European Foreign Policy Under Pressure by ayb11560


									                                        European Foreign Policy Under Pressure

    European Foreign Policy
        Under Pressure

                             KIRSTY HUGHES
                              Senior Fellow
                   Centre for European Policy Studies

         he European Union is under increasing pressure to develop a strong,
         strategic, political voice in the world. Its large and increasing size and
         role in the global economy only serves to underline the disparity with its
weak political voice and influence. When 10 more countries join the Union in
2004, its population will be close to half a billion. But progress towards a genuine
European foreign policy is slow and inadequate. Furthermore, the speed of
progress is certainly not fast enough to allow the EU to rise adequately to the
multiple and urgent global challenges on the agenda.
         At the Laeken Summit in 2001, the EU’s leaders set high ambitions for
developing a new and strong role for the EU in the world. In their declaration,
they asked rhetorically, “does Europe not, now that it is finally unified, have a
leading role to play in a new world order, that of a power able both to play a
stabilising role worldwide and to point the way ahead for many countries and
peoples?” They went on to establish a Convention on the Future of Europe and
tasked it with producing political and institutional structures and changes to
meet three main challenges: to increase democracy, to manage the politics of
the enlarged EU, and to enable the EU to become a stabilizing power and a
model to others in the world. But while the Convention will produce a draft
constitutional treaty in June 2003, a final new treaty is unlikely to be implemented
until 2006.

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Kirsty Hughes

         More importantly, the experience and evidence to date demonstrates
that the Union has enormous difficulty in developing a genuine strategic and
substantial Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Treaty and institutional
changes on their own cannot get around the basic fact that the EU is not a
single state and that the current 15 Member States do not have the political will
sufficient to forge a substantive common foreign policy.
         Despite the many current differences of opinion between Europe and
the United States—not least in responding to the global terrorist threat, on the
Iraq crisis, and on the Middle East more generally—there has been no clear,
consistent, strategic European voice. The magnitude and severity of current
global challenges and crises have not pressured Europeans to express and
promote their common views and values—including where they differ from the
United States—but rather have tended to highlight the disagreements and
divergences within the EU. Those analyses that outline U.S.-European differences
and suggest that European views will only get a stronger hearing in Washington
when Europe shoulders more of the defense burden miss the point to a substantial
extent. While analysts can see the outline of a common European position, the
EU Member States themselves are very far from developing, agreeing on, and
implementing a common foreign policy strategy.
         While the Convention may devise some important recommendations to
strengthen European foreign policy, the speed of progress is likely to remain
very slow relative to the speed and urgency of unfolding global events. Moreover,
the enlargement of the EU to 25 Member States (and 27 in 2007) will add new
strains and difficulties to developing a common foreign policy.

Problems In Building A Common Foreign Policy

There are a variety of reasons underlying the EU’s highly limited progress in
developing its common foreign and security policy. At heart, the problem is
twofold: differing definitions and perceptions of national interest (and, by
extension, of European interest) and differing analyses and views on appropriate
policy strategies for different challenges. But there is another important issue,
even where interests and strategies converge: the reluctance to give up the
prerogative of national action and national initiatives.
        This lack of political will in developing the CFSP is not evenly spread
across the EU’s Member States. Some of the smaller Member States, such as
Belgium and Luxembourg, are more ready to consider a genuine, deeper pooling
of sovereignty, but other smaller countries, such as Greece, are much less ready
to contemplate constraints on independent foreign policy making. The countries
with most to lose are those who see themselves as having the strongest voices
internationally in their own national foreign policy (i.e. France and the United

