March 29, 2008
Globalisation connects people, societies and economies in an unprecedented way, so it is very useful to analyise the stability of countries in a comparative way. The most recent global toolkit is Jane’s Country Risk, which puts the EU in general into a favorable light, but it also highlights possible risks that will effect the lives of Europeans.
Jane’s Country Risk (JCR) is a global scoring system produced by the London-centered global defence research and publication company, Jane’s Information Group. It is not available freely, but it has been widely quoted in the European press. It will be updated every month if necessary. Foreign Policy has a free, yearly assessment, the Failed State Index. This ranking has a narrower focus, but in general it serves the same purpose.
Accordig to a Hungarian interview, JCR recognizes the top 80 countries and areas out of the 235 surveyed as non-problematic. The US ranks 24th, the first 23 places are mostly taken by EU or EEA member states and the such European mini states as the Vatican or Monaco. The top ten comprise the Vatican, Sweden, Luxembourg, Monaco, Gibraltar, San Marino, the United Kingdom, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands and the Irish Republic. The Visegrad countries still score well: the Czech Republic takes the 30th, Slovakia 35th, Poland 47th and Hungary the 55th place. (Here is a published list of the top 50). This is a very good feedback on the general purpose of the EU, which is to maintain peace and prosperity in its territory.
The JCR and the Failed States Index build on a number of generalizations and simplifications, thus they are not very useful for assessing individual countries. However, they are very useful tools in general policy-making.
The EU seems to be effected by two risks. First of all, it is the neighbor of middle-risk areas, such as the former Soviet republics, the Balkans and the Mediterranean. The unstability of these countries may bring a lot of misfortune and misery to their inhabitants, and may be the source of migration. Instability can cut trade relationships and thus directly effect the economies of neighboring EU country. These problems are well known in EU countries that were faced with such instability in their neighborhood: a disruption of natural gas shipment through Ukraine or the devastating effect of the former Yugoslavian wars on the local economies of the neighbors. These risks can be relatively easily quantified and they justify the heavy EU-involvment in the Balkans. The second risk needs more analysis. For instance, some of the EU energy import partners are the least stable countries in the world. Managing these risks can also have a direct effect on the life and prosperity of Europeans.Dániel Antal