EU as a global actor
[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap]n today’s globalized world, it is an arguable question for some analysts, academics, in particular commentators whether the EU is a typical kind of state or empire model carrying dimensions within the international plane. Basically, the EU has massive economic and political leverage that combines the pivotal set of values and norms in order to influence the various parts of the world.
It is undeniable fact that the EU with the rational implementation of economic and political power tries to enforce its different norms and values on other states as well. According to some analysts, the EU is not only an international actor within the international system.
There are some arguments in order to analyze this issue. First of all, in fact, today in global political economy, it can be false to take in account merely the EU as an international actor. In today’s world order, the increasing role of focal business firms, to a large extent, multinational corporations (MNC) or transitional corporations such as Mc Donald, Microsoft, Gazprom, and etc. gives them the opportunities to influence not only economic but also a political life of nation-states beyond boundaries. In a broad term, supranational corporations are not only the agents of member states but also independent and powerful actors. In today’s world, in order to create global governance, it is disputable to talk only about the EU as an international actor, therefore, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), non-governmental organizations and civic associations in international system can be able to also influence and change the international system. Hence, the enforcement measure of the EU is limited and cannot implement its norms and values in whole part of the world. Secondly, the US has a major power in terms of huge influence to different parts of the world. For example, the US has a legal legislative power and takes major privileges in order to execute the rules and settle the disputes in the WTO.
Furthermore, the problem with climate change is ongoing process and the EU cannot able to take unified enforcement measures and exact actions to tackle this problem, because of the fact that today, the major contributor of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide is the US, but compare to the administration of other US presidents, Barack Obama proclaimed last year the “climate year” to undertake major actions and steps regarding climate change. But in general, the hostility between the White House and congress impede the pivotal actions on climate change. Therefore, it is crystal clear that only with the involvement of the EU, nation states cannot talk about the settlement of the climate change. The EU has a regional power rather than international power. When it comes to naming the EU, we can say that the EU is not a state, because it does not have exact or unified boundaries, enforcement measures and etc. At the same time, the EU is not an empire like the contemporary US or nineteenth century Britain. To a large extent, the EU has a polycentric power structure rather than centralized governance dimension.
Currently, the enlargement and neighborhood policy of the EU is an ongoing process and provide the set of values, principles, and norms for other nation-states. The EU enlargement policy basically subjects to the political activities rather than economic and power policy. To a large extent, the policy of EU enlargement upholds the democratic principles and common values, the rule of law, respect for human rights, essential freedoms, basis of market economy, sustainable development and high-quality supremacy that be aimed at setting up democratic framework and basis for governmental structure for not only European countries, but also post-Soviet countries. Indeed, the EU is the only exterior power expected to control and influences the affairs in the Central and Eastern European countries, and also EaP’s countries through its transformative leverage. For the meantime, “furor” over the rising possible geopolitical gains of European Union also puts the Russian interests in jeopardy. We cannot say that the EU could not execute its policy regarding other countries; it has also a broad coercive diplomacy that imposed the economic sanctions on Iran, Russia, Syria and Sudan. The EU has also major implementation forces that broadly participated in the Kosovo and Yugoslavia crisis.
At that time the IFOR and SFOR (Joint Endeavor) implementation forces of NATO within the mandate of the UN were handed over to the supervision of the EU under the name of EUFOR. In conclusion, the EU is neither an empire nor a state, but in general, as a regional power it has a huge influence over nation-states. According to some analysts, the enlargement of the EU is much safer than the US power and it can be effective when its power is awe-inspiring and its set of values and principles are shared in not only the Central and Eastern European countries but also EaP countries. In order to be successful concerning its policy in the international plane, the EU needs to export its governance to other countries through economic means such as free trade, visa liberalization process and etc. Hence, the EU needs major enforcement measures through economic means, promotion of its policies, rules, and values that lead to the empowerment of other nation-states in the international system.
