Autorin: Alice Berger

Die wissenschaftliche Bearbeitung des Themas erfolgte im Rahmen einer Abschlussarbeit zur Winterschool „European Studies“ an der LMU München. Hier folgt ein Auszug, die Langversion kann am Ende des Artikels als PDF heruntergeladen werden.

Thesis datet March 2022

A turn of time in European History

February 24th, 2022, marks a turn of times in European history: With the invasion of Russian forces into Ukraine territory war returned to the European continent, 77 years after World War II and 10 years after the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for „the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.“ (The Nobel Peace Prize 2012). While Russian ground forces and missiles are hitting towards the Ukrainian capital Kiev, the European Union (EU) and its member states are struggling in finding a way to demonstrate power towards Russian President Vladimir Putin after a period of diplomatic efforts.

EU’s role in global politics?

Not least these recent developments reinforce the question about EU’s role in global politics. It is already longer observed that international organizations, such as the United Nations and its under organizations, the World Trade Organization or more informal formats, e.g. G7 or G8, deterioate in acceptance and impact. At the same time big powers return in a fight for supremacy. The United States of America (U.S.), China, Russia – to only name few (Lippert 2020). Accordingly, former German chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel said in 2017, Europe increasingly needs to stand its own ground (Meiritz / Reimann / Weiland 2017). Also, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR), require the EU to shape world order for securing European values, peace and welfare for its citizens (Barigazzi 2019). Yet, this aspiration is constrained by the EU’s very nature between intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. As Josep Borrell also declares, the EU misses a common strategic culture and, thus, a collective action on international stage. With the foreign policies of the EU member states being largely driven by economic and security interests as well as geographic and historical parameters, the EU has been questioned frequently to be a “power” in international relations (Lippert 2020; Bulmer et al. 2020, p. 491).

And now, current developments within the Ukraine reveal a changing momentum – for the geopolitical order and possibly or the EU’s foreign and security policy (Knight 2022).

The new geopolitical order

Inevitably, Russian invasion into Ukraine territory marks a turn of eras. Security experts are speaking about a new geopolitical order, going back in time to the Cold War with an eastward shifted West-bloc (Knight 2022). The European Union needs to adjust, the member states need to adjust: „We woke up in another world. And when the world is changing, politics needs to do the same” (Annalena Baerbock in ZDF 2022, 2:24 – 2:30). After a great deal of hesitation, Germany, for instance, changed just yet its longstanding post-World War II practice of not sending weapons to conflict zones by supporting Ukraine with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defense systems (Herszenhorn / Bayer / von der Burchard 2022). Moreover, Germany decided to invest 100 billion Euros into its own defense policy. In how far the member states are now willed to a stronger policy transfer onto supranational EU level remains to be seen. In how far this is a necessary step at all with reference to the EU’s role as peace power needs to be discussed.

One hope in the end: Bound by common values

Because albeit the efficiency of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is criticized, this existential crisis has proven that the EU is capable – also in CFSP matters – to decide swiftly. Even more it has revealed that states are bound together by common values rather than legal frameworks. The coherence within the EU has lately been threatened by disassociating movements, such as Brexit or breaches of rule of law in Poland. Now, with a ‘common threat’ to European peace and security, European democratic countries find themselves closer together. This will serve the EU to stand its own ground in a changing political sphere. And how strong the EU is perceived and capable to impactfully act on international stage is depended on its internal stability and resilience. This is a tiny glimmer of hope within the cruel occurrences of which Ukraine is the victim. The country is currently and basically over the last decade fighting to secure our European peace. Not least that’s why the Union seriously needs to examine Ukraine’s pledge for swiftly becoming an official membership candidate. It owes.

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