Dr. Stefan Meister, Senior Policy Fellow ECFR Berlin Office
Vessela Tcherneva, Programmes Director ECFR
Taking into account the recent developments in Ukraine, ECFR Berlin hosted an expert round table conference in cooperation with the Embassy of the Netherlands on May 19th, in order to discuss the security implications of the current crisis for the European Neighborhood Policy and generate a debate on European perspectives for future relations with Russia.
During the first roundtable, which mainly discussed the Ukraine crisis, the majority agreed on Russia’s interest in destabilizing its neigbourhood countries with wider ambitions of delegitimizing EU and US undertakings. However, doubts were raised about a common stability strategy with Russia, some favouring closer cooperation between the EU-member states and the U.S. instead. Even though the majority argued for a planned hybrid-war strategy on the Russian side, other voices assessed Putin’s actions since 2008 in terms of ad-hoc reactions to perceived threats from NATO and the EU. Some participants also spoke out for a more prominent role of the OSCE in view of the creation of a neutral pan-European security space. Furthermore, the problems of an exclusively external approach to the crisis were highlighted, pointing to the EU’s internal inability to generate a rapid and consensual strategy. It became evident that the European Neighborhood Policy needs to include support for civil society and enable Ukraine to create internal stability. With regard to this point, the usefulness of a EU- membership perspective was assessed.
The second round table, which presented the views from the EU-member states, pointed to the problem of finding a modus vivendi with Russia. In this context, one side questioned EU-membership perspective for Ukraine seen as it could hinder agreements with Moscow. Other participants spoke out for a deal under conditions set by the EU. In light of the crisis the round table also discussed the European necessity to shift away from Russian gas dependency towards alternative solutions. Besides, the lack of delineation between border countries was raised as an issue, especially now that Putin is clearly testing these lines. Nevertheless, the round table agreed on the difficulties of redefining these lines in the current situation.
The conference included representatives of the German Federal Foreign Office, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Koerber foundation, BP Germany, the European Commission Representation in Germany, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Members of the Green Party and the SPD as well as representatives of the Dutch, Estonian, Lithuanian, Spanish and Swedish Embassies.