The approach of the European Union towards the post-Soviet world has basically been one of failed half-measures and political condescension. The basic western (including the EU) approach to the post-Soviet bloc, and Russian in particular, is that there is one definition of democracy, one way of life and one culture of which a modern Russia can be apart–the western, capitalist one. This approach has led to the EU failing substantially at democratizing the former Soviet bloc (Laidi, 2008).
The EU officially defines democracy as consisting of three pillars: the first, that all citizens should have a say in the state, that the will of the people is the fundamental normative basis of state power and that elections are genuine (Smith, 2003, also Hill, 2000). If this is the true foundation, then the states of the former Soviet bloc have made this transition well. But this is not the functional definition of democracy: for this, Laidi holds that the real element here is that the west’s favored candidates win the elections (Laidi, 2008).
Therefore, there is a fundamental disconnect between the foundational definition and the actual, functional definition of democracy. Laidi’s thesis is that the EU cannot bring “democracy” to the states within east Europe without becoming an empire, dictating terms, definitions and placing sanctions on the recalcitrant. Politicians that the EU often deems “undemocratic” are actually popular politicians who have won fair elections, such as Putin and Lukashenko. Their respective popularity in their home countries are the envy of the western world, and yet, they are termed “authoritarian,” or “undemocratic.
” Herein lies the failure not just of the EU, but of the western world in general (Laidi, 2006, also see Tonra, 2004). After the Madrid Council of 1995 from which the EU began the early stages of talk with the eastern states and with the announcement of definite political conditions in 1997 the EU’s “democracy promotion” commenced operating through integration process. In the integration process the EU has acquired the opportunity of constant application of its ideological strictures because the strong willingness of the national governments to become full EU members.
But the problem remains that this willingness is one of the pillars of the EU’s definition of democracy, functionally speaking, hence, developing ideological circularity. In addition to this, as the result of close relationship between the EU and the prospective governments the EU has gained the chance of regulation on their sociall and political structures. In other words, the EU believes, in the name of democracy promotion, that the states who seek entry into the EU must develop liberal ideological structures whether the population wants them or not.
To ensure conformity with its conditions the EU has applied to number of mechanisms. It has held the that it and it alone can use these conditions as variables in considering membership. In cases of non-compliance, the mechanisms here are weak, but ultimately come down to declarations and public condemnations. However, application of these measures does not guarantee the candidates’ compliance, particularly since democratic procedures in the candidates stats might inconveniently reject the EU’s definition of democracy.. Carolyn Rhodes work has been the most theoretically satisfying of the literature dealt within this paper.
Her view is that the relations between the former Muscovite bloc and the EU are colored by hostile stereotypes deriving from both sides (Rhodes, 1998). This stereotyping has remained. On the Russian side, the western powers, closely typified by the EU and its foreign policy apparatus, are seen as imperial powers seeking the subjugation of the former Soviet bloc for the sake of educated, cheap labor and raw materials. On the other hands, the EU sees the former Soviet bloc as children, ignorant in the ways of “advanced civilization,” needing to be ordered about on everything from religion to economics to how to hold an election.
With all of this, the actual conditions in the Russian world are blissfully ignored, and a single strait jacked ideological construction is placed upon the former Soviet states in exchange for EU membership (Cafruny, 1998). Ideology has taken over from reality, leading to failures within the Russian-Belarussian sphere, leading, in turn, to the development of a counter-European bloc that Putin has brilliantly put together including China, Iran, and increasingly, Germany. The EU uses its financial mechanisms to being candidate states into compliance with its ideology.
Candidate states are often paid money in order to being them o compliance with EU standards. This, plus promises of trade assistance as part of the “training process” has led to some more cynical minds that candidate states are bribed in order to implement EU legislation. Nevertheless, for struggling states, such promises and cash grants, not to mention assistance in terms of compliance mechanisms is very attractive (Pridham, 2003). But if it is democratic in the commonly accepted sense is another story.
The German relations with Russia and Belarus are central here–they have created their own separate economic space around the Baltic pipeline that had infuriated Paris and Brussels, leading to a third semi-EU space between Germany and Russia (Vahl, 2006). This is a central development: Germany has dropped their ideological “democracy: rhetoric and engaged Russia and Belarus on their own terms. In exchange Germany is guaranteed cheap oil and gas, and, even more important, has built a fulcrum to use against the Paris/Brussels alliance against them.
As it turns out, these states are prospering more apart from the EU than within it. The fact remains that Russia and Belarus are prospering not only without the EU, but are prospering because of their alliance building in opposition to the EU (De Souza, 2008). If this is true, then it is not a matter of the EU’s democratization demands being failed or successful, but being irrelevant. In other words, the rise of China, Vietnam, Iran and other developing states now within the orbit of Russia has turned the tables on the EU.
The Russia of Yeltsin is permanently gone, Medvedev’s Russia is strong, prosperous, patriotic and democratic without the help–or despite the help–of the EU (De Souza, 2008). Putin/Medvedev remain popular, freely elected, yet are still occasionally denounced by the EU as “undemocratic” or “authoritarian. ” To summarize this, the approach of the EU since to rule of Gorbachev and his successor, Yeltsin, has been to tie economic aid to political reform. But this was a violation of the sovereignty of these nations (Russia in particular), and the voting preferences of the population.
The collapse of the Russian economy from 1994 to 1997 is rightfully blamed on these imposed reforms, and therefore, from 1999 to the present, the Putin team has dismantled many of these reforms and created a more centralized state in order to crush the prime beneficiaries of EU-imposed reforms, that is, the oligarchy and their criminal enterprises, now often run out of EU capitals. In other words, the EU’s insistence on the ideological component of these reforms, ties to aid from the EU and elsewhere, led to collapse, and hence, to a contempt for the EU and similar institutions.
But today, Russia is relative well off and clearly a great regional hegemon, and the recent alliances with both Germany and China over oil, gas and mutual assistance have led to a panicked EU which is, at least, the proper comeuppance to Brussels.
Cafruny, Alan. The Union and the World. Nijhoff, 1998 Chayes, Abram. Preventing Conflict in a Post-Communist World. Brookings Institute Press, 1996 (excellent critical introduction). De Souza, Lucio Vinhas. A Different Country: Russia’s Economic Resurgence. The Center for European Policy Studies, 2008.
(Likely the best recent work on Putin’s economic success and the EU’s failure) Hill, Christopher, et al. European Foreign Policy. Routledge, 2000 (mostly primary source documents, excellent background material) Laidi, Zaki. European Union Foreign Policy in a Globalized World. Routledge, 2008. Pridham, G. Designing Democracy: EU enlargement and Regime Change in Post-communist Europe. Macmillan, 2005 Rhodes, Carolyn. The European Union in the World Community. Rienner, 1998. Smith, Karen. European Union Foreign Policy in a Changing World.
Wiley, 2003 _____. The Making of the European Union’s Foreign Policy: The Case of Eastern Europe. Manchester, 1999. Tonra, Ben. Rethinking the European Union’s Foreign Policy. Manchester University Press, 2004. (Moderately critical of the EU’s approach) Vahl, Marius. A Privileged Partnership? EU ans Russian Relations in Comparative Perspective. Danish Institute for International Studies, 2006 (This book is little less than an admission that the traditional democratization policies of the EU have been miserable failures)