This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to the situation in the European Union's neighbourhood and the EU's relationship with neighbouring countries. Kristi Raik from the EU Council Secretariat states that the EU is trying to advance democracy and other European values in its Eastern neighbourhood, but it lacks a strategic vision of Eastern Europe's place in the future of European integration.
"The European Union has tried to suffocate the question of further enlargement by introducing the European Neighbourhood Policy. As a skilled politician, the EU prefers not to answer the neighbours' most important questions, but picks the topics it finds the most convenient. The European Neighbourhood Policy, launched in 2003, is a compromise typical of the EU, offering something to everyone," but avoiding all questions about enlargement.
Still, Raik detects a positive change that has taken place over the last couple of years; the EU's relations with its neighbours are no longer Moscow-centric. "For the first time there exists an EU policy on the so-called new Eastern neighbours that differs and is separate from the Union's Russia-policy. The EU is still worried that some neighbours'
Western orientation could irritate Russia, but no one doubts that the encouragement of reforms in the neighbourhood is in the EU's interests."
According to Raik, the EU's neighbourhood policy is not a particularly effective mechanism of supporting the Eastern neighbours, but as that is the only mechanism that currently exists, it has to be used. Potentially, the European Union's new members could do a lot to make the EU's Eastern policy more effective, either in the framework of the Neighbourhood Policy or going beyond it. So far, the new members' activity has had limited - albeit still noticeable - effects. "The new members' expertise in the East is acknowledged, but their positions are not always supported," writes Raik. The new members themselves do not coordinate their activities and in general are still only learning how to influence EU decision-making.
Marianne Mikko, the head of the European Parliament's Moldova delegation, writes about the current situation in Moldova. "Moldova is a small country of 4 million people that lacks a strong image," she states. "One can freely assert that in the international arena, Moldova is an almost nonexistent state."
Moldova's biggest problem is the Russian-sponsored separatist enclave of Transnistria. On the other hand, Mikko asserts that Transnistria should not serve as an excuse to postpone political and economic reforms.
The good news is that while the OSCE - the organisation that nominally regards Russian troop withdrawal from Moldova as its concern - has spectacularly failed in its tasks as regards to Moldova, the EU has been unusually decisive and successful. The EU's Border Assistance Mission on the border of Ukraine and Moldova's Transnistria has cut the separatist regime's earnings by about a third.
Mikko suggests that Estonia should start seeing Moldova's plight as a concern that is as important as the fate Georgia that receives significant assistance from Estonia. At the same time, Moldova could make some effort to improve its image and relative importance on the international stage: "An engaging performance of a Tbilisi tamada helps to make his country a lot larger. At the same time, monotone and empty talk by a Chisinau bureaucrat clad in a grey suit helps to shrink an already minute Moldova."
A lawyer Jüri Adams discusses the rules and dynamics underlying EU enlargement - both former enlargement and possible future ones. He argues that in the new neighbourhood, the wish to join the EU is bound to grow and translate into policy, because the people identify the EU with wealth and well-being. The fact that security concerns played a leading role among the Baltic States' motives for joining the EU should be treated as an exception rather than the rule. "We must be cautious not to attribute our motives to the current aspirant countries," warns Adams.
According to Adams, the main obstacle that now prevents the current aspirant countries' from joining the EU is their internal condition - none of the countries is fit to join. On the other hand, many politicians in those countries have given their people the impression that joining the EU will be a relatively easy process. Adams leaves unanswered the question of whether the unavoidable clash with reality could derail the whole relationship.
Diplomaatia also published the speech by Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt given at the opening of the International Centre for Defence Studies in Tallinn. Bildt argues that we are in the most challenging international situation that has been seen in decades - and that the challenges are increasing. "The peace and prosperity for the 100 million people of Southeastern Europe that are now either in or on their way towards an accession process is certainly of paramount importance to all of Europe. Nevertheless we must recognize that this process might take longer and be more challenging than previous enlargements. We must be ready to adapt our structures as well work on retaining wide political support for the process in all our respective countries. But all these factors are - in my opinion - convincing arguments in favour of us intensifying our efforts - certainly not in favour of us abandoning them."
And in his interview with Diplomaatia, military strategist Edward N. Luttwak concentrated mostly on Russia, arguing that Russia's disappointing development represents a much greater problem to the Western community than the developments in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan combined.