The European Union and the East: The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Looks to the Future


2015-02-23 Recently, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the research arm of the German Social Democratic Party, sponsored a look at the future with regard to the European Union and the East.

According to the foundation:

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has invited 20 experts from all over Europe to jointly develop four scenarios for relations between the EU, the Russian Federation, and their Common Neighbourhood in 2030.

Participants came from 12 countries – ranging from the UK in the West to Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan in the East.

The scenarios do not attempt to predict the future, but offer different visions of possible and plausible futures.Thus, they can be helpful in enabling decision-makers and stakeholders to adapt their strategies in order to achieve or avoid a certain outcome.

The EU and the East in 2030              

The experts who develop the scenarios are Russian, West European and East European.
And the four scenarios envisaged are really projections of a world in 2030 with really not adressing how the current crisis can be navigated and managed to get in the position to have anything but some very bad outcomes.
The four scenarios are as follows:

Scenario I: Shared Home

All Europeans share one home — for pragmatic reasons

After a »lost decade« characterised by political crises and economic stagnation, the EU and Russia focus on shared interests from 2020 onwards.A new free trade agreement also integrates the Eastern Partnership countries, who are no longer forced to decide for or against either side.

Scenario II: Common Home

Europe is home to nations bound together by common values

A deep economic crisis in Russia leads to democratic and economic reforms that clear the way for improved EU-Russia relations.As new global powers rise, Russia and the EU join forces not only to resolve conflicts in Europe, but also to counter common threats.

Scenario III: Broken Home

The European home lies in ruins

The current confrontation between the EU and Russia continues up to 2030.A relative successful authoritarian modernisation in Russia and the energy transition in the EU give both sides the opportunity to act independently.The countries in the common neighbourhood, which are the objects of intense EU-Russia competition, form a zone of instability.

Scenario IV: Divided Home

Europeans live next door, but apart from each other

The EU and Russia are locked in a stalemate: significant deterioration is prevented by continued economic interdependence.Improvements, however, seem impossible due to widespread mistrust.No political and economic transformation takes place.Europe increasingly loses touch with the new global power centres.

And the report includes a list of so-called “wild cards” which might affect the roll out of these scenarios:

Wild Cards«: What would happen if …

… the Eurozone broke up?

This would be the consequence of pro­longed economic difficulties in Europe and disunity on how to remedy the situation.It would result in a substantial revision of the common market, reverse parts of the already achieved EU integration, and di­minish the role of the EU as a common foreign policy actor.The revised European Union would be preserved, but its weakening would rein­force the trend towards rapprochement with the new Russian leader­ship after 2024.Hence, the scenario would be reinforced.

A global energy transition marginalised the role of oil and gas in the world economy?

For Russia, this would have profound effects, as it would force any Russian leadership to modernise the economy at a faster pace.It would deplete the state budget, erode the welfare system, and affect the ruling elite in a system largely dependent on hydrocarbon incomes.Although the energy transition is a gradual pro­cess, it would possibly speed up Russia’s transition to a modernising leadership described in this scenario.

China occupied contested territories in East Asia? Russia would initially view this as a vindication of its actions in Crimea.However, although Russia would not openly oppose China’s actions in interna­tional bodies, it would be increasingly cautious about Chinese influ­ence.Resentment at Chinese dependence would drive the power shift as described above, and from 2024 EU and Russian views on China may start to converge.

There were an accidental use of force between NATO and Russia?

This would not substantially alter the scenario. If it occurs be­fore 2024, the event would likely be contained between the weakening powers in Europe, but it would increase tensions and in effect acceler­ate developments.After 2024, this type of event would eventually be downplayed by both sides.

And the missing U.S. from any of this?

The answer lies in part in what is explained on page 34 of the report under the rubric “European Security Architecture Questioned.”

The lack of adherence to the rules jointly agreed upon since the end of the Cold War (and even before) considerably weakened the European security architecture.

Neither closer NATO-EU, nor wider EU security and military cooperation emerged.

With the US increasingly busy containing China in Asia and the spread of radicalism in the Middle East, global attention shifted away from Europe.

Against the weakened transatlantic link and confronted with rising China and Russia’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, the EU found itself more and more sidelined in the security domain.

As a consequence, the role of NATO in European security matters increased again.

In 2019, Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership, but voters rejected this idea in referenda in 2021.

NATO’s stance on Russia and its straightforward policy line vis-à-vis the EaP further fuelled the rivalry between Russia and the West.

Forty years after the end of the Cold War, relations between the EU, Russia, and their immediate neighbours are thus still marked by a power-based relationship and EU-Russia competition over the attractiveness of their differing models for regional cooperation.

One could ask how the US is expanding its Pacific role and dealing with mischievous Muslims and yet the role of NATO increases?

What clearly is missing from the analysis is how Europe will sort out its direct defense and how Northern Europe and Germany will get on the same page with regard to the Russian threat.

This is not some sort of an historical anomaly but with Europe under pressure with the Greek crisis, the Ukrainian crisis and the ISIL threat, it is hard to believe that domestic dynamics will not be central in the evolution of European policy and with that the emergence of significant fissures with regard to the proper way ahead,