On the 15th of December 2010, the College of Europe held a workshop on the Natolin (Warsaw) campus which focused on EU Internal and External Security Policies towards the Eastern Neighbours – principally Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. To strike a balance and to introduce a comparative dimension to the workshop, we also heard presentations on the Southern neighbours and EU policy vis-à-vis Russia. Speakers came from academia, public administrations, Foreign and Interior Ministries and NGOs, from EU member states, as well as from Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Russia. The workshop was led by Dr Kerry Longhurst.
Fruitful discussion was had on a variety of key topics. Participants debated the merits of the EU’s endeavours to tighten the management of its borders and the effects this has upon‘good neighbourly relations’ in the region. Participants also considered the ways in which mobility questions have become very prominent in the ENP context. Discussion took note of advances in this area between the EU and Ukraine and the EU and Moldova and considered the merits of Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements, which have become a ‘standard EU tool’ in the EU’s approach to Eastern neighbours. Speakers noted the patchy effects such agreements have had on the neighbours' capacities in border management, migration policy and asylum capacities. It was argued that developments in the Visa Facilitation / Liberalisation area will not be swift; piecemeal steps, stringently monitored by the EU and member states will mean that giant steps towards visa-free travel cannot be expected. Moreover, as one participant pointed out, whilst cheaper visas and fee-waivers are certainly a good thing, they are often viewed in the region as something that only benefit elites.
The case of Belarus, which remains an ENP-outlier, demonstrates the potential power that new EU mobility options could bring to citizens. Cheaper Schengen visas and a more streamlined application procedure for Belarusian applicants, together with more options for student exchange, for example, could prove to be potent tools to open the country up to EU overtures as part of the latter’s recalibrated strategy towards Minsk.
Discussion then focused on EUBAM, which, it was argued, is a ‘beacon’ in the region for the spread of EU standards in border management, reform of customs systems and cross-border cooperation amongst national agencies. We also had an opportunity to learn about the EU’s approach to the Southern neighbours in the mobility area, where striking differences persist and where the agenda is more ‘securitised’, when compared to the East.
Selected papers will be published in a book edited by Kerry Longhurst.