No. 36




European Union as normative power in Ukrainian-Russian conflict

07 December 2017


RiTo No. 36, 2017

Over the last 20 years, the European Union has been associated with the export of certain universal norms, rules and practices to other countries. In academic circles, this concept is called the „normative power Europe“. Democracy, rule of law, strong commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, and social justice – these principles form the core of the identity of the European Union. Based on shared political, economic and cultural ties among the Member States, the EU has also sought to promote these norms in the neighbouring countries, including Russia. However, the outbreak of a violent conflict between Russia and Ukraine at the end of 2013 clearly demonstrates that the EU has failed in its pursuits in Russia despite the extensive mutual relations and comprehensive financial support provided by the EU. As the EU has generally failed in bringing Russia over to embracing and upholding the European values, this raises the question of the authority of the EU as a normative power. Against this backdrop, the aim of the article is to analyse how consistent the EU has been in defending and promoting European values and norms in the international arena during the Ukrainian conflict. The topic is of particular importance for the EU Member States that are potentially targeted or indirectly influenced by Russia’s actions.

To sum up the results of the research, the declarative communication of the institutions and the leaders of the European Union during the Ukrainian conflict from November 2013 to June 2017 appears to be at least non-consistent if not downright controversial. Inconsistencies in protecting the European norms and values have occurred on two levels. First, within the statements of the EU institutions, e.g. the members of the European Commission, while pledging “unwavering support” to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, have simultaneously called for cooperation with Russia in other issues. Basically, since mid-2015, references to the Ukrainian-Russian conflict and Russia’s role in it disappear from the declarative communications of the European Council, the European Commission, and the High Representative, despite the fact that the territorial integrity of Ukraine has not been restored and the conditions of the Minsk I and II agreements have not been fulfilled. Furthermore, at a later stage of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, the declarative communications of the EU institutions seems to focus on linking the progress achieved by Ukraine to the European norms and values.

Referring to the above outlined theoretical remarks on the collective identity of the EU and on the unity and consistency of public statements and messages of the institutions and leaders of the EU as a very important part of this collective image, it would definitely help to improve the image of the EU as a normative power if the EU would formulate the core values and norms that it is ready to unwaveringly protect in critical situations, as well as to what is the expected outcome of the conflict. In this regard, an introduction of double standards should particularly be avoided.