Thu. Jul 11th, 2024

Competition: Europe’s late awakening

By nr39r Apr20,2024
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Investigate On Thursday, April 18, Enrico Letta, who had previously served as President of the Italian Council, presented a report to the chiefs of state of European countries. As part of his ideas for changing the single market, he offers many suggestions. In light of the fact that the European economy is slowing in comparison to the United States economy, time is running out.

Europe is no longer able to wait; it must take action. RIGHT NOW. This is the call that Enrico Letta, who had previously served as President of the Italian Council, made in his report on the single market, which was presented on Thursday, April 18, on the occasion of the European Council meeting that was devoted to the competitiveness of the Old Continent.

Since 2004, the European Union (EU) and Russia have been engaged in intermittent struggle over the political, economic, and security order of Europe, with Ukraine serving as the focal point of this competition. Once upon a time, the European Union’s primary strategy for mitigating the effects of this competition was to deny the competition. However, in 2022, after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, this strategy became unsustainable. As a consequence of this, the European Union (EU) entered the competition as a new geopolitical actor in three significant ways: by participating in a struggle over the European order by.

making use of its (still limited) hard power; and by expanding its geographical borders. First and foremost, the European Union is making concerted efforts to determine the future of the European order, which has been called into question as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine. While the European Union (EU) has primarily pursued its objectives through civilian methods, it has also made significant efforts to develop its hard force capabilities and has provided aid to the military. Additionally, by providing candidate nation status to Ukraine, it displayed a definite stance on its future borders, despite the fact that these borders were being brutally contested.

Ukraine is the largest European state that reemerged as a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. It currently holds a central geopolitical position in the historically contested zone that Timothy Snyder (Citation2010) refers to as the “bloodlands” region. In the aftermath of the Cold War, the European Union (EU) would have been required to formulate a strategy that was both clear and consistent due to the sheer size of the country as well as its geopolitical significance. On the other hand, the European Union concentrated its attention primarily on Russia and the countries that joined the Union in 2004. A more serious strategy to Ukraine and other new Eastern neighbors became more necessary as a result of the great bang enlargement that took place in 2004. The new strategy was formulated in the form of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which was introduced in 2004 (European Commission Citation 2004). It was quickly supplemented by the Eastern Partnership (EaP), which emerged as the strategic sub-set of the ENP in 2009 (Council of the EU Citation 2009).

Within this new framework, the European Union (EU) offered Ukraine enhanced political association as well as deeper and more comprehensive trade links. However, the EU did not react to Ukraine’s request for a membership perspective. One of the reasons for the European Union’s cautious but ineffective attitude to its Eastern neighbors was geopolitical considerations, specifically the EU’s desire to avoid undermining its relations with Russia. Despite the fact that this was not the intention of the European Union, the near ratification of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine was a significant element in the chain of events that resulted in Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent instigation of war in eastern Ukraine in 2014. This was a crucial milestone in Ukraine’s drift towards the West, which challenged President Vladimir Putin’s plan to re-establish a privileged area of interest in the post-Soviet zone. From Russia’s point of view, the Association Agreement was a significant step in Ukraine’s descent towards the West.

As a result of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent escalation of the conflict in Donbas, the European Union did not conduct a comprehensive review of its strategy regarding Ukraine. Although the European Union (EU) denounced Russia’s conduct and imposed sanctions, it did not directly join in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. However, it did endorse the controversial Minsk agreements that were negotiated by the so-called Normandy Group, which included France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine.

What we shall refer to as the “geopolitical awakening” of the European Union (EU) ultimately took place in February 2022, when President Putin gave the order for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This event marked a significant shift in the approach that the EU takes. This brought an end to the post-Cold War security order in Europe and destroyed long-held misconceptions about Russia’s genuine objectives in the so-called “shared neighborhood” in Berlin, Paris, and other capitals in western Europe. It was acknowledged that the imperialist aspirations of the Kremlin posed a significant risk to the safety and development of democracy throughout Europe. The unprovoked and illegal aggression of Russia brought together the member states of the European Union, in close collaboration with the United States and other nations that share similar values, to implement robust and unprecedented steps to defend Ukraine and impose a cost on the aggressor’s actions.

