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How we can define the EU in the contemporary world: The EU as a global or framing actor?

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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.

Ms. Nargiz Hajiyeva is an independent researcher from Azerbaijan. She is an honored graduate student of Vytautas Magnus University and Institute D'etudes de Politique de Grenoble, Sciences PO. She got a Bachelor degree with the distinction diploma at Baku State University from International Relations and Diplomacy programme. Her main research fields concern on international security and foreign policy issues, energy security, cultural and political history, global political economy and international public law. She worked as an independent researcher at Corvinus University of Budapest, Cold War History Research Center. She is a successful participator of International Student Essay Contest, Stimson Institute, titled “how to prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons”, held by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School and an honored alumnus of European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw Poland. Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as a Chief Adviser and First Responsible Chairman in International and Legal Affairs at the Executive Power of Ganja. At that time, she was defined to the position of Chief Economist at the Heydar Aliyev Center. In 2017, Ms. Hajiyeva has worked as an independent diplomatic researcher at International Relations Institute of Prague under the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Czech Republic. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral studies in Political Sciences and International Relations programme in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Europe

France’s Controversial ‘Separatism’ Bill

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In his very first days at the Elysee Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to detail his views on secularism and Islam in a wide-ranging speech. It took more than three years for this to happen, with the much awaited speech actually taking place in October a week after a teacher was violently killed for revealing the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) during a lecture on freedom of expression. Macron said during his speech that “Islam is a religion which is experiencing a crisis today, all over the world”, adding that there was a need to “free Islam in France from foreign influences”. Mr. Macron and his Parliament allies have described the bill as a reaction to the rise of Islamic separatism, which the President defines as a philosophy that seeks to create a parallel state in France where religious laws replace civil law.  Referring to the cartoons at a citizenship ceremony earlier and before the latest attacks, Macron defended the “right to blasphemy” as a fundamental freedom, even as he condemned “Islamic separatism.”

“To be French is to defend the right to make people laugh, to criticize, to mock, to caricature,” the president said. The proposed law allows religious associations and mosques to report more than €10,000 ($12,000) in international support and to sign a promise to uphold the French republican ideals in order to obtain state subsidies. The bill will also make it possible for the government to close down mosques, organizations and colleges that have been described as criticizing republican values.The controversial bill is blamed for targeting the Muslim people and enforcing limits on nearly every part of their lives. It allows government to oversee the funds of associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims. It also limits the schooling options of the Muslim community by prohibiting families from providing home education to children. The law also forbids people from selecting physicians on the grounds of gender for religious or other purposes and mandates a compulsory ‘secularism education’ on all elected officials. Physicians will either be charged or jailed under the law if they conduct a virginity test on girls. Critics argue the so-called “separatism law” is racist and threatens the 5.7 million-strong Muslim population in France, the highest in Europe. Its critics include the 100 imams, 50 teachers of Islamic sciences and 50 members of associations in France who signed an open letter against the “unacceptable” charter on 10 February.

A criminal act for online hate speech will make it easier to easily apprehend a person who shares sensitive information about public sector workers on social media with a view to hurting them and will be disciplined by up to three years in jail and a fine of EUR 45.000. The banning or deleting of pages spreading hate speech would now be made smoother and legal action accelerated. The bill expands what is known in France as the ‘neutrality clause,’ which forbids civil servants from displaying religious symbols such as the Muslim veil and holding political opinions, outside public sector workers to all commercial providers in public utilities, such as those working for transport firms.

French Members of Parliament held two weeks of heated debates in the National Assembly. People of Muslim faith interviewed outside the Paris Mosque and around Paris on the outdoor food market before the vote had hardly heard of the rule. “I don’t believe that the Muslims here in France are troublemakers or revolutionaries against France,” said Bahri Ayari, a taxi driver who spoke to AP after prayers inside Paris’ Grand Mosque. “I don’t understand, when one talks about radicalism, what does that mean — radicalism? It’s these people who go to jail, they find themselves with nothing to do, they discuss amongst themselves and they leave prison even more aggressive and then that gets put on the back of Islam. That’s not what a Muslim is,” he added.

Three bodies of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) have unilaterally denounced the “charter of principles” of Islam, which reaffirms the continuity of religion with France. The three parties said that the Charter was accepted without the full consensus of the other integral components of the CFCM, including the provincial and departmental councils and the imams concerned. “We believe that certain passages and formulations of the submitted text are likely to weaken the bonds of trust between the Muslims of France and the nation. In addition, certain statements undermine the honor of Muslims, with an accusatory and marginalizing character,” the Milli Görüş Islamic Confederation (CMIG) and the Faith and Practice movement said in a joint statement. The bill is blamed for targeting the Muslim community and enforcing limits on nearly any part of their lives. It allows for interference in mosques and organizations responsible for the operation of mosques, as well as for the oversight of the funds of associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims.

