Inward-looking EU ‘in hock to authoritarians’


Over the last five years, the European Council on Foreign Relations’ annual Scorecard has tracked the European Union’s diminishing ability to influence its neighbors. In 2015, the story became one of their growing impact on the EU, it notes:

As refugee numbers spiraled through late summer and autumn, and Islamic State (ISIS)-coordinated terror attacks hit Paris and put Brussels on lockdown, Copenhagen, and Brussels, the conflicts around Europe burned the continent’s political elites and instilled fear in its societies. The arrival of over one million migrants created a dilemma in which the humanitarian obligation to give shelter to refugees is pitted against the limited capacities of EU states, both those on the geographical frontline – the external border – and those where large numbers of refugees want to settle.

Europe’s influence slipped still further with regard to Turkey and Russia, whose authoritarian governments are increasingly in a position to influence Europe, the Scorecard finds:

The failure to face the facts sooner – deluding ourselves that conflicts as complex as Syria and Libya would somehow burn themselves out without the need for sufficient diplomatic energy from Europe’s countries – may mean that EU governments now have to function on the terms of leaders such as Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin who have taken a more realistic approach to (and in no small way been complicit in) the regional trend towards instability.

In a year which has seen significant backsliding on the rule of law and freedom of expression in Turkey, the EU was willing to put the prospect of advancing accession talks on the table with scarcely a mention of the Copenhagen criteria on democracy and human rights which prospective members must meet. This is reflected in this year’s Scorecard, where Europe’s support for the rule of law and human rights in Turkey was the second lowest-scoring component in this year’s Scorecard…..


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