Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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A tool for distinctive, coherent and consistent external EU action

By Mr Álvaro de Vasconcelos, Director of the European Union Institute for Security Studie

The constitutional treaty proposed that there should be a ‘Union Minister for Foreign Affairs’, and the Brussels European Council held under the German Presidency confirmed the broad agreement on the need for such a post alongside the permanent Presidency of the European Council. This is a crucial development for the EU’s external action. Combining the community’s instruments – from economic assistance to human rights promotion – with the instruments of political dialogue will ensure, it is hoped, the increased coherence of the EU’s external action. Equally important is the contribution this institutional redesign can make to the EU’s long-held aim of achieving ‘unity in action’.
Combining Europe’s formidable soft power with a measure of hard power will hopefully allow the European Union’s might to bear on the resolution of global problems. The EU is increasingly seen as an ‘international public good’ without which the present state of international disorder cannot be overcome. Unilateralism has blatantly failed, but multilateralism has yet to materialise fully, let alone effectively.
The EUISS will increasingly have to contribute to improving our understanding of current global realities, in a world that is reverting to multipolarity. It must do this in support of the EU’s stated aim of achieving effective multilateralism, taking into consideration the need to engage both the new and old poles of the international system in that project. The challenge is indeed to ‘multilateralise’ the emerging multipolarity.
Under the Portuguese presidency, in the second half of 2007, the EU will hold summit meetings with Brazil, China, India and Russia. Only seven years ago, at the time of Portugal’s previous turn at the EU’s helm, summit efforts were principally directed at integrating regions and sub-regions, not world powers or the so-called BRIC. While organising EU external relations must reflect the current realities of a multipolar world, the Union must not abandon the emphasis on regional cooperation and integration as a means of reining in and regulating globalisation. Combining the current trend towards bilateralism with regionalism and multilateralism is essential if the EU is to do its share in resolving the grave problems facing mankind and preserve its identity as a global player.
In parallel, the Institute should cater to the increasing worldwide ‘demand for Europe’, particularly in the southern and eastern neighbourhoods of the European periphery where crises and turmoil parallel the desire to forge a common destiny with Europe. The difficulties facing democratic inclusion in its East and Southern periphery, i.e. in those countries which are not likely to become EU candidates, force the Union to reflect upon its own role in transformation processes. Examples abound of cases where the scarcity of information and analysis, or the fact that where this does exist it is confined to specialised circles, has affected EU policy negatively: political Islam is a case in point. Many of the difficulties plaguing the EU’s Mediterranean policy stem from the poor understanding EU decision-making circles have of the immense diversity of Islamist trends. Worse, the EU has refused to deal with the reality on the ground, which is of course a precondition to any meaningful contribution to political reform in the region. An obvious example lies in the Europeans’ difficulties in knowing how to respond to Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian national elections, universally proclaimed as free and fair.
The EUISS must continue to provide the Union with timely, forward-looking analysis, covering especially those areas where studies are lacking and relying whenever possible on ‘insider’ and first-hand knowledge. Researchers from regions that constitute a priority for EU foreign policy will consistently be involved in EUISS studies and meetings. As the EU’s burgeoning global role broadens its policy interests, and as it expands its outreach, the pressing issues of our times – ranging from human rights to democracy, from development to peace, from proliferation to terrorism, from energy to the environment, from rearmament and the fate of arms-control regimes to the link between security and justice – come under its scrutiny. Awareness of the universal dimension of these must be complemented with an awareness of the specific national or regional contexts in which they occur. No recipe is universal, no policy instrument can blindly be replicated without due consideration being given to the time and place to which it should be specifically tailored. Policy instruments must thus be constantly tested and fine-tuned and changing realities studied in a ‘real-time’ environment.
This is a tall order. At a time when institutional reform will likely intervene in the EU’s external action so as to bring together community and intergovernmental instruments, thus ensuring greater coherence and, it is hoped, consistency and effectiveness, the EUISS has an increasing role to play in contributing to a European foreign and security culture based on the European Union’s founding values and its vision of international order.

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