It is a difficult time for the nation, which has also accused its protection bill of containing the press freedom. The law introduced aims at making it unlawful to post photographs of police officers in which it is identifiable by “malicious intent” However, law enforcement has criticized the government after the declaration by Macron of the development of an online forum to flag police brutality.

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Why Is Europe Hostile Towards Russia?

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In his seminal 1871 work Russia and Europe, the famous Russian intellectual and Slavophile Nikolay Danilevsky set forth his theory that “Europe recognizes Russia as something alien to itself, and not only alien, but also hostile,” and that Russia’s fundamental interests should act as a “counterweight to Europe.”

One hundred and fifty years have passed since that work was published. The world has changed. No matter what anti-globalists might say, the rapid development of modern technologies and their use in our everyday lives has forced us to re-evaluate many of our beliefs about relations between states and people. The exchange of information, scientific discoveries and knowledge, and the sharing of our cultural wealth bring countries closer together and open up opportunities for development that did not exist before. Artificial intelligence does not know any boundaries and does not differentiate users by gender or nationality. Along with these new opportunities, the world is also faced with new problems that are increasingly supranational in nature and which require our combined efforts to overcome. The coronavirus pandemic is the latest example of this.

It is against the background of these rapid changes, which for obvious reasons cannot unfold without certain consequences, that we can occasionally hear this very same theory that “Europe is hostile towards Russia.” Although the arguments put forward to support this claim today seem far less nuanced than those of Nikolay Danilevsky.

Even so, ignoring this issue is not an option, as doing so would make it extremely difficult to build a serious long-term foreign policy given the prominent role that Europe plays in global affairs.

Before we dive in, I would like to say a few words about the question at hand. Why should Europe love or loathe Russia? Do we have any reason to believe that Russia has any strong feelings, positive or negative, towards another country? These are the kind of words that are used to describe relations between states in the modern, interdependent world. But they are, for the most part, simply unacceptable. Russia’s foreign policy concepts invariably focus on ensuring the country’s security, sovereignty and territorial integrity and creating favourable external conditions for its progressive development.

Russia and Europe have a long history that dates back centuries. And there have been wars and periods of mutually beneficial cooperation along the way. No matter what anyone says, Russia is an inseparable part of Europe, just as Europe cannot be considered “complete” without Russia.

Thus, it is essential to direct intellectual potential not towards destruction, but rather towards the formation of a new kind of relationship, one that reflects modern realities.

At the dawn of the 21st century, it was clear to everyone that, due to objective reasons, Russia would not be able to become a full-fledged member of the military, political and economic associations that existed in Europe at the time, meaning the European Union and NATO. That is why mechanisms were put in place to help the sides build relations and cooperate in various fields. Bilateral relations developed significantly in just a few years as a result. The European Union became Russia’s main foreign economic partner, and channels for mutually beneficial cooperation in many spheres were built.

However, EU-Russia relations have stalled in recent years. In fact, much of the progress that had been made is now being undone. And positive or negative feelings towards one another have nothing to do with it. This is happening because the parties have lost a strategic vision of the future of bilateral relations in a rapidly changing world.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin said that Russia is part of Europe, and that, culturally, Russia and Europe are one civilization. This is the basic premise—one that is not based on emotions—that should underlie Russia’s policy in its relations with Europe.

Russia and the European Union disagree on many things, but the only way to overcome misunderstandings and find opportunities to move forward is through dialogue. In this context, the recent visit of the EU High Representative to Moscow was a much-needed step in the right direction, despite the criticism that this move received from the European side. Nobody was expecting any “breakthroughs” from the visit, as the animosities and misunderstandings between the two sides cut too deep. Yet visits and contacts of this kind should become the norm, for without them we will never see any real progress in bilateral relations.

In addition to the issues that currently fill the agendas of the two sides, attention should be focused on developing a strategic vision of what EU-Russia relations should be in the future, as well as on areas of mutual interest. For example, it is high time that Europe and Russia broached the subject of the compatibility of their respective energy strategies, as well as the possible consequences of the introduction of “green energy” in Europe in terms of economic cooperation with Russia. Otherwise, it will be too late, and instead of a new area of mutually beneficial cooperation, we will have yet another irresolvable problem.

