Baltic exchanges, Balkan questions

February 23, 1996

European Brief Edited by Roderick Crawford Montfort Press, bimonthly, Pounds 60.00 ISSN 1354 5507

There already exists a plethora of journals and magazines devoted to a range of competing European issues, but European Brief is certainly one of the most useful. It provides a platform for a wide raft of current issues in articles by European academics and the occasional contribution by political figures, such as Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian renewal party, the Catalan premier, Jordi Pujol, and Gyula Horn, prime minister of Hungary.

Generally speaking the journal is Eurocentric in outlook, without, refreshingly, being too EU-centric, and concentrates on social, economic and political issues. About a third of each edition covers international relations, with a third on EU affairs and another third on trade and industry, in a format of between 70 and 110 pages. Special attention is paid to developments in Eastern and Central Europe and the Soviet successor states. An average edition, chosen at random, is divided into sections on defence and security, the Balkans, Europe of the regions, the environment, monetary affairs, employment, the European Union, and trade, industry and agriculture. The purview of the journal covers a number of current issues - the role of Nato vis-a-vis Russia; whether or not Turkey should be kept out, or indeed stay out of the European Union; and the military and defence capacity of the EU.

Arresting titles such as "Why the Serbs are not to blame" and "Why Eastern Europe should keep out of Nato" provide food for thought. There is also a sense of continuity in the treatment of on-going issues from a number of competing angles. The most obvious example has been the continued analysis of the current Balkan crises. However, 1995 also witnessed a number of articles in different editions relating to various situations and issues in the Baltic states. Whereas one text outlined how the Baltic states wished to join Nato out of fear of a resurgent Russia, another, by emphasising the controversial problem posed by the Kaliningrad enclave and how the position of the Russian ethnic minorities in the Baltics might affect Russian foreign policy, argued that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania might achieve more by cooperating more openly with their giant neighbour.

Given the polemical debate over language policies in the Baltic states, particularly with regard to Russian ethnic minorities and their citizenship rights, it came as a supreme irony that their recently constructed military organisation, Baltbat, should use Russian as its lingua franca.

Although European Brief employs an approach that includes Russia and European relations with the wider world, it is a pity that the Continent's relations with the developing world receive only cursory attention. Arguably the review might also benefit from the inclusion of a correspondence page.

Nevertheless there is little doubt that European Brief provides an excellent tool for academics and students involved in international relations, the social sciences and contemporary history, to say nothing of the political, social and economic aspects of multidisciplinary subjects such as European studies.

Robert C. Hudson is programme leader and senior lecturer in European studies, University of Derby.

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