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Kingdom). Until France and the United Kingdom are ready to build a strong
EU foreign policy—inevitably limiting their own individual freedom of maneuver
in the process—little progress will be made. Both countries, of course, are
permanent members of the UN Security Council, and it is difficult to foresee
any deal in the next decade whereby they would give up their seats to be replaced
by an EU seat. Thus, while the strong European belief in multilateralism as a
guiding principle for international relations drives it to underline the importance
of the UN, it is the EU’s own representation in that body (or rather its Member
States’ representation) that strongly contributes to the EU’s difficulty in forming
a genuine CFSP.
         The EU has developed in the last decade, and especially in the last three
to four years, a much stronger set of institutional structures and procedures to
support and develop its foreign policy. But the combination of differences in
interests and lack of political will tend to mean that the more important and
more urgent issues are less likely to be dealt with through a common strategy,
while the less contentious and less urgent may result in a common strategy. The
Iraq crisis strongly illustrates the former case. Not only did the United Kingdom,
France, and Germany adopt different analyses and strategies, but any attempt
to coordinate effectively in search of any coherent joint approach was notable
in the second half of 2002 by its absence. A more positive example of a common
international approach by the EU is the Kyoto agreement—certainly an important
issue, but also one where the
pace of developments was
well suited to the EU’s slow The tendency toward a “lowest
and complex diplomatic common denominator” outcome,
process of coming to a joint in order to preserve the illusion
position. Initially, it appeared
that the International Criminal of unity, is another problematic
Court (ICC) might also be characteristic of the attempts at a
classified as an EU foreign European foreign policy.
policy success. But in the face
of U.S. demands for exemption
from the Court, the EU common position crumbled from strong to weak, not
least due to British unwillingness to confront the United States on the issue.
This tendency toward a “lowest common denominator” outcome, in order to
preserve the illusion of unity, is another problematic characteristic of the
attempts at a European foreign policy.
         The reluctance to develop a substantive strategic foreign policy is
reflected in the EU’s institutional structures for foreign policy making, although
these have certainly improved. The creation of the post of High Representative
for CFSP, currently occupied by Javier Solana, has been important in giving a

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Kirsty Hughes

consistent face to EU foreign policy and to the management of the existing
coordination and policy structures. The creation of new committee structures—
in particular, the Political and Security Committee (PSC)—has created
organizational structures for the EU to define and develop common analyses
and strategies. But Solana can only act with the authority of the EU’s foreign
ministers. He also has to compete as the EU’s foreign policy face with the head
of the rotating six-month EU presidency and with the individual foreign policy
pronouncements of individual Member State prime and foreign ministers.
         The PSC, though an important step forward in principle, has also yet to
show its full value; the lack of commitment and consistency of Member States
is demonstrated, in part, by the varying seniority level of government appointees
to the PSC. Moreover, the common strategies formulated by the EU are often
so general and vague as to be of little value. Pierre de Boissieu, Deputy Secretary-
General of the Council of Ministers, acknowledged this to the external action
working group of the Convention on the Future of Europe where, according to
the minutes, he emphasized the lack of content in the Union’s common actions
and strategies. A further illustration of the lack of seriousness of the CFSP is
the limited funding available. In his evidence to the Convention working group,
Solana asserted that “the CFSP budget line for 2002 is not just negligible—it is
laughable: 35 million euro.” Financing, as much as institutional change, is an
important indicator of seriousness of intent.
         Decision-making remains intergovernmental and based on unanimity.
At the same time, many of the tools of foreign policy—including emergency
and humanitarian aid, plus other relevant international policies such as trade
and development—lie within the European Commission. This leads to a variety
of coordination problems. As Solana again admitted in evidence to the
Convention, “the current, strong cooperation between myself and [External
Relations Commissioner] Chris Patten is based on friendship and personal
chemistry, rather than obvious institutional arrangements.”
         Overall, while the Convention is expected to propose a number of
improvements in institutional arrangements, most of the problems described
above are fundamentally political in nature, and until the EU Member States
are prepared to make different political choices concerning European foreign
policy, institutions will reflect the current political choices and priorities.

Impact of Enlargement

The enlargement of the EU to include 10 new Member States in 2004 can be
seen as one of the most important successes of European foreign policy broadly
defined. The prospect of EU accession—despite the unnecessarily slow pace
of the process—has clearly helped to underpin political and economic transition