EU as a framing actor
The article investigates the EU foreign policy issues by engendering different kinds of debates and giving varied opinions in order to discuss the EU’s ability for upcoming years. Basically, in today’s world, according to some analysts, the main drawbacks of the EU capacity regarding its external policies are the lack of defining its own “national interests” and the threat of disintegration into national positions. The three main academic strands ignite the crucial debates in regard to the EU actorness in the contemporary world: legitimacy, attractiveness, and recognition.
The major trends over the three existing streams mention different approaches toward the EU foreign policy “power”. Therefore, it is crucial to understand and elucidate the paradigms of these strands. According to the legitimacy, the EU has its own national policy strategy and priorities that are perceived as an internally legitimate power by its own citizens. When it comes to the attractiveness and recognition the EU as an external actor can be characterized as a framing power and recognized by outsiders and other non-member states in terms of its external policy and functioning procedure. The EU as a legitimate actor has a huge ability to impose the national policy strategies and in particular undertake the enforcement measures belonging to entirely nation states. Hence it should follow its own interests coming from its internal policy strategy.
The second academic discourse envisages the wide-spread distribution of the EU system of governance beyond its boundaries without the use of force. In fact, the spreading of the EU governance policy toward nation-states has never based on the implementation of the use of force; instead, the pervasive acceptance of the EU’s set of norms and values concern on a voluntary incorporation with the EU by countries outside of it. Another broadly discussed topic mainly rests on the recognition of the EU as an independent power. Basically, in terms of its external policy and governance system, the nation states see the EU as a successful carrier of its own interests, especially, internal legitimacy and external power. To a large extent, the countries outside of the EU, perceive it as a successful independent actor within an international plane that can be able to undertake responsibilities and set up its own internal policy and own interests appertaining to member states of it.
In today’s world, the EU as an external actor has bilateral relations with some states as well. Basically, in order to analyze the relations with the EU in detail, Ukraine can be taken as an example in terms of the trends of relations between them. In fact, as one of the members of Eastern Partnership Programme, Ukraine is much more inclined to the pro-Western activities and supports its set of values and norms. Therefore, the EU and its institutions have fervent interests to nurture the relations with Ukraine and strengthen the relations for coming years. From the historical course, it is clear that Ukraine has faced many challenges and obstacles regarding the Russia-Ukraine energy (gas) crisis in 2009, and in particular, the 2004 Orange Revolution in regard to the Europeanization maneuvers of Ukraine. In the example of Ukraine, it is crucial to analyze the major procedures comes from the mass media and public discourse. In this case, the major European countries have to be taken into account towards Ukraine, the more inclined to the relations Germany, and less inclined to the relations with it, France and the UK. It is undeniable fact that those countries have a huge capacity to carry out diplomatic relations not only with Ukraine but also other countries. Therefore, they can be seen as major carriers of the EU external actions and maneuvers towards other countries.
The Orange Revolution in Ukraine brought more attention to an EU-wide approach in all three countries. Concerning the mass media and public discourse in Ukraine, although the EU is a predominant actor in national media analysis and discourse, at the same time, it has also a number of limitations. First of all, there is a lack of broad growth of the EU’s shares in the articles. Secondly, in terms of the bilateral relations with Ukraine, gives a less attention and care to the national media that how the data or information can be relevant for Ukraine in particular, the British media. In conclusion, the research apparently shows that the EU as a framing power mainly subjects to the shape of its governance policy rather than to rational perception of its exact policies and instruments. Inside the EU there are some limitations that it is facing today’s world. According to the fact that even today, there is not exact action and unified perceptions between the EU member states. Thereby, the EU’s stance and proposals can be characterized unidentified because of the contradictory views and approaches of the member states.
Election Monitoring in 2018: What Not to Expect
This year’s election calendar released by OSCE showcases a broad display of future presidential, parliamentary and general elections with hefty political subjecthoods which have the potential of transforming in their entirety particularly the European Union, the African Union and the Latin American sub-continent. A wide sample of these countries welcoming elections are currently facing a breadth of challenges in terms of the level of transparency in their election processes. To this end, election observation campaigns conducted by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Council of Europe, the Organisation for American States (OAS), the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division, the National Democratic Institute, Carter Center and even youth organisations such as AEGEE and Silba are of paramount importance in safeguarding the incorruptibility of election proceedings in fraudulent and what cannot be seen with the naked eye type of fraudulent political systems, making sure elections unfold abiding national legislation and international standards.
