From the Editor
In the beginning of 2011 Lithuania was confronted with a new, previously unknown challenge to its diplomacy. For the first time Lithuania chaired the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This is an inspiring result of Lithuania’s efforts to become a trustworthy and reliable country able to assume responsibility for such a challenging task. The Lithuanian Chairmanship of the OSCE confirms the belief that a small country can also be an active and visible player in the international politics at both the regional and global levels. This is a good example of how membership in international organisations can provide even a small country with limited resources and influence with new instruments and abilities to expand its structural and normative power.
The first half of the Chairmanship was not an easy one. After the presidential elections in December 2010, the Belarusian regime increased pressure on opposition parties inside the country and demonstrated unwillingness to cooperate with European institutions even in modest attempts to move toward democratisation and liberalisation. At the end of 2010, Alexander Lukashenko ordered to close the OSCE Office in Minsk thereby demonstrating that international advice and help are not welcome by the Belarusian regime. The mandate of the OSCE Office in Minsk expired on 31 December 2010 and the closing process was completed on 31 March 2011.
The tension in frozen conflicts monitored by the OSCE was also on the rise. One of the biggest concerns of Lithuania’s Chairmanship of the OSCE had to do with the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia still have to find their way to pursue the path of building trust. The latest developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, however, have gone the opposite direction. Snipers on both sides periodically violate the cease-fire regime along the line of contact and result in a growing number of casualties. On March 18, in Yerevan, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis urged the authorities to work toward progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process and called for both sides to immediately withdraw snipers from the line of contact. His plea, however, received reserved reaction.
Lithuania’s Chairmanship of the OSCE should be an indispensable experience for the country before it takes the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2013. The formulation of initiatives and engagement in conflict resolution during its Chairmanship in the OSCE should provide Lithuania with good practice and a better understanding of compromise-building mechanisms so needed for the forthcoming EU Council presidency. According to some analytical studies, until now, the Baltic States have largely remained passive policy-takers in the EU, adopting EU regulations and avoiding initiatives. Professor Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, Director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science (Vilnius University), takes a closer look at the early years of the EU membership of the Baltic States. His article “National preferences and bargaining of the new member states since the enlargement of the EU: the Baltic States – still policy takers?” addresses the sources of preference formation of the European policy of the Baltic States. The author analyses key policy areas where Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian institutions have been the most active and identifies factors that account for the varying degree of influence and success with which these countries have been able to upload their national policy preferences onto the EU agenda.
The topic of influence of a small country and dilemmas within its foreign policy is further developed by Galina Vaščenkaitė, a PhD student at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science. Her article “The discrepancy of Lithuanian foreign policy: “Normative” deeds for the “Realpolitik” needs?” provides an attempt to evaluate Lithuanian foreign policy in the context of the EU’s normative power. The author explores the normative dimension of Lithuania’s foreign policy in recent years and its correspondence to the normative dimension of the EU. The author argues that Lithuania fails to succeed in becoming the beneficiary of as well as a contributor to the EU’s normative power primarily because, under the normative façade of its foreign policy, Lithuania’s actions on international arena are still determined by the Realpolitik way of thinking.
Another example of the normative power of a small country is provided by Rok Zupančič, a PhD student and research-fellow at the University of Ljubljana. His article is entitled “Normative power as a means of a small state in international relations: the role of Slovenia within ‘the EU concert’ of normative power in the Western Balkans”. The author argues that, in order to be seen as ‘a normative power contributor’ in a wider framework of normative power of the EU, Slovenia has predominantly relied on the measures of normative power, which it has aimed to apply primarily in the Western Balkans. As the author states, by seeking to obtain credibility both in the Western Balkans and in the EU, Slovenia aspires to become ‘the normative power bridge’ between the EU and the Western Balkans. It is concluded, however, that occasionally inconsistent and hasty policies are decreasing chances for Slovenia to be perceived as a normative power in the framework of the EU and the Western Balkans.
Dr. Arūnas Molis has contributed to this issue of the LFPR with an analysis of the Baltic States’ approach towards the most important aspect of the external dimension of the common EU energy policy, viz., EU-Russia energy cooperation. His article entitled “Transforming the EU-Russia energy relations: the Baltic States’ vision” aims to explain why, though heavily dependent on supplies from Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia advocate for measures which are, in fact, impeding the development of closer EU-Russia energy relations. The author concludes that, according to the Baltic States, the status quo of EU-Russia energy relations cannot be considered as strategic, predictable, and equally beneficial for both parties in the partnership. The Baltic States argue that it represents asymmetrical producer-consumer relations that neither boost the aspired modernisation and transformation of Russia, nor oblige Russia to fulfil its commitments to supply Europe with the promised amount of gas. Therefore, it would be in the interest of the EU to conclude a long term agreement on energy issues with Russia.
Energy issues of the EU are further explored by Serena Bonato. Her article “Tackling energy dependency. Shale gas potential in the Baltic Sea region and in Europe” elaborates on the issue of the growing sphere of unconventional gas in Europe. Hence, the case study of shale gas potentials and prospects in the Baltic Sea Basin directs attention to the peculiarities of the Polish shale. As the author states, Baltic energy security is considering the prospects of shale gas development in order to lessen the dependency on Russian gas supplies. Bonato concludes, however, that it is highly unlikely that Europe will undergo “a shale gas revolution” any time soon. The decline in EU conventional production is unlikely to be replaced by shale gas in the short term, hence LNG and pipeline imports will remain important for the foreseeable future, Bonato argues.
Our Opinion section this time consists of two pieces of research. The first opinion article is written by Rainer Eisfeld, an Emeritus Professor of Political Science University of Osnabrueck and a Research Committee Representative to the IPSA Executive Committee. In his article entitled “Towards creating a discipline with a ‘Regional Stamp’: Central-East European political science and ethno-cultural diversity”, Eisfeld argues in favour of a comparatively informed Central-East European variety of political science with a „regional stamp“ that would focus on ethno-cultural pluralisation as a thematic issue. The author also provides suggestions on several approaches and projects in the region which might point the way.
Professor Raimundas Lopata, President of the Lithuanian-American Association, devotes his opinion article to the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth – a prominent president of the US who contributed heavily to the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is a small, but very interesting article elaborating on President Reagan’s influence on changes in the U.S. and in the world. I wish you an interesting and inspiring reading.
Editor in Chief Tomas Janeliūnas