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in the candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe; a success which
contrasts sharply with the EU’s failures until recently in the Balkans. But
enlargement will in many ways exacerbate the difficulties the Union faces in
attempting to forge a stronger foreign policy.
         No one is entirely sure how the enlarged EU will function and operate,
either as a political or as an economic actor. Not only will the number of Member
States increase from 15 to 25 (and later 27), but economic and political diversity
in the Union will also increase substantially. The EU’s geography and political
borders will also change, as countries from Estonia in the north to Slovenia,
Cyprus, and Malta in the south become full Member States. In the EU 25, only
six countries will have a population of over 40 million (Germany, France, the
United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Poland). While some in the larger countries
search for ways to create at least an informal directoire of the “bigs” in the foreign
policy area, the smaller countries will not easily accept this, nor does the evidence
suggest that there would be sufficient consensus among the “bigs” to create
such a directoire.
         Enlargement will increase the diversity of foreign policy interests,
analyses, and approaches. Forging a consensus on priorities between say, Finland
and Estonia in the north, Greece and Cyprus in the southeast, and Spain and
Portugal in the southwest will be difficult. Solidarity, coherence, and effectiveness
will be ever more difficult to achieve. But enlargement will demand a new foreign
policy, at least in the wider European region. Until now, it has been possible to
say that enlargement represents the EU’s strategic foreign policy to its nearest
neighbors in Eastern Europe. But after enlargement, the EU will have a whole
new set of neighbors which will demand more foreign policy consideration and
strategies than at present, from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine down to Turkey.
So far, there is little sign of such further consideration.
         At a summit meeting in early 2002, European leaders asked Solana and
Patten to produce a document for discussion among the EU’s foreign ministers
on the EU’s new neighbors. But by the end of the year, there was little evidence
of substantial new strategic initiatives in the offing. Currently, the EU’s relations
with its neighboring countries tend to be based on a series of piecemeal, relatively
ad hoc, micro-level initiatives. There has been some technical assistance funding
and various declarations of cooperation such as the Partnership and Cooperation
agreements with Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus. But these do not provide
any major openings in terms of trade or free movement of people, let alone
serious political dialogue. In addition, the EU’s concerns about protecting its
borders mean that enlargement itself will actually harden the borders between
the current candidates and the new neighbors.
         The EU also finds it difficult to define relationships with neighbors when
enlargement and future accession is not the obvious or desirable route. Russia,

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to the relief of officials in Brussels, is not showing even distant interest in the
prospects of EU membership. But Ukraine is, and this is causing concern. Current
policy appears to be to rule out potential membership for the next 10 or 20
years but not forever. This leads to talk of giving Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova
a “European perspective” but not a “membership perspective.”
         Developing such a “European perspective” is difficult, not least, as the
Solana-Patten paper admits, because the EU has virtually no formal relations
with Belarus at present, and Moldova—Europe’s poorest country—is in a state
of crisis. The Commission is working on a “proximity policy,” which may propose
upgrading existing partnership and cooperation agreements with Ukraine and
Moldova into new Neighborhood Agreements. But such a move may be an
intensification—or even just a renaming—of a range of existing micro-level
initiatives, rather than any genuine new strategic approach.
         Then there is the Russia-EU relationship. Brussels recognizes that Russia
needs to be treated differently but seems unsure how to take the political
initiative. Russia has long tended to view the EU as an economic rather than a
political player and, particularly since 11 September, has given its relations with
the United States first priority. While the EU-Russia dialogue over the common
European economic space has become more focused, Russian participants are
impatient to see concrete results.
         EU foreign policy, as one Russian political observer puts it with deliberate
understatement, “is seen as neither active nor efficient.” In Brussels, ideas are
emerging for some form of common European political space, but little
substance is yet visible. Recent examples of EU incoherence abound, from
France and the United Kingdom lobbying Moscow with different messages on
the UN Iraq resolution, to the pragmatic decision in November 2002 to prioritize
a deal on transit over Kaliningrad, to making any political statement on the
situation in Chechnya.
         Perhaps enlargement, once it occurs, will focus minds on the regional
dimension. But differing geopolitical interests in the new neighbors will add to
the complexity. For now, there is no overall strategy for the wider Europe or for
the EU as a regional power. But if the EU cannot be an effective regional power
and cannot agree on a strong common foreign policy for its own region, there is
little hope of it doing so further afield—not even in Africa, let alone in Asia or
other regions of the world.

Will Institutional Reform Help?

The Convention on the Future of Europe is due to reach its final conclusions
by June 2003, but many of its likely directions and proposals will be clear before
then. Many of the most important battles within the Convention essentially

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                                         European Foreign Policy Under Pressure

