EU-Russia: do we need numbers to tell the difference between a success and a failure?

Monday, 16. May 2011     0 comment(s)
Arkady Moshes
Programme Director - The EU's Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia research programme

The European Council on Foreign Relations has recently published an interesting study, named European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2010 and dealing with a variety of themes from US to Tibet and from media freedom to trade liberalization.

There probably cannot be a single opinion as to whether it is at all possible to accurately grade – almost like at school – such fairly complicated issues as foreign policy, but it is no doubt helpful to sometimes show to the decision-makers the results of their work in the most simple and illustrative form.

EU course on Russia is given a C+ grade on the A to D scale. Is it much or little? Some comments about the “mathematics” can be useful to understand.

First, noteworthy, the overall score happens to be the same as the rating given to EU relations with Russia on European security issues, but this is a minor observation. What is a major point here is that this score was only made possible due to EU’s own action to diversify gas supply routes. This latter effort is given a B-, which partly compensates for lower rating of relationships on Eastern Partnership, frozen conflicts and energy issues.

Is it a paradox? No. Can the steps which lead to de-intensification of economic interdependence have a positive effect on the overall relationship? Yes. By moving in the direction of energy diversification EU is changing the balance of self-confidence and makes compromises by the other party more likely.

Second, human rights and governance with its C- ranking – close to D which is a complete disaster - is the area where the deadlock originates, which is another way to say that values matter, and that without a progress in this field all attempts to pursue “pragmatic interests” will be futile. Also, this result makes clear that the EU-Russian Human Rights Dialogue, which has been meeting since 2004 – together with the US-Russian analogous process launched already under president Obama, it can be added – is not an example of taxpayers’ money best spent.

Third, the only top scores – A- on Iran and B on Afghanistan – have little to do with EU influence. The authors correctly state this was achieved due more to the US “reset policy”.

Finally, the relations with Russia at the G20 are graded a very low C-. This may look surprising, taking into account the attention which Moscow pays to this format, but is definitely thoughts-provoking. Perhaps, Russia simply cannot decide whether it should prioritize its G8 status, and then to cooperate more with world richest democracies, or its BRICS membership, and hence comes its reluctance.

However, what is most remarkable about the publication is not the ratings as such but analytical conclusions which support them. The expressions like “EU had “limited”, “no”, or “almost no” effect”, “EU remains invisible”, etc., are too many to be ignored. This is what makes the study honest and worth reading. And this is what, at least in the ideal life, should stimulate the authors of respective policies to change them.

Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors

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