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Scorecard The Europe Question

European security: The spectre of a multipolar Europe

The European Council on Foreign Relations has published a major report on European security architecture called 'The spectre of a multipolar Europe', written by Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard, with Jana Kobzova, Dimitar Bechev and Andrew Wilson.

The report argues that Europe is becoming increasingly multipolar, and in danger of lapsing into separate spheres of influence. It argues that the US is no longer willing to engage in Europe's internal security, and instead, the main actors - the EU, Russia and Turkey - must come together in a trialogue to build a new European security architecture. Turkey's EU accession process must also be strengthened alongside recognition of its recent emergence as a credible regional power.

Click here to download a PDF of 'The spectre of a multipolar Europe'

The executive summaries of 'The spectre of a multipolar Europe' are now available in the following languages:


Click for audio interviews with Mark Leonard and Dimitar Bechev

The findings:

  • The post-Cold War order is unravelling. Rather than uniting under a single system, Europe’s big powers are moving apart. Tensions between them have made security systems dysfunctional: they failed to prevent war in Kosovo and Georgia, instability in Kyrgyzstan, disruption to Europe’s gas supplies, and solve frozen conflicts.
  • The EU has spent much of the last decade defending a European order that no longer functions. Russia and Turkey may complain more, but the EU has the most to lose from the current peaceful disorder.
  • A frustrated Turkey still wants to join the EU, but it is increasingly pursuing an independent foreign policy and looking for a larger role as a regional power. In the words of foreign minister Davutoglu, Turkey is now an ‘actor not an issue’. Its accession negotiations to the EU should be speeded up, and it must also be engaged as an important regional power.
  • Russia never accepted the post-Cold War order. Moscow is now strong enough to openly challenge it, but its Westpolitik strategy also means that it is open to engagement – that is why Dmitri Medvedev suggested a new European security treaty a couple of years ago.
  • Obama’s non-appearance at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was the latest sign that the US is no longer focused on Europe’s internal security. Washington has its hands full dealing with Afghanistan, Iran and China and is no longer a European power.

The Recommendations:

  • An informal ‘trialogue’ involving the EU, Turkey and Russia should be established, allowing cooperation over security to build from the ground up.
  • In order to strengthen Turkey’s European identity, Ankara should be given a top-table seat at the trialogue, in parallel with enhanced EU accession negotiations. New chapters should be opened on CSDP and energy.
  • The EU should be represented by the foreign affairs high representative, Catherine Ashton, institutionalising the EU as a security actor.
  • A European security identity should be fostered by encouraging the involvement of Russia in projects like missile defence that focus on external threats to Europe.
  • Russian resolve should be tested by a commitment to dealing with frozen conflicts and instability in the wider European area.

‘The spectre of a multipolar Europe’ draws upon extensive research by ECFR in all 27 EU member states, including more than 250 interviews and a detailed study of relevant national security documents. The research suggests that Europeans now take peace for granted, and worry more about risks to standards of living than traditional threats. Although they fear marginalisation in a world of rising powers, there is a surprising amount of agreement about perceived threats, and an appetite to institutionalise the EU as a coherent and credible security actor.

“This analysis is bold and will be controversial but that is necessary. Elites are simply not confronting the real concerns and interests of the people and as a result opportunities are being lost and dangers unaddressed. ‘The spectre of a multipolar Europe’ made me think in fundamental ways about old certainties.”
George Robertson, former Secretary General of NATO

“An important and bold report that will open a vital debate.”
Javier Solana, former Secretary General of NATO and EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy

"The ECFR Report is really interesting and thought provoking and it can give a push to Turkey's integration in the EU."
Suat Kiniklioglu, AK Party deputy chairman for external affairs, member of the AK Party Central Executive Committee, and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Turkish parliament.

"This original - even explosive - report will launch a much-needed debate about European security and Turkey's place in Europe. It is worth reading even for people - like myself - who believe that a trialogue would be unhelpful and counter-productive for Turkey's European future. The only way to anchor Turkey in Europe is to allow the accession process to move forward rapidly and in a fair manner. I am opposed to any arrangements which could deflect the EU from this goal."
Emma Bonino, vice-president of the Italian senate and former European Commissioner.

Watch the video with Dimitar Bechev, head of ECFR's Sofia office and senior policy fellow, on the report "The spectre of a multipolar Europe".

We will be running an occasional series of op-eds and articles in response to the report.






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