Academic journal article Trames

Bordering and Ordering the European Neighbourhood: A Critical Perspective on EU Territoriality and Geopolitics

Academic journal article Trames

Bordering and Ordering the European Neighbourhood: A Critical Perspective on EU Territoriality and Geopolitics

Article excerpt

"Interdependence--political and economic--with the Union's neighbourhood is already a reality. The emergence of the euro as a significant international currency has created new opportunities for intensified economic relations. Closer geographical proximity means the enlarged EU and the new neighbourhood will have an equal stake in furthering efforts to promote trans-national flows of trade and investment as well as even more important shared interests in working together to tackle transboundary threats--from terrorism to air-borne pollution. The neighbouring countries are the EU's essential partners: to increase our mutual production, economic growth and external trade, to create an enlarged area of political stability and functioning rule of law, and to foster the mutual exchange of human capital, ideas, knowledge and culture" (EU Commission 2003:3).

1. Introduction

The European Union--and its emergence as an international actor of increasing importance--challenges received views of geopolitics, either conventional or critical. Characterised by national difference and socio-cultural heterogeneity, the EU defies interpretation through central narratives of world-systemic order. The EU is a composite polity endowed with several state-like functions but without many of the mandates and treaty-level competencies enjoyed by sovereign states. The EU has an executive, a legislative and a court system yet it, at the writing of this article, lacks a constitution and a common foreign policy. Similarly, in a manner reflecting its institutional mosaic, the EU is a geopolitical actor with different, often conflicting agendas. Some aspects of the EU's geopolitical agenda appear to correspond to traditional Realpolitik and state-based pursuits of self-interest. At another level, however, the EU strives to make an ideational and moral difference in the world, acting as a 'force for good' and promoting a set of values that includes democracy, human rights, social cohesion, gender equality, a market economy, peace and stability, minority rights, and international solidarity.

In this essay I will argue the necessity of linking the emerging geopolitics of the European Union, particularly in terms of its Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), to questions regarding the territorial nature of the EU. The territoriality of the European Union as an institution and political project has attracted attention in a variety of academic fields ranging from International Relations to political geography, but has also inspired a number of cross-disciplinary approaches (see, for example, Mamadouh 2001, Berezin and Schain 2003). Furthermore, the EU's drive to reterritorialise Europe is not a mere academic question, it has very real consequences for people and places. As Luiza Bialasiewicz (2008) has pointed out, the 'soft power' approach of the EU, one that works at the level of society and its transformation, has been rather successful in terms of structuring interstate relations in Post-Cold War Europe. Assuming that the EU's normative power is substantial, the 'soft geopolitics' of the EU has, nevertheless, its hard edge as well. This is evidenced by the establishment of a strict border regime at the outer confines of the Union, securitisation discourses and a conditionality that informs the EU's evolving relations with neighbouring states. Indeed, the emerging geopolitics of the EU as expressed, for example, in the European Neighbourhood Policy, highlights increasing tensions between the EU as an idea and socio-cultural project of community on the one hand and its institutional 'hardening' on the other. Cultural and economic anxieties as well as a perceived loss of control over local affairs, national identity and sovereignty have been increasingly evoked in European debates. As a result, we are currently witnessing what might be termed a 're-bordering' of national-states within the EU and, consequently, a heightened demand for more defensive borders (e. …

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