The Director of the Global Europe Centre at the University of Kent answers questions on the ongoing revision of the EU’s Security Strategy, a more effective engagement of the EU’s Eastern neighbours, the EU’s cooperation with the Eurasian Union, and countering Russian influence in Europe’s neighbourhood. She proposes othering, a new process for better relating the EU as a regional hegemon to the other powers in the international system.

What are the main challenges for the development of the EU’s global Security Strategy?

The current revision of the ESS is driven by the increasingly changing global environment. As highlighted by the EEAS 2015 report, the EU is facing a far more complex, connected and also contested global order, which would require a more comprehensive external vision and grand strategy from the EU to enable it to punch above its weight. It would also need an understanding how to bridge the infamous capability-expectation gap, to ensure that the EU’s ambitions are well matched by the available internal resources and also political solidarity between all relevant stakeholders within the EU. The main challenge for the EU, as I see it, is precisely in the development of these external and internal synergies in the EU’s global foreign and security policy, to engender an integrated, joined-up approach across the EU institutions and Member States, which would connect the plethora of policy instruments, overcome geographical silos of policy outreach and politically commit the EU to global leadership in maintaining peace and stability across the world.

What should the priorities in achieving these objectives?

A list of priorities is long, and would involve internal re-structuring and more efficient communication and strategic coordination of available resources (e.g. a more transparent remit for COSI; a more clear vision for the EU security model and capabilities etc). At the same time, as our report to the House of Lords indicates, the priority should be given to re-defining our understanding of the EU external environment, and placing more emphasis on how to incentivise and engage third parties – via strategic partnerships – which currently remain ill-defined and EU-centred.

How should the new Global Strategy process and text be designed so as to ensure better buy-in from the EU Member States?

There has to be a more complex approach to enable MS co-optation into the new global ESS. Member States, under the European Council are tasked by the treaties to offer a strategic direction to the EU’s development, especially at a time of crisis. Presently, as our analysis indicates there are three (if not more) differing institutional visions for the new ESS, with the Council prioritising the development of EU international capabilities and COSI’s leadership of these developments. The Commission, on the other hand, insists on empowering EU delegations and their better integration into decision-making processes in

Brussels. The EEAS, conversely, is more concerned with a top-down re-building of the cross-sectoral architecture of the external action policies, which may cause further intraand inter-institutional tensions. A more joined-up communication between institutions is needed to ensure a more effective institutional interface, at the EU level, but also, via national agencies’ involvement. Furthermore, more leverage and discretion should be given to the EEAS, if a genuine ‘joined-up approach to all EU fields of EU external action’ were to be forged.

What elements do you see essential for a more effective approach to the EU’s Eastern neighbours? What would the EU’s friends in these countries like to see in the document?

The revised ENP seem rather ambivalent in its strategy: on the one hand, it places more emphasis on genuine partnerships and de-centring, to be guided by the interests and needs of the recipient side. On other hand, its approach is intended to be more technocratic and expert-driven in its realisation, which in no small measure would involve the promotion of the EU’s regulatory agenda and norms, yet again. This duality in the EU’s approach to the neighbours – wanting to connect with the neighbours (and differentiate), and at the same time, prioritising the EU’s normative agenda – perpetuates the same old fallacy of the EU-centred vision of the outside, which involves limited recognition of the other players in the game, and EU understanding of their needs and ambitions.

What principles should guide Europe’s future relations with Russia?

Do you think Russia can be reintegrated into a rules-based international order? Following from the above, and in light of our analysis of the EU-Russia relations it is important to acknowledge that the EU is not the only regional actor in the eastern neighbourhood. The EU should not only recognise and engage with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), this way alleviating major security concerns of the ‘neighbours-in-between’; it should also develop bilateral links with the EEU individual members and facilitate their alignment to the WTO standards. Their enablement may strengthen their individual ‘say’ in the EEU decision-making processes, boost their identity and standing, this way preventinga Russia from taking unilateral actions across post-Soviet space and beyond.

What priorities do you see for EU-Ukraine relations?

The list is long, but the principal focus should be on minimising corruption and making decision-making process more transparent.

Russia is waging a massive propaganda effort across the European Neighbourhood with the aim of justifying its policies in Ukraine, rolling back democratic achievements and tying these nations back into Russia’s orbit. What can realistically be done to counter Russian propaganda and restore the EU’s attractiveness in these nations?

There is a plethora of means to counteract it: to enable ordinary citizens to travel visa-free, to see for themselves the ‘vices’ of the EU; to increase educational links and opportunities for the younger generation; and to embed Europe Direct centres in the work of European Delegations, which will work as regional hubs for knowledge transmission and information exchange.

Which phenomena, arguments or narratives do you see missing from the Western discourse in your area of expertise? 

Othering, as a complex process of relating the EU as a regional hegemon, to the needs and ambitions of the external actors, is still missing from the EU discourse and practices. This in the first instance encompasses the neighbours and other regional stakeholders. Othering draws on the so called mirror-effect, as it is known in biological sciences – when one looks in the mirror, not only they be able to recognise themselves as a cognitive beings, but more importantly – there should be a reference to the others, to be able to predict and emulate their behaviour for the purpose of survival and control.

Interview was conducted by Mário Nicolini.

Elena Korosteleva is a member of International Advisory Board of Strategy Council.