The European Union (EU) adopted a new strategy, which included the decision to provide Ukraine a membership perspective. This choice was clearly defined as a geopolitical one. As a result, the European Union’s reaction to the full-scale war included three significant aspects of geopolitical actorness, which are discussed in the article. These aspects are as follows: engaging in a conflict over European order; bringing in and strengthening its (still limited) hard power; and expanding its geographical borders while these are being violently contested. However, there are significant differences between the approaches that Russia and the European Union take to geopolitical competition. The European Union’s vision of order continues to be based on rules and international law, both of which have been grossly violated by Russia. Additionally, the European Union does not violently impose its so-called “liberal empire” (Garton Ash Citation2023) on other actors, and it continues to reject the very concept of spheres of influence. Therefore, the normative stress on the rule-based order is at the heart of the “geopolitical awakening” that the European Union is experiencing.

According to our point of view, the three most significant challenges that the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy (EUFSP) must contend with, as outlined in the framework of this Special Issue (Alcaro and Dijkstra Citation 2024), are internal contestation, regional fragmentation, and multipolar rivalry.According to Raik et al. Citation 2023, the latter has been the most prevalent when it comes to the situation in Ukraine. According to the article, the primary research questions that are addressed are as follows: How did the European Union (EU) seek to mitigate the impact of multipolar competition on its policy towards Ukraine, and what kinds of mitigation measures – institutional, functional, and diplomatic, as defined in the Introduction to this Special Issue – did it apply?

The article focuses on the EU’s shifting approach to the increasingly tense multipolar competition with Russia over Ukraine.Observation 3 Similarly, throughout the course of time, did the European Union (EU) adopt a more geopolitical stance and engage in competition rather than attempting to mitigate it? Within the context of European order, hard power, and boundaries, in what ways did it act as a geopolitical actor, or did it not act in such a manner? These questions are investigated on the basis of a complete analysis of official documents from the European Union, relevant literature, and ten semi-structured interviews that were carried out with Ukrainian stakeholders (officials, members of parliament, and representatives of civil society organizations) during the last quarter of 2022.Observation 4

The article continues in the following manner. The first section provides an overview of the conceptual framework that will be utilized in the investigation of multipolar competition as a factor that exerts constraints on EUFSP. In the following section, we will examine the development of the European Union’s policy regarding Ukraine in the context of the escalating geopolitical tensions that have occured since 2004. Following this, there will be an analysis of how the three levels of multipolar competition, which can be understood as competition over the European security, political, and economic order, played out in the context of EU-Ukraine relations (the third section), followed by an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the evolving tactics employed by the EU to mitigate and counteract the effects of multipolar competition on its Ukraine policy (the fourth section), and finally, a conclusion will be presented.

Numerous studies have been conducted in an effort to explain the limited influence that the European Union (EU) has on Ukraine and other neighboring countries (for example, Lavenex and Schimmelfennig Citation2010; Gawrich et al. Citation2010; Delcour Citation2011; Maass Citation2020). These studies have been conducted as part of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and the European Alliance for Peace (EaP) frameworks. Since 2004, the EU’s policy regarding Ukraine has been extensively studied as a component of the European Neighborhood. Since 2014, academics have paid a greater amount of attention to the competition between the European Union and Russia over their “shared neighborhood,” the “rise of geopolitics,” and the increased attention to security and resilience in the European Union’s approach to the Eastern Mediterranean region (for example, Ademmer et al. Citation2016; Juncos Citation2017; Nitoiu and Sus Citation2018).

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the focus of academic research has switched to analyzing the nature and breadth of the ongoing epochal change of European and international order (Flockhart and Korosteleva Citation 2022; Bosse Citation 2022; Orenstein Citation 2023) and providing an explanation for the robust response of the European Union (EU). (Blockmans Citation 2022; Kundnani Citation 2023; Della Sala Citation 2023; Orenstein Citation 2023; Lumet and Perot Citation 2023; Youngs Citation 2022) The question of whether or not the European Union is becoming a geopolitical actor has been discussed in both policy and academic debates, and this article aims to contribute to those discussions as well. Given that a number of European states have been involved in geopolitical affairs for a considerable amount of time, it is essential to emphasize that the European Union (EU) is the subject of our investigation, and not simply “Europe.”

We identify multipolar competition as the most significant restricting factor of the European Union’s Ukraine policy since the establishment of the European Neighborhood Policy in 2004. The essay focuses on the impact that multipolar competition has had on EU foreign policy. One of the most important aspects of multipolar competition is the competition that exists between many interpretations of order, both on a global and a neighborhood level. International crises have a tendency to become tactical theaters of systemic strategic competitions when there is a lack of a common sense of order. In these contests, each major power attempts to strengthen its own view of order. During times of struggle of this nature, multilateral institutions frequently get instrumentalized as arenas of strategic confrontation (Herd Citation 2010; Bremmer Citation 2012; Kupchan Citation 2012; Alcaro et al. Citation 2016; Alcaro Citation 2018; Bolt and Cross Citation 2018).

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