89 Connect Forums Research Small EU MS: Possible Foreign Policy Strategies in the post-COVID19 world

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    • #5754
      Dino GalinovicDino Galinovic
      2043 Points
      Pro 89er

      By Dino Galinovic

      The Melian dialogue has the phrase “the powerful do what they want, and the weak what they have to do”. This phrase might be the best way to describe the difference between big and small states in international relations.

      There is no unique definition of small states, and their foreign policy is analyzed through the expression “small is dangerous” in terms of insufficient capacity, adherence to high-power strategies, and adoption of solutions that have been already taken. Moreover, small states are willing to take over existing norms and policies of larger states, with the aim to gain their economic and military support. Realist discourse places emphasis on the concept of power and survival in the international community, defining small states as lagging behind large powers in terms of quantitative indicators, not projecting enough power to influence other actors, having the least chance of survival, and being constantly in a state of fear from the potential threat to sovereignty. Liberal institutionalists, on the other hand, emphasize the importance of international law and the need for inter-state cooperation through institutions. Liberal discourse suggests that small states should strive to develop regional institutions and join alliances since the size and sensitivity of the territories make them more susceptible to the negative externalities of interdependence.

      However, there is a significant dilemma when it comes to the ability of small states to develop and implement specific foreign policy strategies, given the objective indicators of the economic, political, and military dimensions, or their activities in the international community.

      Certain experts believe that small-states have three foreign policy choices. First, a passive abandonment strategy; second, an active environmental change in its favor, and third, a defensive one to preserve the status quo. By defining foreign policy as an adaptive form of behavior, Roseanu identified 4 possible foreign policy behaviors of small states. First, indulgent (responding mainly to external changes and demands), second, uncompromising (responding to internal changes and demands); third, promotional (changes and demands from both environments can be disregarded because they cancel each other out; and fourth, preservative (responds to changes and requests from both environments).

      Regarding the behavior of small countries in the European Union, many authors note differences in the perception of common policies between small and large members and how they interact with the European Commission. Being part of, or working closely with, the European Union makes it possible for small and middle states to have a greater role to play than they would in the traditional sense. That is one of the main reasons for their engagement within alliances or regional integrations as the backbone of their foreign policy activity.

      Due to the complex voting and decision-making mechanisms of the EU, the size-factor has long been present within EU studies as a relevant and significant variable in explaining member states’ activism. Despite the aim of small states to achieve equal representation, there is a huge discrepancy between the power of big and small states within the EU. Therefore, the expected behavior of small states is different from that of the big ones. However, there are also significant differences in foreign policy activism within the group of small EU states.

      The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed people’s lives, but also the way states act in international relations. The European Union will bear a certain percentage of economic burden for all member states, however, the greater part of that burden – every member state will bear individually. The question is what will be a response from the small EU members like Croatia, Slovenia, Malta, or Cyprus to the new challenges? In a world where the already dominant countries will have even greater power in determining the landscape of the post-pandemic world order?

    • #5828
      Asami KhulaAsami Khula
      239 Points

      Hi Dino, I just want to jump in with one generic consideration about the EU in general. I totally agree on the issue you bring to our attention focusing on small Member States, and I believe that some actions are required at EU level.

      Key point for me is that Covid-19 pandemic has deepen existing geopolitical dynamics and the strength of Europe’s democratic systems has been tested. Successfully or not, it’s up to each one of us to decide. However, I think that the need of a stronger solidarity between MS, which means thinking as a whole and not just individually. But this is a long term problem when it comes to EU.

      I think we can all benefit from just throwing away the distinction between “first class MS” and the others, because the EU is powerful together, and it should start acting as it is true. I think that would be a win-win for both small and big countries, at the end.


    • #5901
      Petros PetrikkosPetros Petrikkos
      265 Points

      Adding further to this exciting discussion (apologies for jumping in late on this), I would also like to focus a bit more on small states’ defence and security vis-à-vis their presence as member-states in the EU.

      Keeping concepts in mind such as collective security and the Common Defence and Security Policy (CDSP) of the Union, if small states are left unprotected, a security breach in them could be a security breach for the EU as a whole. This has actually happened at different times, e.g. the infiltration of Cypriot diplomatic cables by Chinese hackers, granting the latter access to EU policy and other decision-making functions. I have to emphasise this incident took place (or at least it was reported) in late 2018. Another example is the targetted disinformation campaigns during the lockdown measures in different countries in recent months from outside the EU and the impact they have on all states regardless of size, which can put Union values into jeopardy.

      The ultimate goal here is good collaboration and effective strategic communication. Small states, despite their minimal physical arsenal and capabilities in the real world, they should maintain a good cyber presence and to top up their security game by investing more in experts and technology.

      The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that important tools and state functions need a better online presence more than ever. Surely, there are services that cannot be replicated online, though when we talk about foreign policy strategy in a post-COVID-19 world, we must acknowledge the importance of cyber tools and digital technologies in communicating and in securing our communities.

      So, to answer the question on what will be a response from the small EU members in a world that is dominated by larger countries, this interconnectedness through the world markets and our established economic models, the ongoing strategic partnerships we set up, small and large states alike – these all affect policy. Small states do have a say, and larger countries will have to acknowledge that, not only because they engage in partnership with them, but also because of these security risks they may run into. At the end, it is a win-win situation, both for satisfying self-interest, but also for general prosperity and security, as well as for the survival of the EU as a community.

    • #6121
      Lily LlewellynLily Llewellyn
      671 Points

      Thank you for this piece, Dino.  Very interesting!

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