Journal of International Relations and Development

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 469–488

When ‘blurring’ becomes the norm and secession is justified as the exception: revisiting EU and Russian discourses in the common neighbourhood

  • Eiki Berg
  • Martin Mölder

DOI: 10.1057/jird.2014.2

Cite this article as:
Berg, E. & Mölder, M. J Int Relat Dev (2014) 17: 469. doi:10.1057/jird.2014.2


This paper takes a closer look at the discourses of the EU and Russia in relation to the ground-breaking events in Kosovo (1999/2008) and the South Caucasus (2008) while digging deep into the discursive practices and contextual aspects of these conflicts. We will argue that, on a more abstract level, the EU and Russia were applying the same logic of discourse — either professing humanitarian concerns, including ‘responsibility to protect’, or emphasising ‘obligation to refrain’ — across these similar instances of intervention and secession declared to be exceptions by both. Across these cases, both actors were not only blurring the common understanding of these terms and the rules of their application in practice, but also advancing implicitly such blurring as, in fact, a norm. However, when the principles in relation to secession are blurred, it is easy to follow the examples of both Russia as well as the EU, depicting specific instances of secession selectively as exceptions and legitimating one’s essentially arbitrary behaviour vis-à-vis the professed international norms.


discourse theoryhumanitarian interventionKosovoterritorial integritythe Caucasus

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eiki Berg
    • 1
  • Martin Mölder
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Government and Politics, University of TartuTartuEstonia
  2. 2.Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations, Central European UniversityBudapestHungary