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The EU’s Invisible Diplomacy: The European Parliament’s External Action in the Lead-Up to the Ukraine Crisis

Redei, Lorinc and Romanyshyn, Iulian (2015) The EU’s Invisible Diplomacy: The European Parliament’s External Action in the Lead-Up to the Ukraine Crisis. [Conference Proceedings] (Submitted)

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    Considering the role of the European Union (EU) in stabilizing Ukraine, current events tend to point to two types of EU actions: military and economic. On the military side, the EU has been labeled an albatross: it has been criticized for failing to do enough to deter Russian aggression in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine—critiques that echo views about past EU weakness in the Balkans, in Libya, or even in Syria. On the economic side, the EU is seen at least as a potential phoenix. It was clearly at the heart of the Ukraine crisis—after all, the violence in the country began with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s about-face on an Association Agreement (AA) with the EU. And its subsequent efforts, including sanctions on Russia and signing a trade deal with the new government in Kyiv, have been judged more successful. Yet the EU’s influence in its neighborhood has always depended heavily on a third type of influence, variously called soft power, power of attraction, or normative power. This paper explores an aspect of the EU’s external action that has received little academic attention: the intense parliamentary diplomacy conducted by the European Parliament (EP) in the year and a half directly preceding the decision by Yanukovych to suspend the signature of the AA. The research explores how many political obstacles to the AA were resolved by an intense effort of parliamentary shuttle diplomacy, involving 27 visits to Ukraine, and the participation of two envoys who held no official EU positions (former EP President Pat Cox and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski). Through these efforts, the EU was able to obtain the release of three political prisoners in Ukraine, ease the prison conditions of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, and push the Ukrainian government to adopt a series of electoral and criminal laws that were a precondition for signing an AA. This paper contains an empirical, a theoretical and a prescriptive element. Empirically, it explores a case of parliamentary diplomacy that has received very little attention in either academic or media circles, and evaluates what made it successful. Theoretically, the research points to the wide array of external action that is pursued in the EU’s name without reference to the Union’s official Common Foreign and Security Policy. Prescriptively, if the Union’s influence is often best exerted in an informal mediation setting, this suggests that special representatives, parliamentary links and other informal means of interaction may be crucial foreign policy tools. Thus, whether the EU’s Ukraine policy, or its foreign policy conduct more broadly, will be a phoenix or an albatross may depend on the less visible birds in the flock: such as the sparrows of parliamentary diplomacy.

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    Item Type: Conference Proceedings
    Subjects for non-EU documents: Countries > U.K.
    Countries > Ukraine
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2015 (14th), March 4-7, 2015
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2018 15:13
    Number of Pages: 16
    Last Modified: 06 Mar 2018 15:13

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