revolve around differences in opinion as to whether the EU should move in a
more integrationist or a more intergovernmental direction. The EU, as a political
structure, will clearly continue to contain and combine elements of both. But
the key question is whether and to what extent the relative balance between the
two approaches shifts. One central part of this equation is what happens to the
relative roles and powers of the Commission and Council.
         Foreign policy has always been strongly intergovernmental. This is likely
to remain the case as countries such as France and Britain will not support any
big shifts in an integrationist direction, even though many within the Convention
would like to see such a change. The British government’s representative on the
convention, the then-Europe Minister Peter Hain, made Britain’s position very
clear at the July 2002 session of the Convention, where he said, “if foreign
policy is to enjoy legitimacy, there
must be accountability through If the EU cannot be an
elected governments to national
parliaments … this is essentially an effective regional power and
intergovernmental matter. That is cannot agree on a strong
the truth. If you do not recognize common foreign policy for its
that truth, you will not get a serious
foreign policy.” In contrast, the own region, there is little hope
European Commission has of it doing so further afield.
proposed a strongly integrationist
approach in foreign policy, suggesting that the High Representative should be
based within the Commission. Others have suggested that there should be a
“double hatting,” whereby one individual fills the two posts of External Relations
Commissioner and High Representative for CFSP.
         A compromise in the Convention on foreign policy is likely to focus on
various steps both to improve Commission-Council coordination on foreign
policy and to strengthen the role of the High Representative. Solana is expected
to be given the right of initiative (i.e. the ability to initiate policy proposals to
the Council), something he has not had thus far. The High Representative is
also likely to be made permanent chair of a separate Foreign Affairs Council
(moves in this direction were already made at Seville, with the separation of the
former General Affairs Council into two components). This move to a
permanent foreign affairs chair is expected to gain support irrespective of the
Convention’s final decisions on how to deal with the current six-month rotating
presidency of the EU. Patten and Solana may also be allowed to put forward
joint initiatives, with some arguing that when this is done, decisions should also
be made by qualified majority voting. But this would be contentious. It has also
been proposed that the High Representative should be able to attend
Commission meetings when external relations are on the agenda, or the

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Convention may support the “double hatting” option. A further possibility is
the creation of a reinforced, common policy unit working with both the Council
and the Commission.
         The Convention has also looked to improve coordination within and
across the institutions and across the various international policy domains,
including foreign policy, trade, development, and other policy areas that span
the internal/external policy divide, such as environment, energy, and
transportation. Lack of coherence, coordination, and consistency between foreign
policy, trade policy and instruments, and development policy and instruments
is one serious source of weakness in the EU’s attempts to increase its political
weight globally. While suggestions to create an external relations focal point
within each institution—the Commission, the Council, and Parliament—could
be important, such adjustments on their own will not overcome the problems
that arise from the diversity in decision-making and responsibility across these
international policy domains. Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy has called for a
step-by-step approach to model the other international policy domains on the
successful example of trade—an integrationist approach that finds favor with
only some of the Convention. But in the absence of such an approach, it is
difficult to see how major steps in improved international policy coordination
can be made.
         Overall, these specific institutional reforms and proposals would certainly
help the operation of European foreign policy. Furthermore, if the convention
succeeds in agreeing on a statement of the principles and objectives of EU
external action, this could also help to guide and shape future foreign policy.
But statements on international principles and values—from solidarity, to
multilateralism, poverty reduction, and sustainable development—could rapidly
become undermined not only if a stronger European foreign policy does not
                                                           emerge, but also if the
 At a time of great international individual foreign policies
                                                           of the Member States do
 challenges and crises, the EU is failing not at least conform to
 to promote or project a distinctive, those values. Taken
 powerful international strategy.                          together, the statement of
                                                           values and the improved
                                                           institutional mechanisms
could provide the tools to promote convergence and commonality in Member
States’ analysis of foreign policy challenges and strategies. But such progress
will be limited if the political will, both for the convergence of analysis and
prescription and for common action (i.e. for solidarity), does not strengthen

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The European Union continues to discuss and debate the options and routes
through which its political role and weight in the world can be strengthened.
The debates within the Convention on the Future of Europe demonstrate that
when the EU’s global political role is discussed in the most general and abstract
terms, there is almost unanimity on the desirability of Europe playing a strong,
stabilizing role. But once the discussion focuses on detailed options, and
especially on the relative roles of individual national foreign policies and overall
European foreign policy, the unanimity evaporates.
         A strong and effective European common foreign and security policy
cannot be achieved unless the EU’s Member States—especially the larger Member
States—are willing to develop genuine common strategies and to coordinate
and operate consistently within those strategies across all major foreign policy
challenges. There is no evidence yet that there is the political will to do this.
This means that at a time of great international challenges and crises, the EU is
failing to promote or project a distinctive, powerful international strategy. The
enlargement of the EU represents a foreign policy success, but at the same
time, it will make it ever more difficult to achieve a strong global voice. While
the Convention on the Future of Europe is likely to propose some welcome
steps forward, the current stage and pace of development of European foreign
policy is incapable of matching today’s global challenges. This European reality
may be strongly regretted in some quarters, but both European and non-European
political actors will have to confront it and take it into account as they develop
their separate international and global strategies. WA

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