Dr Jožef Kunič, Ambassador
President of the Slovenian Association for International Relations (SDMO)
and member of the IFIMES International Institute
The states which became full members of EU this year and those of them which are already the members of NATO have achieved their two most important foreign policy goals. Nevertheless, this does not mean that no new questions or needs for new goals are emerging. For them time has not stopped.
After joining the EU, the new member states will, in addition to the current day-to-day political issues, face the following strategic questions:
Which groupations to join in the future?
How to co-operate with the EU as such?
What role should each new member state have in the EU common foreign and security policy?
What are the changes in the activities of a new member state towards the EU member states in the field of foreign policy?
What are the changes in the activities of a new member state in the field of foreign policy towards the non-member states?
The question of strategic importance for the new member states is what groupations they should join after being admitted to full membership in EU and NATO. The basic element of national interest is the existence of the state at least within its borders. Today it seems somehow natural for that goal to be already achieved in Europe. However, there were and probably will be periods when this was (is) not the case. During the past century, the territory of the present Slovenia was invaded from all of its borders: the fascist Italy from the west, Hitler's Germany from the north, Hungarian collaborationists from the northwest and finally the Yugoslav Army from the southeast.
An important element of national interest of large states is to preserve and if possible extend their area of interest. Although small states do not place that goal among the elements of their national interest it is very important for them into which interest area they are or will be placed. They do not have full influence over that placing but they can contribute a lot in order to be placed in the desired interest groupation.
Most of the EU member states have concluded the process of placing or joining the major integrations. However, after these most important integrations are concluded, there are also integrations in the less important groupations which are, nevertheless, important for foreign policy since they point to the direction or preferences of a state. Although Austria and Greece have been EU members for quite some time they have now decided to join the international organisation of Francophonia. Hungary has also filed its candidature for being placed in this integration. The positioning into integrations is an ongoing process through which external political partners are found. No state which has joined the EU and NATO has not consequently resolved its other foreign policy goals at least as regards the placing into integrations. It is either closer to the Central European regional partnership, or closer to the Balkan integrations (Stability Pact), or to the integrations related to the so called »Old Europe«, such as the Francophonia. There will be, of course, ad hoc coalitions set up for all important issues, nevertheless, some institutionalised integrations represent the framework for a more or less sound coalition and at the same time show where the placements of states are most probable. It should be stressed that the phrase »we will choose the coalitions as we go along« is partly realistic and partly merely an excuse since the external policy has adopted no position on the already institutionalised integrations. Joining the EU and NATO does not mean the end of history. After the main parts of the dress are sawn together work still has to be done on the fine filigree parts which is precise and long lasting but it gives the final look to the dress: fine or trashy, beautiful or repellent or simply imperceptibly »grey«.
It is good that the new continental member states in EU are also members of NATO. But within both NATO and EU they still have to profile their foreign policies into more detail. With filigree precision they have to choose other groupations where they are or will be very active members, merely members or where they are not or will not belong. Real life is surely not ad hoc.
The second strategic goal which the new EU member states will have to define is the manner of co-operating with the EU as such. This does not concern the organisational element of co-operation which is, though not an unimportant issue, not a strategic orientation of a state. An important question is what kind of EU a state would like to have and how to act so that its wishes would be met as far as possible. There are actually two alternatives and of course a whole range of possibilities between them. France, the most eminent representative of the so called »Old Europe«, obviously wants a multipolar world in which EU would become one of the world poles. »A multipolar world is the code for a political conflict over influence« said Zbigniew Brzezinski for Le Monde (13 July 2004). The aim or the idea is to gradually achieve maximal defence independence from the USA and become an important political actor on the world chessboard.
Yet another view of the future is that of co-operation with the USA in which the EU would not aim at forming another world pole but form together with the USA a strong political, economic and military pole which would be, if not the only, definitely the most dominant one. It seems that Great Britain adheres to that direction.
Upon entering the EU, the new member states clearly showed that they had not resolved this strategic question. The Iraqi crisis was only one of the manifestations of their undefined orientations. It is not only the declarations but also acts that have to be defined: whether to co-operate in military conflicts in Iraq or to participate only in peace missions in the field of education, whether it is more important to co-operate within NATO or within the EU forces, whether to support the French-German or British position in case of certain issues, especially regarding the structure of a more tightly connected or a more loose EU. They can not hide their heads in sand for ever. All the new member states are aware of the immense importance the USA have, but they have joined the EU in which until recently it was France and the Federal Republic of Germany that represented the »engine«. These issues do not only concern the structure of EU but also a series of completely practical questions such as genetically modified food, the attitude towards energy use, the Kyoto Agreement on environment, the International Criminal Court in Rome, the joint or separate satellite positioning system (GPS - Galileo), the positions on resolving world crises, etc.
The strategic question to which each new member state will have to find its own answer is what role it will have in the common EU foreign and security policy. In comparison with some old member states all the new member states (except Poland) are small and economically weak and accordingly have only minor international influence. It would surely not be prudent if only a few big states had complete influence over the common foreign and security policy on behalf of all the small and economically weaker states. Often we can read between the lines that some large European states would like that kind of situation but none of the small states would probably want that kind of Europe. The large states are obviously aware of that and therefore do not prevent any state from contributing to the common EU foreign policy. It is up to the states to determine (choose) which are the fields to which they can actually contribute and afterwards they have to deal with those fields actively and in depth.
It is known that Great Britain has a dominant role in the region of its former colonies, France in the region of the Francophone states and Spain in the region of the Hispanophone states. But what are the fields of foreign policy or regions where Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta would play their role? Each of the new member states will strive to actively participate in the common foreign and security policy and thus contribute to its recognition in the world. Being relatively small states they will not be able to actively and credibly take part in all the fields, so they will have to look for their niches. Perhaps the states in the east of EU will intensively work on the relations with the eastern EU neighbouring states, the Baltic states will decide to co-operate with Russia and Slovenia will orient towards the West Balkans?
