EU-GUAM: ENGAGEMENT OR ESTRANGEMENT?

Nicklas NORLING, Niklas NILSSON


Nicklas Norling, Researcher at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Programa Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center of Johns Hopkins University, U.S.A. and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Sweden (Stockholm, Sweden)

Niklas Nilsson, Researcher at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Programa Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center of Johns Hopkins University, U.S.A. and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Sweden (Stockholm, Sweden)


Introduction

The wider Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions have so far figured as relatively peripheral concerns for the European Union. While the enlargement of the EU has created incentives for a stronger commitment to these regions, the motives for a more strategic European engagement in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and around the Black Sea have always existed. These regions provide access to energy outside the control of OPEC and Russia and provide a transit corridor connecting Europe with the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. Remarkable benefits may also accrue the EU if a proactive rather than reactive approach is taken toward the region. These benefits do not only include energy diversification and transit but also relate to the security and stability of Europes vicinity and, by extension, Europe itself. So far, the EU has, however, showed little interest in working with regional organizations such as BSEC, GUAM, the Black Sea Forum and others but preferred to engage with the states in the region on a bilateral basis. GUAM belongs to the organizations which Europe has given little or no attention despite the fact that both work, more or less, toward the same goals. These include energy diversification, both in production and transit routes, and a less dominant position of Russia over the energy resources and politics of the region. Conceived as such, it is tempting to conclude that the EU should push for stronger engagement with GUAM (and other similar organizations). However, this article argues that there are few areas in which these two organizations could cooperate fruitfully. This is primarily due to the inefficiency of GUAM, the geopolitics involved, and most importantly, to the fact that EU could favorably pursue its interests in other formats.

GUAM: A Background

The founding of GUAM in 1997 was intended as an organizational alternative to the Commonwealth of Independent States, aimed at countering Russian influence over its near abroad. Uzbekistan became a member in 1999 during a meeting of the Council of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership (CEAP) in Washington, but decided to withdraw in 2005 following the deterioration of..


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