What exactly does an election observation mission supposed to accomplish?
An election monitoring mission consists of operational experts and analysts who are all part of a core team and are conducting their assignments for a period of time varying between 8 and 12 weeks. Aside from the core team experts and analysts, there can be short-term or long-term observers and seconded observers or funded observers. Joining them, there is usually a massive local support staff acting as interpreters and intermediaries. Generally, an election observer does not interfere with the process, but merely takes informative notes. With this in mind, it is imperative of the observer to make sure there isn’t any meddling with votes at polling stations by parties and individual candidates; that the people facilitating the election process are picked according to fair and rigorous benchmarks; that these same people can be held accountable for the final results and that, at the end of the day, the election system put in place by the national and local authorities is solid from both a physical and logical standpoint. Oftentimes, particularly in emerging democracies, the election monitoring process goes beyond the actual process of voting by extending to campaign monitoring.
In practical terms, the average election observer needs to abide by certain guidelines for a smooth and standardised monitoring process. Of course, these rules can vary slightly, depending on the sending institution. Typically, once the election observer has landed in the country awaiting elections, their first two days are normally filled with seminars on the electoral system of the country and on the electoral law. Meetings with candidates from the opposition are sometimes organised by the electoral commission. Talking to ordinary voters from builders to cleaners, from artists to businesspeople is another way through which an election observer can get a sense of what social classes pledged their allegiances to what candidates. After two days in training and the one day testing political preferences on the ground, election day begins. Since the early bird gets the worm, polling stations open at least two hours earlier than the work day starts, at around 7am. Throughout the day, observers ask voters whether they feel they need to complain about anything and whether they were asked to identify themselves when voting. Other details such as the polling stations opening on time are very much within the scope of investigation for election monitors. Observers visit both urban voting centres and rural ones. In the afternoon, counting begins with observers carefully watching the volunteers from at least 3 metres away. At the end of the day, observers go back to their hotels and begin filling in their initial questionnaires with their immediate reactions on the whole voting process. In a few weeks time, a detailed report would be issued in cooperation with all the other election observers deployed in various regions of the country and under the supervision of the mission coordinators.
Why are these upcoming elections particularly challenging to monitor?
Talks of potential Russian interference into the U.S. elections have led to full-on FBI investigations. Moreover, the idea of Russian interference in the Brexit vote is slowly creeping into the British political discourse. Therefore, it does not take a quantum physicist to see a pattern here. Hacking the voting mechanism is yet another not-so-classic conundrum election observers are facing. We’re in the midst of election hacking at the cognitive level in the form of influence operations, doxing and propaganda. But, even more disturbingly, we’re helpless witnesses to interference at the technical level as well. Removing opposition’s website from the Internet through DDOS attacks to downright political web-hacking in Ukraine’s Central Election Commission to show as winner a far-right candidate are only some of the ways which present an unprecedented political savviness and sophistication directed at the tampering of the election machinery. Even in a country such as the U.S. (or Sweden – their elections being held September of this year) where there is a great deal of control over the physical vote, there is not much election monitoring can do to enhance the transparency of it all when interference occurs by way of the cyber domain affecting palpable election-related infrastructure.
Sketching ideational terrains seems like a fruitful exercise in imagining worst-case scenarios which call for the design of a comprehensive pre-emptive approach for election fraud. But how do you prevent election fraud? Sometimes, the election observer needs to come to terms with the fact that they are merely a reporter, a pawn which notwithstanding the action of finding oneself in the middle of it all, can generally use only its hindsight perspective. Sometimes, that perspective is good enough when employed to draft comprehensive electoral reports, making a difference between the blurry lines of legitimate and illegitimate political and electoral systems.
Can Europe successfully rein in Big Tobacco?