In the period before the fall of the Berlin wall the strategic foreign political orientations were as a rule led outside those states. Thus, the strategic foreign policy decisions of the members of the Warshaw Agreement were watched over by Moscow. In case of the newly emerged states of Slovakia and Slovenia the centres of decision making also used to be outside the two states. At that time the politicians of those states talked a lot about foreign political issues and were quite active at the oral level but in reality they merely followed the foreign political orientations they were given.
The fact that the minor day-to-day as well as more important foreign policy decisions have to remain in the framework of a certain strategy which is firmly rooted in the whole machine is something new for these states where such strategic framework does not exist yet and where decisions are taken without a long-term and firm framework. Thus, for example, a state sends its soldiers to Iraq, buys non-European strike aircraft and when the situation gets too serious calls back its soldiers from Iraq. When we examine in detail a series of decisions taken by a new member state we can see that there is simply no clear strategic framework. On the other hand, when we examine a series of decisions in one of the older member states with a longer history of democracy, whether it is Italy, Great Britain, France of Germany, we may find a lot of internal political clashes, replacements of governments and important politicians, but the foreign political decisions are always within a certain strategically designed framework which is visible to a careful observer.
Another reason for the lack of long-term foreign political strategy is young democracy. The goal of every party is to win the elections and maintain the power mainly through relatively short-term measures. Most of the newly emerged leaders have not realised the fact that in the course of time the long-term strategic orientations will become much more important. However, the voters have started to notice that the parties only strive for the measures which ensure immediate effects and are becoming dissatisfied with more or less most parties. They have realised that the parties »only care about the power and not about the state«, i.e. that they do not adhere to the long-term strategic goals.
The new member states will not be able only to talk about focusing on certain foreign policy niche but will actually have to put their words into long-term actions. Only this will bring them long-term trust of the big member states into their proposals on only then they will actually have influence on the area in which they will decide to operate within the common foreign and security policy.
The fourth strategic question is how to carry out foreign policy towards the EU member states. Some expressed the opinion that there will simply be no foreign policy within the community of the EU member states since most of the problems will be resolved at the level of Brussels. In my opinion that will not at all be the case. If we meet someone only from time to time and have no problems with them, there is no need for a mechanism for solving problems. But if we are constantly sharing the same flat, the problems will emerge and they will have to be prevented in advance or resolved. This also applies to the states which have become members of the EU family. The new member states should intensify bilateral co-operation with the member states and not reduce it.
It is of course important who are those who have the decisive influence on the basic orientations of the policy in European states with young democracy. Since the foreign policy is an extension of internal policy this question is important also for the foreign policy of the new EU member states. Practically in all the states which moved from the communist regime into democracy, the civil society was the driving force of transition into the new system - not only the intellectuals, although their contribution was important, but also other groups of population. Especially the workers played a decisive role in some cases, as was the case in Gdansk. After the democratic systems were established, many players entered various newly emerged parties and moved from the civil sphere into the politics (Vaclav Havel in the Czech Republic). Some eminent representatives of civil societies, nevertheless, did not follow that process and remained in seclusion. However, the new parties mainly strove for the short-term election results and the leaders often wanted to remain in power even to the detriment of their parties. Consequently, many parties lost their reputation and the trust of the public while very few new parties have emerged which people could trust. In this atmosphere conditions were created for the emergence of new civil movements which remind of the civil movements before the fall of communism. The official parties have the legitimate power, they adopt and implement the laws and other provisions supported by the repressive mechanism and judicial power, but they have no trust, ideas nor reputation. The new groupations of the civil society on the other hand have the ideas, reputation and relatively large support of the public but they have no formal power supported by appropriate repressive and judicial system. However, they do have a large influence on the formal politics, which is of essential importance. This has led to an interesting situation in which the politics use the civil society and form a more or less open relationship with it, while the civil society is not the critic or conscience of politics but its constituent element - an element of that orientation with which it integrates. The direction into which foreign policies in the new EU or NATO member states will develop perhaps depends more on the new civil associations than on the parties which have the formal power and were elected by the voters. In the countries with old democracy this phenomenon is practically not present. If we want to find out into what direction the foreign policy will develop in the new EU states where the democracy emerged only less than fifteen years ago it is not enough to talk to the official authorities. It is more important to examine (also) other levels of society.
The fifth strategic question with which the new member states will have to deal is what the changes in the foreign policy towards the non-member states are. Will the manner of exercising foreign policy towards the non-member states change upon entering the EU? Perhaps it will change, but not essentially. The enlargement of EU is based both on economic and political interests. However, it is not in the interest of the old EU member states to resolve the problems the new member states have with the non-member states. It is certainly possible that a problem a new member state has with a non-member state turns into a European problem, but there will not be many such cases. It was often stated in the new member states before they became members of EU that after they enter the EU a problem with their neighbouring country will become a problem of the whole EU and will therefore be resolved much more easily. However, in most cases the reality does not confirm that thesis. The EU will certainly help all member states to resolve the problems with the non-member states, but the states will have to resolve the majority of problems on their own (Slovenia - Croatia). They should adhere to the principle: »Help yourself and EU will help you!«.
The states which became members of EU and NATO this year have achieved their two major foreign policy goals. However, as stated above, this does not mean the history has ended. They have to find answers to the above strategic questions and define appropriate strategic goals for their nations' benefit and for the stability of their states. If there is no goal any route can be the right one, but only if the states have goals, the voters will be able to know whether the goals are achieved.