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Too Small to Make an Impact?

The Czech Republic’s Influence on the European Union’s Foreign Policy

Marek Neuman

Do small EU member states exert influence over the EU’s foreign policy-making process? Ten years after the Czech Republic joined the European Union, Marek Neuman attempts to answer this question by looking into whether Prague succeeded in translating its foreign policy preferences vis-à-vis Russia and the larger post-Soviet space into the EU’s foreign policy making. Looking at three policy portfolios – the EU’s Eastern neighborhood, energy security, and external democratization – he argues that the Czech influence varies across issue areas and time. In studying the role of member states in EU foreign policy formation, he concludes that three master variables – quality of the national preference, ability to position oneself as a norm entrepreneur, and the character of interstate negotiations together with one’s negotiation skills – determine a state’s ability to make a difference in Brussels.
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Chapter Three: From a Forgotten Region to Prague’s Protégé: the European Union’s Eastern Neighborhood


“The Czech Republic primarily needs to answer the question of whether and how it wants to influence the formation of the EU’s Eastern policy. Whether it has certain interests in the CIS region that it would like to promote through the EU. […] Or whether it will “only” participate in the formation of a common EU policy, providing it – also due to its own unmistakable historical experience – with a specific dimension and a unique – or, if you wish, sharper – perspective on the Russian reality.”193Vladimír Votápek

In the last two decades, the Czech Republic has grown increasingly concerned about Russia’s ever firmer grip on its own backyard, which was one reason behind Prague becoming a strong supporter of the European Neighbourhood Policy launched by the European Union. Prague regarded the ENP as a mechanism that enabled the strengthening of relations between the EU and Eastern European countries, while at the same time obstructing Russia’s deeper incursion into the region. Yet, over time, Prague came to realize that this policy was inadequate in addressing the challenges lying East of the EU’s border and did not provide individual Eastern European countries with the possibility to disentangle themselves from Moscow. Consequently, Prague set out to provide the ENP with a specific Eastern dimension, effectively challenging Russia’s interests in the shared area. Whether Prague was successful in translating its national preference vis-à-vis the EU’s immediate Eastern neighborhood into an EU-wide policy forms the focus of this chapter.

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