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Integration and Disintegration Trends behind the EU's Failure to Stabilise its Eastern Neighbourhood

Jaroslava Barbieri

This paper argues that the EU's response to a resurgent Russia unveils its pitfalls in achieving the status of a fully-fledged stabilising actor in its (eastern) neighbourhood. After the annexation of Crimea, the EU did manage to provide a collective response. However, Brussels' struggle to keep on board member states opposed to extending economic sanctions suggests that the EU still falls short of shaping an integrated security strategy, thus manifesting the reactive nature of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The need to accommodate conflicting national interests produces a vague political language, which reveals the superficiality behind ENP documents. The absence of a common security culture has two negative effects: i) it can be exploited by external actors interested in undermining the credibility and further expansion of the European project; ii) by crippling the EU's confidence, iterodes neighbouring countries' incentives to follow Brussels' instructions. The first case is exemplified by Putin's moral and financial support of Eurosceptic populist parties. The second one reflects the laggard moments of the reform-implementation processes in light of the EU's decision not to pursue further enlargement shortly. In the first part, I outline the causal factors underlying the EU's ineffectiveness as a successful security actor in its Eastern neighbourhood. In the second part, I present the negativeback lashes in terms of potential trends of European disintegration. Finally, I conclude by suggesting alternative approaches through which these negative effects might be minimised.

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