1. The Eastern Neighbours and Russia

Eagerness to Reengage, but Conditional on Good Behaviour

Rus­si­a’s recent aggres­sive actions towards Ukraine are of an unprece­dent­ed nature and scope in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Rus­si­a’s role in solv­ing the Ukraine con­flict should, there­fore, remain deci­sive for the EU’s rela­tions with Rus­sia in the fore­see­able future. If Rus­sia plays a con­struc­tive role in achiev­ing an accept­able solu­tion to the Ukraine con­flict, there is basis for re-estab­lish­ing EU-Rus­sia rela­tions with a view to pro­mot­ing mutu­al polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic inter­ests. Den­mark wish­es to fol­low the EU line when it comes to rela­tions to Rus­sia and is ful­ly behind the com­mon EU mea­sures regard­ing Rus­sia con­cern­ing its desta­bi­liz­ing mea­sures towards Ukraine.

How­ev­er, Den­mark still seeks to bal­ance prag­mat­ic nation­al inter­ests (espe­cial­ly strong Dan­ish inter­ests in sus­tain­ing the Dan­ish-Russ­ian coop­er­a­tion in the Artic) while then not divert­ing from the EU track. Den­mark has sup­port­ed all rounds of sanc­tions ear­ly but not been a dri­ving force in the process.  Gen­er­al­ly, the over­all effect of sanc­tions on Dan­ish GNP is very lim­it­ed. How­ev­er, there are cer­tain sec­tors which are affect­ed to a large extent, espe­cial­ly the food sec­tor fol­low­ing the Russ­ian food embar­go. This is espe­cial­ly the Dan­ish meat (pig) production.

The effects on the Dan­ish econ­o­my result­ing from the sanc­tions have been wide­ly debat­ed in Dan­ish media, but the protests, includ­ing from the affect­ed busi­ness­es sec­tors, has not been par­tic­u­lar­ly harsh. Rather, the gen­er­al line has been that this is a nec­es­sary evil of the sanc­tions which Den­mark sup­ports firmly.


Despite Conflict, Reason to Hope for Further European Integration

The dra­mat­ic events in Ukraine dur­ing the last year and a half (Maid­an, Crimea, and con­flict in East­ern Ukraine) have cre­at­ed insta­bil­i­ty, inse­cu­ri­ty, armed con­flict and chal­lenged the Euro­pean Secu­ri­ty Sys­tem — but have also led to an inten­si­fied and deep­er engage­ment and coop­er­a­tion with Ukraine, Geor­gia and Moldo­va in par­tic­u­lar. Den­mark has con­tin­u­ous­ly sup­port­ed the EU sanc­tions imposed on Rus­sia and expressed its full sup­port of the Min­sk process.

Summit Successful, but in the Context of Lower Expectations

The Riga Sum­mit was gen­er­al­ly very pos­i­tive­ly received. Despite dis­agree­ments with­in the EU, between the EU and the part­ner states and among the part­ner states them­selves in the run up to Riga, these were solved before it got under­way and paved the path for a suc­cess­ful Sum­mit. Den­mark saw it as cru­cial­ly impor­tant that the East­ern Part­ner­ship was kept unit­ed and togeth­er. Den­mark eval­u­ates the out­come of the sum­mit by bear­ing in mind that from the out­set it was clear that this sum­mit wouldn’t be rich on new agree­ments like the Vil­nius Sum­mit. Riga con­sist­ed more of “stock­tak­ing”. How­ev­er, it is pos­i­tive that the Riga Sum­mit dec­la­ra­tion con­tains strate­gic direc­tion for the devel­op­ment of the East­ern Part­ner­ship beyond Riga in the form of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion: tak­ing as the point of depar­ture the ambi­tions and capa­bil­i­ties of each part­ner individually.

Rejection of EU Army, Strong Support for NATO

Due to the Dan­ish opt-out of all defence-relat­ed aspects of the EU Com­mon For­eign and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy (CFSP), Den­mark has a unique per­spec­tive on Euro­pean secu­ri­ty and defence issues that sets it apart from the Euro­pean main­stream. The opt-out on defence coop­er­a­tion was estab­lished in 1992 with the Dan­ish ‘No’ vote on the Maas­tricht Treaty. A cen­tral ratio­nale behind the for­ma­tion of the defence opt-out was the fear that the EU would grad­u­al­ly devel­op an EU army that could under­mine NATO and the transat­lantic rela­tion­ship. Thus, Den­mark would not be able to par­tic­i­pate in any aspects of an EU army nor would it sup­port the idea, which goes against the gen­er­al pub­lic will.


2. EU Enlargement

Support for Reforms and Continued Partnership, but ‘Not Yet’ for Membership

The Ukraine cri­sis has not led to any changes of strate­gic direc­tion in the Dan­ish posi­tion on EU enlarge­ment to the East. Den­mark shares the view of a clear major­i­ty of EU mem­ber states that the ques­tion of pos­si­ble EU-enlarge­ment to the east is not on the table.

Den­mark sup­ports a deep­en­ing and strength­en­ing of the present rela­tion between the EU and the East­ern Part­ner­ship states – that is, that the part­ners con­cerned can achieve clos­er polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic inte­gra­tion with the EU (through the imple­men­ta­tion of the Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment and the Deep and Com­pre­hen­sive Free Trade Area agree­ment). Thus, the East­ern Part­ners can help them­selves move clos­er to the EU by imple­ment­ing reforms and exist­ing agree­ments. Polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic reforms are essen­tial to all six part­ner coun­tries – regard­less of their rela­tions with the EU. The same goes for good gov­er­nance, the fight against cor­rup­tion, rule of law, and human rights.

The gen­er­al Dan­ish per­spec­tive is that con­di­tion­al­i­ty with a firm focus on rule of law, eco­nom­ic gov­er­nance, and pub­lic sec­tor reform is a key to a viable enlarge­ment pol­i­cy. Thus, EU mem­ber­ship per­spec­tive is the most effec­tive tool for sta­bil­i­sa­tion and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment of the con­ti­nent. For it to work, it is nec­es­sary to show cred­i­bil­i­ty and hon­our progress, but also address short­com­ings in aspir­ing coun­tries head on. Den­mark stands by its com­mit­ment to con­tin­u­a­tion of the enlarge­ment process. Even though Rus­sia exerts its influ­ence in the East­ern neigh­bour­hood, in par­tic­u­lar in the West­ern Balka­ns, the enlarge­ment process and the soci­etal trans­for­ma­tions of the coun­tries involved are inde­pen­dent means and the pace will not be dic­tat­ed by Rus­sia but by the progress made in and by the states themselves.


This EU-28 Watch is part of the a project called ‘East­ern Neigh­bours and Rus­sia: Close links with EU cit­i­zens’ (ENURC) in col­lab­o­ra­tion with TEPSA (Trans Euro­pean Pol­i­cy Stud­ies Asso­ci­a­tion). The project focus­es on devel­op­ing EU cit­i­zens’ under­stand­ing of the top­ic of the East­ern Neigh­bour­hood and Rus­sia and aims at encour­ag­ing their inter­est and involve­ment in this pol­i­cy which has an impact on their dai­ly lives.

The EU-28 Watch project is map­ping out the dis­cours­es on these issues in Euro­pean poli­cies all over Europe. Research insti­tutes from all 28 mem­ber states are invit­ed to give overviews on the dis­cours­es in their respec­tive countries.

This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2015. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2015. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the recent­ly relaunched EU-28 Watch web­site:

The EU-28 Watch No. 11 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.