In what looks set to become the ‘dieselgate’ of the tobacco industry, a French anti-smoking organization has filed a lawsuit against four major tobacco brands for knowingly selling cigarettes with tar and nicotine levels that were between 2 and 10 times higher than what was indicated on the packs. Because the firms had manipulated the testing process, smokers who thought they were smoking a pack a day were in fact lighting up the equivalent of up to 10, significantly raising their risk for lung cancer and other diseases.
According to the National Committee Against Smoking (CNCT), cigarettes sold by the four companies have small holes in the filter that ventilate smoke inhaled under test conditions. But when smoked by a person, the holes compress due to pressure from the lips and fingers, causing the smoker to inhale higher levels of tar and nicotine. According to the lawsuit, the irregularity “tricks smokers because they are unaware of the degree of risk they are taking.”
It was only the most recent example of what appears to be a deeply entrenched propensity for malfeasance in the tobacco industry. And unfortunately, regulatory authorities across Europe still appear unprepared to just say no to big tobacco.
Earlier this month, for instance, Public Health England published a report which shines a positive light on “tobacco heating products” and indicates that electronic cigarettes pose minimal health risks. Unsurprisingly, the UK report has been welcomed by big tobacco, with British American Tobacco praising the clear-sightedness of Public Health England.
Meanwhile, on an EU-wide level, lawmakers are cooperating too closely for comfort with tobacco industry executives in their efforts to craft new cigarette tracking rules for the bloc.
The new rules are part of a campaign to clamp down on tobacco smuggling, a problem that is particularly insidious in Europe and is often attributed to the tobacco industry’s own efforts to stiff the taxman. According to the WHO, the illicit cigarette market makes up between 6-10% of the total market, and Europe ranks first worldwide in terms of the number of seized cigarettes. According to studies, tobacco smuggling is also estimated to cost national and EU budgets more than €10 billion each year in lost public revenue and is a significant source of cash for organized crime. Not surprisingly, cheap availability of illegally traded cigarettes is also a major cause of persistently high smoking rates in the bloc.
To help curtail cigarette smuggling and set best practices in the fight against the tobacco epidemic, the WHO established the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005. The first protocol to the FCTC, the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, was adopted in 2012 and later ratified by the EU. Among other criteria, the Protocol requires all cigarette packs to be marked with unique identifiers to ensure they can be tracked and traced, thereby making smuggling more difficult.
Unsurprisingly, the tobacco industry has come up with its own candidates to meet track and trace requirements, notably Codentify, a system developed by PMI. From 2005 through 2016, PMI used Codentify as part of an anti-smuggling agreement with the EU. But the agreement was subject to withering criticism from the WHO and other stakeholders for going against the Protocol, which requires the EU and other parties to exclude the tobacco industry from participating in anti-smuggling efforts.
The EU-PMI agreement expired in 2016 and any hopes of reviving it collapsed after the European Parliament, at loggerheads with the Commission, overwhelmingly voted against a new deal and decided to ratify the WHO’s Protocol instead. Codentify has since been sold to the French firm Impala and was rebranded as Inexto – which critics say is nothing but a front company for PMI since its leadership is made out of former PMI executives. Nonetheless, due to lack of stringency in the EU’s draft track and trace proposal, there is still a chance that Inexto may play a role in any new track and trace system, sidelining efforts to set up a system that is completely independent of the tobacco industry.
This could end up by seriously derailing the EU’s efforts to curb tobacco smuggling, given the industry’s history of active involvement in covertly propping up the black market for cigarettes. In 2004, PMI paid $1.25 billion to the EU to settle claims that it was complicit in tobacco smuggling. As part of the settlement, PMI agreed to issue an annual report about tobacco smuggling in the EU, a report that independent researchers found “served the interests of PMI over those of the EU and its member states.”
Given the industry’s sordid history of efforts to prop up the illicit tobacco trade, it’s little surprise that critics are still dissatisfied with the current version of the EU’s track and trace proposal.
Now, the CNCT’s lawsuit against four major tobacco firms gives all the more reason to take a harder line against the industry. After all, if big tobacco can’t even be honest with authorities about the real levels of chemicals in their own products, what makes lawmakers think that they can play a viable role in any effort to quell the illegal cigarette trade – one that directly benefits the industry?
