Brussels, Europe Brief News – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the EU to take extraordinary decisions on its security, defense, and EU enlargement. The war is also starting to broadly influence the EU’s external action, unfolding new questions for Brussels and member states.
The EU and western allies have assisted Ukraine in resisting Russia’s continuous aggression. However, avoid jumping directly into the conflict with Russia while considering the consequences.
The EU is maintaining efforts to put an end to the war in Ukraine and managing the threat the war poses to Europe’s security as a whole. The war also accelerates the EU’s foreign policy as Brussels is forced to adjust to new geopolitical realities.
Given the history, it is hard to believe how quickly the EU and its member states have responded to Russia’s aggression. EU is known for slow, timid foreign policy decision-making.
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But in Russia’s case, the 27-member bloc reacted quickly, starting by levying Moscow the strongest sanction in its history by sending direct bilateral military help to Kyiv.
The EU and member states have thrown several long standing policies overboard and taken steps that, under normal circumstances, would have met with strong opposition from various corners.
These include decisions like financing for the delivery of lethal weapons to the third country to boost the defense system of that country to show great resistance in the war.
The EU is sending a signal of openness to EU membership for the bloc’s eastern neighbors after years of enlargement fatigue. And change in their 2001 temporary protection directive by allowing temporary residency to Ukrainian refugees.
These are some of the changes the EU has made to its foreign policy to go hard on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. These steps could have a solid impact on the EU foreign policy and its member states.
The Provision of Lethal Assistance
The EU’s decision to use the European peace Facility (EPF) to finance the delivery of lethal equipment to Ukraine is one of the major foreign policy shifts prompted by the war.
Although some member states are major arms exporters, the EU has no experience handling the risky implications of such military assistance.
Previously, Brussels has shown concern over the delivery of non-lethal equipment to partner countries over the fear that they could fall into the wrong hands.
EU member states had taken a large part of the past year negotiating a three-year EPF package worth 31 million euros to provide the Ukrainian army with non-lethal military medical and logistics equipment.
A Stronger Focus On EU Hard Power
A greater emphasis on defense was already emerging among some European governments before the invasion of Ukraine. The war in Ukraine has set in significant motional changes that will likely remain building blocks for the EU’s future defense role.
Now Europe is putting much more stress on hard power, which European leaders have wanted for some time. The prominent leader who wants hard power includes French President Emanuel Macron and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and security policy josep borrel.
The Use of Large-scale Sanctions as a Foreign Policy Tool
The EU has imposed large-scale sanctions on Russia to demoralize them to step back in their approach. Nobody expected the EU to go this hard on Russia.
The speed and scale of the measures even surprised some European decision-makers. Although western leaders had threatened massive consequences before Russia’s invasion, they never specified what they could be.
But on 24 February, when Russia officially invaded Ukraine from three sides, the EU and western leaders reacted quickly and went further than anybody anticipated.
There was little time to craft a clear strategy for Russian sanctions immediately after the invasion of Ukraine. But now, several weeks into the war, the EU should ensure it does all it can to create incentives to end fighting through a negotiated deal.
The Enlargement Question
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s plea for EU membership prompted a third major change, as the European parliament passed a resolution asking the European leadership to grant Ukraine the status of EU candidate country.
The EU enlargement process has become stuck due to two trends that arguably reinforce other: member states have become reluctant to let new countries into the club while accession candidates have made slow progress on the required reforms.
In response to the war in Ukraine, the EU has demonstrated that it can act decisively and unitedly, albeit in a major crisis with the potential to upend Europe’s security.
The EU response to the war in Ukraine may allow Brussels to carve out a greater role in foreign, security, and defense policy for itself. The EU needs to ensure that it surpasses this shortcoming and starts addressing the thorny questions that would come with such a role.