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Does EU’s “border backyard” intersect Russia’s “Near Abroad”?

The ENP approach and EU’s main Soft Power Instruments

European Neighborhood Policy could be perceived as the ground-breaking approach of the alternative foreign strategy, aimed to generate the stable environment for the long-term, structural transformation of the EU’s partner countries. On the ground, a non-traditional policy has demonstrated mutually beneficial interests of engaged parties. Obviously, the ENP was an exceptional occasion for the partner countries to be incorporated in the world’s most emergent economic community and at the same time it was a strategically important opportunity for the EU to maintain its regional power and influence on neighboring territories. In order to achieve stated objectives and a prosperous condition of favorable economic relations, the EU has initiated an extraordinary constructive package of the soft power instruments with three major dimensions:

  • Financial support and technical assistance
  • Enhanced access to the EU’s market
  • Simplified travel and Business opportunities for partner countries

With these soft power instruments, EU has become extremely attractive for partner countries. The promise for better future stimulates partner countries to initiate a package of reforms and transformation procedures to go forward and to be taken on a new level of cooperation with the Union. The effectiveness of the EU and specific country collaboration and the progress accomplished through mutually developed economic, social and political reforms, is assessed by the annual reports of the action plans. These precise reports also include country-specific recommendations, which determine areas that still need increased support for further development. It is more than evident that these inclusive soft power mechanisms help the EU to realize its foreign policy objectives. As Joseph S. Nye explains, “soft power- could be understood in terms of the ability to alter the behavior of others to get what you want”.

In other words, soft power could be perceived as an effective use of alternative resources, rather than the hard power to produce a favorable outcome. Going further Joseph Nye affirms that “country’s soft power can come from three major resources: Culture, Political values, and Foreign policies”. If we look at the EU it can be characterized initially as a soft power actor in International Politics operationally owning reserves of all the three abovementioned recourses. Having both outstanding and attractive cultural traditions and strong political standards, such as democracy and the rule of law, the EU is recognized as a legitimate actor in foreign relations. Does this necessarily mean that the EU is always effectively using these soft power resources? Obviously – No as its Neighborhood policy often falls under a severe criticism for producing a huge gap between expectations and actual outcomes.