Later this month, the European Parliament will have a new chance to show they’re ready to get tough on tobacco, when they vote on the pending proposal for an EU-wide track and trace system. French MEP Younous Omarjee has already filed a motion against the system due to its incompatibility with the letter of the WHO. Perhaps a ‘dieselgate’ for the tobacco industry might be just the catalyst they need to finally say no to PMI and its co-conspirators.
Bureaucrats’ Crusade: The European Commission’s Strategy for the Western Balkans
The European Commission set a target date of 2025 for some of the Balkan countries to join. However, Brussels sees only Serbia and Montenegro as actual candidates. The door formally remains open to Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia, but these countries have been put into a grey zone with no time frames and road maps. They have been put on hold with no tangible prospects for membership, left without any explanation of what makes them less valid candidates than Serbia and Montenegro, with these two being as poor, illiberal and undemocratic as the remaining four.
With a dose of instant cynicism, one might conclude that Serbia and Montenegro have been rewarded for their military aggressions on Bosnia and Kosovo, and Serbia’s permanent pressures on Macedonia, whereas the latter ones have been punished for being the former’s victims. However, a more careful look at the population structure of the four non-rewarded countries reveals that these, unlike Serbia and Montenegro, have a relative excess of Muslim population. So far, there have been dilemmas whether the European Union is to be regarded as an exclusive Christian club, bearing in mind the prolonged discriminatory treatment of Turkey as an unwanted candidate. After the European Commission’s new strategy for the Balkans, there can be no such dilemmas: the countries perceived by Brussels bureaucrats as Muslim ones – regardless of the actual percentage of their Muslim population – are not to be treated as European.
The resurrection of this logic, now embodied in the actual strategy, takes Europe back to its pre-Westphalian roots, to the faraway times of the Crusades or the times of the Siege of Vienna. It also signals the ultimate triumph of the most reactionary populist ideologies in the contemporary Europe, based on exclusion of all who are perceived as „others“. It signals the ultimate triumph of the European ineradicable xenophobia. Or – to put it in terms more familiar to the likely author of the strategy, the European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn – the triumph of Ausländerfeindlichkeit.
Now, what options are left to the practically excluded Balkan countries, after so many efforts to present themselves as valid candidates for EU membership? There is a point in claims that some of their oligarchies, particularly the tripartite one in Bosnia-Herzegovina, have never actually wanted to join the EU, because their arbitrary rule would be significantly undermined by the EU’s rule of law. It is logical, then, that the tripartite oligarchy welcomes the strategy that keeps the country away from the EU membership, while at the same time deceiving the population that the strategy is a certain path to the EU. Yet, what about these people, separated into three ethnic quarantines, who believe that joining the EU would simply solve all their political and economic problems, and who refuse to accept the idea that the EU might be an exclusive club, not open to them? What are the remaining options for them?
They cannot launch a comprehensive revolution and completely replace the tripartite oligarchy by their democratic representatives. Still, they can press it to adopt and conduct a multi-optional foreign policy, oriented towards several geopolitical centers: one of them may remain Brussels, but Washington, Moscow, Beijing, Ankara, Tehran, and others, should also be taken into account. For, a no-alternative policy, as the one which only repeats its devotion to the EU integrations without any other geopolitical options, is no policy at all. In this sense, the presented EU strategy has clearly demonstrated the futility of such a no-alternative approach: regardless of how many times you repeat your devotion to the EU values, principles and integrations, the EU bureaucrats can simply tell you that you will never play in the same team with them. However, such an arbitrary but definite rejection logically pushes the country to look for geopolitical alternatives. And it is high time for Bosnia-Herzegovina’s people and intellectual and political elites to understand that Brussels is not the only option on the table, and that there are other geopolitical centers whose interests might be identified as convergent with the interests of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Still, all of them should first demonstrate the ability to identify the interests of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which means that they should first recognize it as a sovereign state with its own interests, rather than someone else’s proxy.
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