1 – The EU’s New Strategy: Useful or Pointless?
BSSB.BE carnegieeurope.eu 29.07.2016
Sometimes, timing is just horrible. Under normal circumstances, June 28 should have been a very notable day for anybody involved in the EU’s attempts to build a more unified, meaningful foreign policy.
It was the day on which the European Council in Brussels adopted the brand-new Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy. But after the British referendum on June 23 sealed the UK’s departure from the EU, circumstances were not normal, and so the heads of state and government had very little time for the 60-page document. They waved it through and then moved on.
- This superficial treatment of the new strategy is understandable, but it is also telling. The member states’ political bigwigs could not care less about a document they will not feel bound by. But essentially ignoring the paper was also very unjust.
- Because what the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and her team have cooked up over almost two years is an unusually thoughtful and rich EU document. The EU’s leaders would be well-advised to actually study the document they said yes to.
- The new strategy is one of the few EU texts of its kind that derives its ambition not from some abstract faith in the integration idea but from urgent necessity. The hyperbole—and there is hyperbole in the text—does not feel as stale as it usually does.
- The document should be read as a sign that its authors have understood the brutal seriousness of Europe’s bleak geopolitical situation. They use their big words not to lull you in but to wake you up. That might look like a small difference, but the mind-set behind it is miles away from the lazy attitude of conventional EU documents.
So what are the new strategy’s strengths and weaknesses?
Let’s start with the strengths. The document strikes a fine balance between reduced and increased ambition. It establishes the concept of “principled pragmatism,” anchoring its prescription in a realism that is direly needed in the EU. Importantly, it stops overestimating the transformative power of the EU, which observers believed to be very strong only to find out that nearly nowhere in its wider neighborhood has the EU had any decisive influence on how things unfolded.
Most strikingly, as the Egmont Institute’s Sven Biscop has argued in his analysis of the new strategy, the overbearing language on democracy promotion has disappeared. This was highly overdue, not because democracy is no longer desirable, but because promoting it is better done silently, not with missionary zeal that tends to fall flat.
By contrast, the document gets very ambitious at the policy level. It contains a large number of concrete proposals, not spelled out in detail, but defined precisely enough to point toward action, not just good intentions. Whether any of these suggestions will be picked up by the member states is another question. But one can’t blame Mogherini and her team for engaging in just lofty talk.
Another strength is the silent farewell to the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy. The ENP is mentioned a few times, but merely to pay tribute to a term that can’t be ignored entirely. Conceptually, it is replaced by two things: resilience as the new guiding principle of the EU’s relationship with its immediate surroundings; and an emphasis on tailored approaches to individual countries. Out goes the idea of a somewhat coherent space around Europe.
Posted by: JAN TECHAU
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* Youtube – Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. “Democratic Culture”.
* Youtube – Noam Chomsky Teaches William F. Buckley a Thing or Two.
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