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ENP conditionality psychoanalysed: no more “more for more”?

The European Union is ‘Sui Generis’, – the Latin expression meaning ‘one of its kind’. That is exactly due to its unique characteristics that there are continuous scholarly attempts to conceptualize the European Union as a term. By now, the EU has most commonly been referred to as “Civilian power Europe” (coined by Francois Duchene in 1970) or the ‘Normative power Europe’ (formulated by Ian Manners in 2002). Yet, more recently, with the increasing security challenges that the EU has faced in the neighbourhood, the idea of the “military power Europe”, formerly advocated by Hedley Bull (1982), came to the fore.
With the upcoming European Neighbourhood Policy’s (ENP) review as an answer to the EU’s disrupted neighbourhood, the understanding of the EU as a “security power” might also be emerging. Against this background, what do the expected ENP policy changes have to say about the “nature of the beast [EU]”? – ‘animal’ of its own kind? (See Risse, T. 1996).

ENP countries are coloured in dark green. Russia enjoys a separate strategic partnership framework. Credit: EEAS
ENP countries are coloured in dark green. Russia enjoys a separate strategic partnership framework. Credit: EEAS

Is the EU letting out its inner ‘beast’?

The EU is definitely not “mother-Teresa”, but it has nevertheless received a Nobel peace prize and has created an image of itself as a peace-guarantor inside as well as outside through the export of norms. Still now, the EU might be beginning to perceive itself and be perceived (“the nature of the beast”) differently, as more selfish or just less altruistic – paying more attention to its own needs. At his EP hearing of the foreign affairs committee, commissioner Hahn clarified that the EU would not only just continue pursuing the goal of a well-governed neighbourhood, but would use ENP as a tool of upholding the European security and values [1]

Engaging more actively in our neighbourhood is no longer just about building an area of democracy and prosperity in the longer term. It is about preserving our own security, upholding universal values and pursuing our interests right now
EU Commissioner Hahn

Applying Freud’s understanding of the psyche to the ‘beast’ called EU, it can be said that presently the EU is experiencing a fight of ego (reality principle) versus Id (impulsive needs) and Superego (moral ideal). Accordingly, the new ENP has to serve the EU as an ‘ego’ and mediate between the “military power Europe” (id: impulsive needs) and “normative power Europe” (superego: moral ideal). A kind of ‘security power Europe’ shall emerge introducing a need-based approach that would not contradict the fundamental normative principles on which the EU is funded.

The EU’s ‘psychic conflict’ will most probably lead to the ENP that no longer represents just an “external action window” of the EU’s enlargement policy, but more of the EU foreign and security policy, – as a CEPS European Neighbourhood Watch January issue predicted [2].

Realism > Idealism

The EU seems to be moving from political idealism to realism – developing what has to be a more reasonable ENP formula. Incorporating the “more for more” principle to the ENP strategy proved to be idealistic, difficult to put into practice.

The moral duty of the EU to give ‘more’ (financial assistance, liberalised mobility, access to the single market) in response to the ‘more’ of a good performance (delivering the democratic reforms, rapprochement with the acquis communautaire) went against the ‘hierarchy of needs’ – referring to the Maslow’s pyramid below.  Self-actualisation for the EU as an exporter of norms and the European way of life can only be important as long as the basic need of safety is met. Accordingly, geopolitical considerations will always overpower merits when the EU has to decide who shall receive ‘more’ and why.  In view of that, the new ENP’s conditionality formula will most likely revolve around the EU’s internal consolidation on WHO and WHY. In fact, that has always been more or less the case. EU conditionality has always been selective. E.g. the unprecedented financial assistance to Palestine has been given not for the “mores” it delivered, but for the importance the Israeli-Palestinian peace carries for the EU’s security in its all-inclusive sense.

Therefore, the upcoming ENP review will most likely be about voicing, legitimizing and extending what has already been happening in practice but more as an exception than as a rule. It is more about recognizing that geopolitical interests are what mattes the most rather than understanding that it is so. ‘Security power Europe’ is in the making.


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