How Europe should strengthen itself given Russian threat

Friday, 2 February 2024

The annexation of Crimea and the big war have altered the former political priorities of European countries.

The challenges in international security have become paramount.

Read more in the article by Andreas Umland, an analyst at the Stockholm Center for Eastern European Studies (SCEEUS) – Upgrade through crisis: How EU is changing under influence of Putin's unleashed war.

EU member states and European countries outside the EU are already connected through various transnational structures. Some of these structures either had Russia as a member, like the Council of Europe, or still has it today, such as OSCE. These organisations, however, proved insufficient to prevent the dramatic escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2022.

The recent significant events in Europe indicate the need for more than cosmetic changes in the EU's relations with European countries outside the EU for two reasons.

Firstly, former Brussels approaches and initiatives proved inadequate to alleviate or resist the tension in Eastern Europe that has led to war.

Secondly, the ongoing war and its numerous consequences worldwide require new approaches and actions that could help save the Ukrainian state from destruction and prevent the European security order from collapsing.

A fundamental review and, at least partial, reconfiguration of the EU's former policy towards non-EU European countries are taking place, primarily in Europe itself.

The most noticeable change in the past two years has been the fact of new official EU candidate states.

Only in response to Russia's aggression and Ukraine's application for EU membership in spring 2022 did the European Commission take the initiative to persuade member countries to change their attitude not only towards Kyiv but also towards Chisinau and Tbilisi.

At the end of 2023, the European Council made a decision to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova and granted Georgia EU candidate status.

Another significant institutional change in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was the creation of the European Political Community (EPC) – an initiative symbolically launched by French President Emmanuel Macron on 9 May 2022.

The EPC unites the EU with countries outside it but upholding European values and wanting to respond to the broader normative challenge posed by Moscow.

The EPC prospects and the potential impact of the motives that led to its creation, however, remain unclear.

Yet, new joint initiatives, such as the European Political Community, can only function as a discussion and networking forum.

The current task is the bilateral and multilateral deepening of cooperation among all European countries.

European countries must enhance cooperation and unity not only in areas directly related to security but in all others. This will make the European community of states even stronger.

The desire for greater cooperation and integration in various fields across Europe today is not just an expression of the normative preference for transnational humanism, Europeanism, and/or liberalism. It has become a matter of self-preservation.

Will the still ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war strengthen or weaken the European community of states? The coming years will give us the answer.

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