Report of the International Conference “the EU in Global Re-ordering: Carving out a new role for Europe” 5th February 2015, Université Libre de Bruxelles
mise en ligne :12 02 2015 ( NEA say… n° 154 )
In the last few years, the European Union (EU) has been facing a growing number of challenges, both internally and externally. On the external level, military confrontation in Ukraine, the challenges emanating from the Middle East region and the terroristic threat all create pressures for a new and strengthened role of the EU in the international arena. However, this role is strongly affected by internal challenges such as the economic and financial crisis, the Eurozone crisis, and the rise of euroscepticism in many Member States. All these issues have been at the core of the international conference “The EU in Global Re-ordering:
Carving out a New Role for Europe”, held on the 5th February at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). This conference was the final event of a four-year research program led by the global network “Global Re-ordering: Evolution through European Networks (GREEN), funded by the European Commission’s DG Research and Innovation in the framework of the FP7 Program. This network involves sixteen members, among which fourteen universities and two think tanks (namely FRIDE and ISPI).
On the external side, the EU is currently surrounded by instability, dramatic migration flows, and in general by a “global unstable and unsafe context”. Moreover, the EU appears less and less popular to its global partners, as a model and as a policy maker, as a result of the internal crisis that has determined the projection of a negative external image. However, he affirmed, even though the old multilateral network created on the initiative of the United States in Bretton Woods (1944) order and the United Nations is undoubtedly in troubles (it suffers from an implementation gap and legitimacy crisis), multilateralism may have a better future. In this respect, he underlined the recent growth in number, relevance, and scope of regional organizations and mini-multilateral fora and arrangements. He indicated this development of multilateralism as a possible resource in order to halt power politics, to cope with fragmentation tendencies and to develop a better, multi-layered and multi-level global governance.
Secondly, M. Telò noted the emergence and strengthening of bottom-up tendencies in the recent years. In particular, he referred to the growing participation of transnational advocacy networks and non-governmental organization in international fora and regional organizations, which forms the basis of the rise of a new form of legitimacy. On this point, he recommended that the EU support this emerging regionalism and multilateralism. This support should also be combined with a transformation of European external relations and strategic partnerships from a kind of “one-way teaching” based on a hub-and-spoke model into a “more balanced, more symmetrical, and mutual-learning process”.
At the same time, the Professor stressed the link between the internal and external dimension of the EU’s action. He claimed that the EU’s external relations will be successful again only provided that the EU is again economically and socially performing, both as a market and as a social model, “even at the price of a two-speed Europe” and of the “sad perspective” of a Britain’s exit. In his view, it is essential to stress that further integration does not mean necessarily an increased democratic deficit, an increased poverty, or a tendency to build a “fortress Europe”.
Finally, M. Telò argued that, even though the EU is a regional and a global actor, it will remain a peculiar and unprecedented one: Europe will not be “a second United States”, it will not become a superpower and a military power, mainly because of structural factors. A “low profile in international relations” is deeply rooted in European history. However, much can be done to improve both the efficiency and the legitimacy of the EU’s foreign policy. In his perspective, even if the European External Action Service (EEAS) represent a major diplomatic tool for the EU, important limitations still exist for an effective European international role, such as the lack of coherence and coordination between Member States, the poor consistency between the various EU policies, and gaps between discourse and practice.
He concluded by affirming that 2015 is the time for “a new start” for the European institutions.
P. Magri opened his intervention with some provocative questions raised by recent events, such as “EU’s foreign policy: when if not now?”.
He listed a number of ingredients that have characterized, since the inception of the European integration process, all the new policies devised by the EU (internal market, competition, enlargement, euro…): extraordinary challenges providing the sense of urgency, institutional arrangements (notably new treaties) backing the new policies, and structural and organizational adaptation enabling their implementation. These conditions, according to P. Magri, did not come always in the same order: sometimes visions came before structures, other times structures came before visions, or crisis occurred before the other ingredients.
Analysing the current situation, P. Magri concluded that all these three ingredients are currently there, and moreover they came in the right order. Indeed, first there was a process of institutional adaptation represented by the signing of the Lisbon Treaty (which enabled the EU to speak with a single voice) and the establishment of the EEAS. Only at the end of these processes came the challenges. The crises we are facing are, according to the speaker, likely to undermine the three main pillars of the past EU external projection: to the East, the enlargement and neighbourhood policies; to the South, the Mediterranean policy; to the West, the transatlantic dialogue.
As regards the East, the EU has proved so far united on the issue on sanctions to Russia. However, according to P. Magri, it is still hard to grasp a “EU exit strategy”. On the Middle East, Europe was to a certain extent united in reaction to the Arab Spring and in the fight against terrorism, but one can hardly acknowledge the existence of a EU “grand strategy” to deal with a dramatically changing Middle East. On the transatlantic side, the Europeans are struggling to balance the increased attention that the EU are paying to Asia.
