Jaakko Blomberg: The First Common Strategy on Russia and Ukraine - Policy Implementation and Procedural Experience

Institut für Europäische Politik CFSP after Amsterdam - the new actors, instruments and procedures in the test 28.-29.1.2000 Brussels

The Amsterdam Treaty introduced a new instrument - the common strategy. It also introduced a novelty in the decision making procedure of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The Council will decide by qualified majority voting (QMV) when adopting joint actions, common positions or taking any other decision on the basis of a common strategy (Art. 23.2 of the Ams Treaty).

In essence, the aim is to improve the efficiency of decision making and the implementation of the decisions. The mere existence of QMV influences the deliberation and decision making.

Another new factor and actor in the CFSP is the High Representative, who will assist the Presidency in the planning and execution of the policies.

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It is only natural that the first common strategy is on the Russian Federation, because Russia is a strategic partner for the Union. The common strategy on Russia was drafted during the German presidency and adopted at the Cologne Summit in June 1999. It aims at consolidating and improving the Union´s policies towards Russia.

(1) The common strategy consolidated and enhanced coherence within the Union already during the drafting process. Not only the external relations working group (Coest), the Coreper and the Political Committee were involved, but a major role was also played by the other committees (Economic and Finance Committee, the Article 133 Committee (on external trade policy), the Article 36 Committee (Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters).

(2) In the case of Finland, the drafting of the strategy meant a consorted intra-agency process in order to reach a co-ordinated approach vis-á-vis Russia. Virtually all ministries and agencies - in addition to their daily contacts - have co-operation and assistance programmes with their Russian counter-parts.

(3) The common strategy has brought about a great deal of coherence between the main EU actors, the Presidency, and the Member States, the Commission, the Council Secretariat. The Union focused on Russia in a new way.

(4) The single most important external achievement of the Common Strategy was the constructive response of the Russian Government in formulating its own thinking on the European Union. Up to the year 1999, the Russian government had expressed little interest or knowledge on matters relating to the EU. A Russian strategy on the EU was presented by Prime Minister Putin at the EU-Russia Summit in Helsinki in October 1999. The Russian strategy is a proof of a significant increase of interest in and knowledge of the EU within the Russian leadership. Russia´s EU-strategy together with Russia´s response to the Northern Dimension initiative of the Union represent a quantum leap in Russian awareness about the European Union.

As envisaged by the common strategy, the Finnish Presidency presented its work plan on the implementation for the Council last July. Several concrete steps were taken during the autumn: (1) the political dialogue between the Union and Russia was restructured, (2) a joint EU action regarding the co-operative threat reduction was launched and (3) co-operation with Russia in the field of justice and home affairs, including the fight against organised crime was widened.

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The war in Chechnya has cast a shadow over EU-Russia relations. Chechnya presented a dilemma to the EU: it must react and express disapproval but it was not clear what was the best way to influence the Russian conduct of the crisis. From the very beginning, the EU has stressed: the importance of de-escalating the violence, seeking a political solution through dialogue and allowing international humanitarian aid to the region. In its declaration, the December European Council in Helsinki confirmed this line and decided to review its policies towards Russia in the light of the continuing war.

The January General Affairs Council (on Monday 24 Jan) reiterated the EU position. In order to implement the above mentioned Helsinki declaration, it welcomed the revision of the Presidency´s workplan for the implementation of the common strategy on Russia and took specific measures: the continued suspension of the signature of the Scientific and Technological Agreement and the Commission´s decision not to carry over the unspent funds (30 M euro) of food aid from 1999 to 2000 budget. The Commission was invited to refocus the Tacis 2000 programme on core areas directly promoting democratic values and to transfer uncommited balances to humanitarian assistance and promoting networking in civil society. The Commission was also invited to suspend any consideration of the extension of additional GSP preferences for Russia.

In accordance with the Amsterdam Treaty, the Council invited the Member States to align themselves with the measures of the Union. The Council will keep the measures under review in the light of developments in Chechnya.

The Council conclusion fulfils the criteria of implementation of the Helsinki declaration. Will Russia take the EU measures into account, do they influence Russia´s decision making? To some extent they quite apparently do. The Russian goverment has been visibly worried by the EU reactions and actions on Chechnya. Nevertheless, realistically, the two most important factors influencing the Russian campaign in Chechnya are: the development of the situation itself and the presidential elections in March.

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As the second strategy the Helsinki European Council adopted a Common Strategy on Ukraine. A draft of the Portugese Pesidency´s work plan on the implementation of this strategy was presented on 18 January, 2000.

The practical experience gained in developing the first strategy proved to be valuable in drafting the second strategy, that on Ukraine. The work again required horisontal co-ordination in the Member States as well as between the institutions of the Union.

The strategy reflects the intensity of the relations between the Union and this European nation of fifty million inhabitants. Unlike the Russian government, the Ukrainian authorities chose to actively lobby the Presidency, the Member States and the Commission. The union work on the strategy coincided with the campaign leading to the presidential election in Ukraine. The overriding aim of Kyiv was to extract a commitment from the Union to accept Ukraine as a future candidate state of the Union.

This lead to an intensive and fruitful dialogue on all levels between the Union and Ukraine. The Union extended its hand to Ukraine by recognizing Ukraine´s European aspirations and welcoming its pro-European choice.

The process hopefully impressed on the Ukrainian government and administration that the relationship is governed by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the full contribution of the Ukrainian side. The reality is that internal transformation is still under way in Ukraine hampering it as a cooperation partner with the EU.

Yet in Ukraine, too, there is an encouraging increase of interest in and knowledge of the union. I was able to testify this when participating in a conference in October in Kyiv. Organized by the East West Institute, it was attended by a good number of senior officials from various branches of the government.

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As far as Russia and Ukraine are concerned, EU policy making or, indeed, decision making has improved and will improve since the introduction of these instruments.

A common strategy is aimed at making the policy of the EU towards the country coherent and effective. It is, however, not designed to guide policy making in situations like the one created by the Chechen war. To put it this way: a common strategy is a good weather instrument, not a bad weather instrument. For instance, the common strategy on Russia does not envisage or provide for sanctions. It does not necessarily make the instrument deficient. But it does show that a common strategy does not provide answer to all questions.