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Europe as a Soft Power

Conference by the Center for EU Enlargement Studies in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Budapest

07.05.2009 · C·A·P


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On April 2nd 2009, the Center for EU Enlargement Studies in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung held an international conference entitled Europe as a Soft Power at the Central European University in Budapest. The underlying assumption of the conference was that soft power of the European Union has played an important role in its enlargement policy as demonstrated by the transformation of Central and Eastern European countries. In addition, the EU increasingly sees itself as a soft power that should use norm diffusion as a source of influence in its relations with its neighbours and around the globe. However the gloomy prospects of further enlargements question the leverage and potential of EU soft power in the future and call for further examination thereof. The conference addressed various aspects of EU foreign policy – enlargement policy, neighbourhood policy, EU-Russia relations – and analyzed the type and degree of influence that it asserts. In addition to a conceptual overview of EU soft power, each panel examined relevant policy issues and analyzed the role that the EU plays in various conflict situations, i.e. in the Georgia-Russia conflict or the energy conflict.

In the session on EU - Russia Relations, moderated by foreign minister of Hungary Péter Balázs, Dominik Tolksdorf examined in his presentation the influence of the European Union in the southern Caucasus. He argued that solving territorial issues is a precondition for stability and further democratization in the region. The EU should use its increasing political leverage in order to address the frozen conflicts by starting with the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In these efforts, the EU should closely cooperate with the Russian and Turkish governments, who are at the moment unlikely to act as “spoilers” to the process. Tolksdorf suggested that if all parties succeed in effectively supporting conflict resolution in Nagorno-Karabakh, the EU could furthermore become involved in addressing other frozen conflicts in the region on which it has, contrary to Russia, only minimal leverage so far.


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