Free Markets, Free People

Expanding Cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe

 Western Europe’s challenge might be Eastern Europe’s opportunity.  So argues a recent report by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

The Eurozone crisis has largely silenced talk of the European Union becoming a new Weltmacht to compete with the U.S. and China.  These days, EU leaders fear Greece and other heavily indebted European states might have to exit the Eurozone, which also would undermine the EU.  With the electoral defeat or parliamentary collapse of governments in France, Greece, Netherlands, and Slovakia, and increasing political uncertainty facing Germany and Italy, which must hold national elections next year, continental political integration could soon reverse.  Europe faces more economic stagnation and even turmoil.

Yet many of the former Communist nations and Soviet republics to the East are doing relatively well.  These countries, argues CEPA, “should be able—collectively, in focused sub-groups and working with other European states—to achieve a decisive impact if not yet on the central matter of European economic governance then on a wide range of issues of common concern, from reform in the post-Soviet space and European defense to the Arab Spring and EU energy policy.”

The report emphasizes continued “support for integration.”  Also important is additional EU expansion.  Despite perceived “exhaustion” among some member states, expansion should proceed Eastward, most obviously to Georgia and Ukraine.  EU membership would help integrate these countries into the West without creating the sort of obvious military challenge to Russia posed by NATO membership.  Membership also would encourage further domestic economic and political reform, which is needed in both Tbilisi and Kiev.

Stronger ties with Germany also would be a plus.  CEPA points out that this relationship “is an important determinant of the stability of the European geopolitical space.”  Berlin is important because of its ties with EU members in the east, and also because it has maintained good relations with Russia.  Germany should do the same with other former Soviet republics, of which Ukraine is the most important.  The Ukrainian government by its own admission deserves some criticism, but Kiev still looks more to Brussels than Moscow for its economic future.  The potential of increased investment and trade offers Germany and the West an opportunity to press for positive change.

The CEPA analysis also points to the value of deeper regional defense cooperation and expanded regional energy initiatives.  The organization’s report focuses on the ten former communist states which have joined the EU.  However, Georgia’s and Ukraine’s inclusion would improve regional capabilities and expand the area’s heft in Brussels.

For leadership the EU typically has looked West.  However, Europe’s traditionally dominant players—France, Germany, and Italy—are focused on meeting challenges within their own borders and the Eurozone.  This gives countries in Central and Eastern Europe an opportunity, even duty, to act.  But they shouldn’t restrict cooperation to EU members.  Involving Georgia and Ukraine would benefit those nations and the region alike.

Image Copyright Shutterstock.com/Vladimirs Koskins

 

Western Europe’s challenge might be Eastern Europe’s opportunity.  So argues a recent report by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

The Eurozone crisis has largely silenced talk of the European Union becoming a new Weltmacht to compete with the U.S. and China.  These days EU leaders fear Greece and other heavily indebted European states might have to exit the Eurozone, which also would undermine the EU.  With the electoral defeat or parliamentary collapse of governments in France, Greece, Netherlands, and Slovakia, and increasing political uncertainty facing Germany and Italy, which must hold national elections next year, continental political integration could soon reverse.  Europe faces more economic stagnation and even turmoil.

Yet many of the former communist nations and Soviet republics to the east are doing relatively well.  These countries, argues CEPA, “should be able—collectively, in focused sub-groups and working with other European states—to achieve a decisive impact if not yet on the central matter of European economic governance then on a wide range of issues of common concern, from reform in the post-Soviet space and European defense to the Arab Spring and EU energy policy.”

The report emphasizes continued “support for integration.”  Also important is additional EU expansion.  Despite perceived “exhaustion” among some member states, expansion should proceed eastward, most obviously to Georgia and Ukraine.  EU membership would help integrate these countries into the West without creating the sort of obvious military challenge to Russia posed by NATO membership.  Membership also would encourage further domestic economic and political reform, which is needed in both Tbilisi and Kiev.

Stronger ties with Germany also would be a plus.  CEPA points out that this relationship “is an important determinant of the stability of the European geopolitical space.”  Berlin is important because of its ties with EU members in the east, and also because it has maintained good relations with Russia.  Germany should do the same with other former Soviet republics, of which Ukraine is the most important.  The Yanukovich government deserves criticism, but Kiev still looks more to Brussels than Moscow for its economic future.  The potential of increased investment and trade offers Germany and the West an opportunity to press for positive change.

The CEPA analysis also points to the value of deeper regional defense cooperation and expanded regional energy initiatives.  The organization’s report focuses on the ten former communist states which have joined the EU.  However, Georgia’s and Ukraine’s inclusion would improve regional capabilities and expand the area’s heft in Brussels.

For leadership the EU typically has looked west.  However, Europe’s traditionally dominant players—France, Germany, and Italy—are focused on meeting challenges within their own borders and the Eurozone.  This gives countries in Central and Eastern Europe an opportunity, even duty, to act.  But they shouldn’t restrict cooperation to EU members.  Involving Georgia and Ukraine would benefit those nations and the region alike.