In his work Russia and Europe, Nikolay Danilevsky, while recognizing the good that Peter the Great had done for his country, reproached him for “wanting to make Russia Europe at all costs.” No one would make such accusations today. Russia is, was and always will be an independent actor on the international stage, with its own national interests and priorities. But the only way they can only be realized in full is if the country pursues an active foreign policy. And one of the priorities of that policy is relations with Europe.

From our partner RIAC

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Entry into force of the Tromso Convention: A unique opportunity

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Accessing quality information has never been so challenging, despite or maybe, because of our exposure to tremendous amount of information. The entry into force of the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on Access to Official Documents (Tromsø Convention) on 1 December 2020, in a context of concerning deficit of transparency in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic, appears as an opportunity for governments to reinforce transparency culture and restore citizens trust and legitimacy in their institutions, in democracy.

Increasing recognition of the right of access to official documents

The Nordic European States pioneered the development of the right of access to official documents, with the world’s first law on access to information adopted by Sweden in 1766. It then spread progressively to many other West European countries, before reaching its peak in the 1990s with the creation of legal tools in the new democracies of Eastern and Central Europe. Today, various legal instruments (constitutions, national laws and jurisprudence) across Europe recognize the right of access to official documents. At the international level as well, this right has been increasingly recognized[1].

The CoE Convention on Access to Official Documents, signed on 18 June 2009 in Tromsø, Norway, is the first binding international legal instrument to recognize a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities. More than ten years later, on 1 December 2020, the Convention entered into force, following the ratification by Ukraine, tenth State to ratify it[2].

The Convention considers that all official documents are in principle public and provides a minimum legal framework for the prompt and fair processing of requests for access to official documents. Only the protection of other rights and legitimate interests can justify the rejection of requests. When requests are denied, it obliges the States to provide “access to a review procedure before a court or another independent and impartial body established by law” (Article 8).

This development could give a fresh impetus to European efforts towards greater transparency and reinforce democracy in general. It is particularly much welcome in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis and the “infodemic” accompanying the pandemic.  However, observers stress that much remains to be done to make this ambitious initiative a reality and to bring together all European countries to ratify it.

Making access to official documents a reality

In her comment on the Convention, CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović stresses the importance of access to official documents for “transparency, good governance and participatory democracy and a key means of facilitating the exercise of other human rights and fundamental freedoms” and calls on CoE member states and non-member states to ratify the Tromsø Convention as soon as possible. On the same note, Access Info Europe group called on 17 November all member states of the CoE to sign and ratify, with a special call on France, German, Italy and Great Britain, in order to ensure that Europe’s largest countries are taking part in this European effort towards greater transparency of public authorities.

Today, virtually all countries of the Council of Europe have freedom of information laws and some “good models” exist[3]. But the level of transparency varies between the countries and even across the institutions of each country. In some legal provision, the lack of clarity jeopardizes the enforcement.

In such context of profusion of legal provision, the Tromsø Convention could help build a stronger, harmonized and more comprehensive legal framework, create a common understanding of access to official documents and guarantee that all European citizens enjoy the same right to information and hold their authorities accountable.

In addition to ratification, promoting and disseminating the legal instruments must be a priority, as states Article 9 of the Convention: “Parties shall inform the public about its right of access to official documents”. Signatory states must promote this legal instrument and avoid that such a crucial initiative goes unnoticed. It would be paradoxical if such an ambitious initiative on transparency is not truly made public.

Transparency often denied when it is most needed

Access to information is even more vital in times of crisis. In the current Covid-19 pandemic, access to reliable information is not only a matter of public health but also of public trust in health management systems and authorities. Fighting misinformation should be part of the crisis management plans, to fight the “infodemic” parallel to the pandemic.

Unfortunately, it is precisely in times of crisis that freedom of information is often denied, on the grounds of national security arguments. The secrecy around the EU vaccines contracts is a blatant illustration of such ambivalent attitude to transparency when it is most needed. On Friday 29 January, five months after the signature and after renewed requests from various European politicians and civil society groups, the European commission finally published the vaccine contract signed on 27 August 2020 with Astrazeneca.

Although the publication of such an important document could have been a great move for the Commission to regain legitimacy, the actual outcome, a redacted document with price and accountability terms kept secret, raises more questions than it answers, contributing to more mistrust. Why is the Commission holding such crucial public health information, denying citizens right to know on issues that directly affect them?


[1] Examples: United Nations Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters;Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and the Council regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.

[2] after Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Moldova, Croatia, Montenegro, Hungary and Lithuania.  Eight additional countries have already signed the Convention: Armenia, Belgium, Georgia, Iceland, North Macedonia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia.

[3] In her call on CoE members states to ratify the Convention, DunjaMijatović names for example Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia which have an independent oversight body responsible for monitoring and enforcing the right to information.

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