In ECFR’s European foreign policy scorecard the best grade for the EU is B-

How much should the EU be satisfied or unsatisfied with this. And Slovakia is a leader in 4 categories and in overall the ECFR is saying that the Slovakian performance was significantly better than in previous years . So would you say that Slovakia really deserves this accolade or you see also some weak points regarding Slovak foreign policy? Read few comments.

Dariusz KałanCentral Europe analyst, Polish Institute of International Affairs

This is a quite realistic grade, I would say, and in a pretty fair way describes the EU’s position in the global developments: as an average player, with some potential, but with limited both will and possibilities to use it. The saddest thing to me is that this is not the first time when the EU is facing criticism that it is not able to “find a way to respond to Russian pressure” or is too passive in the neighbouring areas, such as Middle East and North Africa. So, the impression may appear that the EU lost its abilities to learn from its own mistakes. What, however, should be stressed out is that – as I also mentioned – this is not only the question of will, but also possibilities, and objectively, it is clear that these, politically and economically, are right now very narrow.

It should be stressed out that Slovakia is the second – after Poland – best ranked country among Visegrad Member States. This may come as a quite a surprise somehow as the country’s performance has not received highlight so far. In my opinion such a rankings say something about Slovakia’s foreign policy, but in this case the main advantage is to promote the country and its image abroad. Bratislava surely succeeded in the latter. As for the merits, I would say that indeed, Slovakia may be seen as a leader of visa-free regime supporting, as the country has already exempted Ukrainian citizens from fees for long term visas, among all other steps. For me, however, the open question is whether Slovakia succeeded in reducing energy dependency from Russia (here it was marked leader too); in my view Czechs made much more in order to diversify energy supplies, and the situation of Slovakia has not changed so drastically since the last gas crisis in 2009. So, to put it in the nutshell, I would say that Slovaks should be satisfied as the ranking was prepared by very prestigious institute and will be distributed all over the world, but this should definitely not be the reason for resting on their laurels.

Jörg ForbrigSenior Program Officer for Central and Eastern Europe, Director of the Fund for Belarus Democracy, German Marshall Fund

Foreign policy – the results of this scorecard exercise basically confirm once again that the EU has not yet become a strong foreign policy actor. It is torn between its own foreign policy ambitions and agenda, and those of individual member states. This lends particular importance to this year’s change in the EU’s leadership: only with strong personalities at the helm can the EU really hope to become an effective foreign policy actor. The current cast of van Rompuy, Barroso and Ashton was simply too weak to overcome the tensions between EU and member states in the foreign policy area.

Member states – the scorecard shows very clearly how EU foreign policy remains dependent on a few older and larger member states. Germany and France, Britain and Italy basically drive much of the agenda, while also being the major obstacles on many accounts. These four, or at least some of them, need to clarify their own agendas and throw their weight behind an EU-level foreign policy. In so doing, they may find support among some smaller and newer members that are playing an ever bigger role in Europe’s foreign policy, especially Poland and Sweden.

North-South divide – the economic crisis clearly leaves its traces on how policy, in this case foreign policy, is formed in the EU. The bloc’s battered South is generally falling back, the more prosperous center and North are becoming its driving forces. This has an impact on how effectively the EU addresses individual issues on its foreign policy agenda: the Southern neighbourhood does not have strong advocates within the EU whose policy towards the South remains very deficient; the Eastern neighbourhood, in turn, has a number of strong advocates and may well see an effective boost in EU foreign policy. In foreign policy and beyond, this divide confirms how economic strength or weakness of individual member states translates into political influence within the EU, with serious consequences for individual policy areas.

Wider Europe – it is very disappointing to see that EU scores so badly on Wider Europe. This is, after all, the area where further enlargement is on track (in the Western Balkans) or conceivable (in the Eastern neighbourhood). This makes Wider Europe the one area where the EU and its foreign policy can make a positive difference that no other external actor can ever make. Consequently, much more engagement and investment is needed on the part of the EU to bring Wider Europe closer to and eventually into full European integration.

Russia – the worsening of relations with Russia is primarily due to the Kremlin’s changing policies, not a result of the course set by Brussels and individual EU capitals. Russia under Putin 2 is becoming increasingly assertive on the international stage, not least in what is a common neighbourhood with the EU. There, Russia drags the EU into a geopolitical competition, bullies states like Ukraine that wish to move closer to the EU, and puts pressure on EU member states that, such as Lithuania, take a critical position towards Moscow. This more aggressive Russian stance naturally worsens relationships with the EU, which in response is becoming more outspoken in its criticism of Russia and, hopefully, more engaged in supporting countries that find themselves as victims of Russian pressure.

Lee SavageLecturer in European Politics, Department of European & International Studies, King’s College London

I actually think that Slovakia’s comparatively good report demonstrates the limitations of this scorecard. Slovakia deservedly gets a lot of credit for its increase in development aid, but this was from a low base level. Slovakia spends just 0.09% of its Gross National Income on overseas development aid which is lower than countries like Italy and Greece (both 0.13%) and a tenth of that spent by the world leaders (Luxembourg 1%, Sweden 0.99%, Norway 0.93%). The other domain on which Slovakia is a leader is reducing energy dependency on Russia. Here Slovakia’s score more accurately reflects the country’s achievements even if Russia does still supply the vast majority of Slovakia’s natural gas.

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