Written by | Monday, December 15th, 2014

The European Neighbourhood Policy Put to the Test by the Ukrainian Crisis
Gilles Lepesant (Robert Schuman Foundation)

In recent years, the European Neighbourhood Policy encountered clear resistance from Russia which feels threatened by the EU’s growth. The Kremlin is seeking to bar many of its neighbour states from signing association agreements with the EU and aligning themselves with the West rather than with Putin’s Eurasian Union. From Moldova to Georgia to Ukraine, Russia followed a similar strategy: giving out Russian passports, declaring an embargo on essential products, and organising half-baked referendums in conflict areas. In case of Georgia and Ukraine, it even deployed its military force. The conflict in Ukraine can be seen as a test of endurance for the Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership.

The Neighbourhood Policy was designed as a technocratic structure rather than a political one, though the depoliticized relations were its strong point. However, Russia would not necessarily lose out if Ukraine became more European. The 2004-2007 enlargements did not close the doors of Europe’s markets to Russia, which remains the main partner to several European countries. Putin’s management of the crisis in Ukraine has re-politicised it, since – in line with Putin’s view – the geopolitical dynamics on the European continent amounts to a zero-sum game.

The neighbourhood policy’s main weakness lies in having the ambition of being an enlargement policy without having the means to do so and without the partner States enjoying the possibilities enjoyed by the candidate countries. There are several reasons for the existing overlap between the neighbourhood policy and the enlargement policy. First, the EU’s representatives tend to ask the neighbourhood countries to follow the same reforms which are underway in EU candidate countries. Second, some EU Member States – feeling threatened particularly by Russia’s long-term behaviour – tend to believe that seeking reforms in their neighbouring countries would increase their own security. Third, some neighbouring states may be eager to implement any number of pro-EU reforms to increase their chances of joining the EU. However, as we can see in the case of Ukraine, the overlap of these two policies is not without its consequences. The EU neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn must tackle the question as to whether the Neighbourhood Policy should be reformed or altogether separated from the enlargement policy.
(The study can be downloaded here:


Politicising the Union? The Influence of ‘Leading Candidates’ for the Commission Presidency
Aileen Körfer (Collège d’Europe)

According to many, the European Union suffers from a democratic deficit. Greater political competition at the European level could mitigate it and create a European “demos” – people. Among the latest instruments that should contribute to this change is the concept of “Spitzenkandidaten”. Pan-European parties should newly propose the candidates for President of the European Commission, while the president of the winning party in European elections would automatically become this candidate.

Most of the policies in the EU are created and adopted by consensus. This can be seen even in the European Parliament, where parties are divided according to the traditional right-left division with a high level of fragmentation. Yet, its two largest parliamentary factions, S&D and EPP, are trying to cooperate in order to better demonstrate the unity of the Parliament, the only directly elected EU institution, during negotiations with the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. Consequently, it is difficult for the European voters to distinguish between the European parties, as they may even feel that their choice is not efficiently transmitted into the final European policies. The concept of “Spitzenkandidaten” may therefore lead to the disruption of these consensual decisions and possibly to greater politicization of the EU.

The example of Martin Schulz (the candidate of the Party of European Socialists – PES for the President of the Commission) shows that during the last European elections, this new concept could lead to a broader pan-European campaign, which went beyond the boundaries of nation-states (not necessarily, however, automatically lead to an increased public interest in these elections). His personality reflects that PES is a unified party and may increase its cohesion during the vote. He has, among other things, a symbolic personal role for partisan politics, which can help this policy to be better transferred to the citizens. However, the transition from decision-making within the so-called grand coalitions between S&D and EPP to purely left-wing or right-wing coalitions is limited.

“Spitzenkandidaten” can also improve the already good relations between the Parliament and the Commission, and strengthen their position towards the Council of Ministers. It may even lead to some politicization of the Commission. It is, however, naïve to believe that the commissioners take their decisions only on the basis of their political fractions. Within the Council, the acceptance of the Parliament’s candidate is an expression of respect to the choice of the people. Overall, the concept of “Spitzenkandidaten” can be considered as a first step to the federalist structure, which in the long run can help solving EU’s democratic deficit. The 2014 European elections, however, has not proven this.
(The study can be downloaded here:

The Impact of TTIP: The Underlying Economic Model and Comparisons
Jacques Pelkmans, Arjan Lejour, Lorna Schrefler, Federica Mustilli and Jacopo Timini (The Center for European Policy Studies)

To what extent is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the USA a step into the unknown? Multiple analyses of the probable impacts of the TTIP have been published, with differing conclusions. The position of the European Commission itself should therefore be scrutinised.

Any assessment of the consequences of the TTIP adoption presents a challenge for policy analysts. The treaty is unique in its complexity and the sheer economic size of the two partners involved in the negotiations. For this reason, studies focusing on the TTIP impact assessment can hardly be compared to impact assessment of other economic partnerships – the EU and the U.S. can only be compared to one another. This paper considers the assessment of the TTIP in the European Commission’s own analysis in contrast with other existing studies concerning TTIP.

In working out the impacts of the TTIP, the Commission used the Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model, which represents the state-of-the-art in the economics science. The data used for the model is drawn from the reliable and constantly updated GTAP database. In its assessment, the Commission’s study offers realistic assumptions concerning possible contents and structure of the TTIP, while presenting detailed overview of potential scenarios and impacts. The Commission’s tools allow it to conduct a sound economic analysis and its conclusions could be seen as reasonable, though rather conservative compared to other analyses. Overall, the Commission’s analysis paints an adequate picture of possible impacts of the TTIP.

Nevertheless, the analysis does have several drawbacks. While it documents well the foreseeable impacts of CO2 emissions, it overlooks the effects of other climatic changes. At the same time, it is difficult to estimate the future development of the labour market and consequently of unemployment rates. Finally, the research of possible spill-over of changes emanating from the TTIP into third-party states is insufficient. Better analysis in all of these areas would be helpful, although to be fair to the Commission, the tools for a more precise and reliable analysis of the TTIP are simply not available at the moment.
(The study can be downloaded here:

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