cooperation are likely to be cumbersome. At the same time, there are signs indicating that European institutions do not see inter-parliamentary cooperation as the solution to its problem of legitimacy.

Serious doubts have been expressed about the ability of national parliaments to monitor European decision-making, which involves shaping policy and working out the different scenarios for 28 Member States. National parliaments are too removed from supranational European issues and too self-centred to be able to fulfil this complex role. If national parliaments are unable to take on the task of making Europe more accountable, who will? The Commission is extending its functions under the supervision of the European Parliament, which will also inevitably widen its portfolio. In this discussion, it is not enough — and can even be misleading — to repeat the prevailing mantra about strengthening the role of national parliaments.
(The study can be downloaded here: http://www.clingendael.nl/publication/obstacles-strengthened-role-national-parliaments-eu)

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