The President of the European Parliament argued that the European Union must demonstrate its ability to be a contributor to, rather than a consumer of, security. This result must be achieved through a number of responses. Among them, the EU needs to develop the financial capability to meet new and emerging challenges, for which a new system of own resources also for foreign policy is needed. Moreover, M. Schultz advocated the creation of a “genuine European defence”. Indeed, he remarked, most of the security challenges Europe faces have a hybrid form, involving state and non-state actors, terrorist organizations, organized crime, and organizations for human trafficking. The nature of these challenges is such that no state alone is able to cope with them.
The President concluded his message by recalling the major role that can be played by the EEAS and the High Representative in achieving these goals, and by stating firmly that the EU “is, and must be, part of the solution”.
First of all, he stated his optimism with regard to the new team in Brussels. In particularly, the former Italian Prime Minister welcomed the new legitimacy of the European Commission as regards its relationship both with the European Parliament and with the voters. In his view, far from being enough, it however represents a first step towards further democracy at the EU level. In this respect, he reminded that the program of the Commission was presented to the voters and the European Parliament, which makes it for the Commission itself difficult not to respect its program.
Another reason for hope is, according to him, the high level of the new College of Commissioners, which is composed of many former ministers and eminent political personalities.
Finally, he welcomed the introduction of policy clusters and new vice-presidents in the Commission, which he defined as “a crucial step” towards overcoming the issue of the relationship between the number of EU Member States and the number of the commissioners, which has so far remained unsolved. Moreover, the fact that many of the vice-presidents come from small countries is in his perspective an important step in the affirmation of a Commission composed of personalities committed to a “European mission”. In this respect, he also stressed the importance of the role of the vice-president Frans Timmermans.
I.M. Paşcu began his intervention by outlining the factors that define an international actor, in order to assess whether the EU possesses these qualities or not. Among them, he listed power, authority (namely stemming from a moral standing), attraction, and recognition as an international actor, for instance in international fora and organizations. He provided the example of the United Nations, where the EU only enjoys an observer status, which clearly shows that in this context the EU is not recognized as an international actor.
Looking at the broader international context, he argued that the international system that Europe (along with the United States) contributed to establish is currently threatened as a result of a global redistribution of power, a process which was undoubtedly accelerated by the economic crisis. The speaker claimed that, in the areas in which it is more integrated (e.g. trade), the EU performs much better and has a greater impact compared to other fields such as foreign policy. In this respect, he regards the establishment of the EEAS as a positive development for two main reasons: first, it helps pool the EU’s multiple instruments together and use them more efficiently; secondly, they offer an interface to external partners. He concluded on this point that the results achieved reflect “what was achievable under the circumstances in which the EEAS was created”.
He later highlighted the paradox that currently affects the integration process: on the one hand, many observers agree that the answer to the crisis must be “more Europe”; on the other hand, “more Europe” is being provided by “the embodiment of intergovernmentalism”, namely the Council. However, he wondered whether this could be done in any other way, given that the EU was created by its Member States.
He recalled that the EU is currently facing two kinds of security threats: one, terrorism, affecting the security of individuals, and one which is more “traditional” and territorial (namely military confrontation on the EU’s Eastern borders, where, he underlined, the illegal annexation of Crimes represents a “challenge to the political and legal order in Europe and to the post-cold war security system”). In particular, he identified the Black Sea Region as the geographic area in which these two kinds of threats (embodied in the Ukrainian territorial issue and in the security threat posed by the ISIS) articulate most dramatically.
In his view, the two dimensions of security must be put together in order to shape a “comprehensive security concept” that has to be distilled in a European security strategy.
Overall, since 2011 the top three items on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council were Syria, Libya and the Middle East peace process: therefore, the Council tended to focus almost only on issues related to the Southern neighbourhood. The Eastern Partnership, Russia and Ukraine were only occasionally mentioned before 2013.
In the Southern neighbourhood, whereas most issues tended to move in and out of the agenda rather quickly (for instance, Tunisia was discussed immediately after the revolution but rarely after that, Libya was discussed during 2011 and became prominent again in 2014, Egypt was discussed mainly in 2011 and 2013), the only constant object of discussion was Syria.
As regards Africa, Z. Martinusz noted that the points on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council clearly revolved around three main crisis areas: the Central African Republic, the Ivory Coast, and Mali-Sahel. In these areas, the discussion was mainly limited to the crisis period and the agenda was highly event-driven.
Another recurrent issue, Z. Martinusz showed, has been the Western Balkans, namely the Serbia-Kosovo relations and the granting of a candidate status to Serbia.
Finally, he noted that the EU’s strategic partnerships (namely with Japan, China and the United States) were rarely discussed (for instance, he noted, Myanmar was discussed more often than Japan, China, India, and South Korea combined).
Later, Z. Martinusz mentioned a number of thematic issues that have been at the core of the Foreign Policy Council discussions: namely energy, human rights, environment, and the EEAS itself.
In addition, long-term global developments such as climate change require new governance approaches. In this respect, K. Rudishhauser noted the greater role played in the recent years by regional organizations, the BRICS countries and other emerging powers, which seems to be a basis for the emergence of a more multipolar world and of a “new global governance”. In this context, not only the governments are important actors, but also more and more transnational actors and networks play a major role.
Overall, he identified a number of major challenges Europe will be facing for the next twenty or thirty years. First of all, crisis and conflicts in the neighbouring regions, which have been increasing in the recent years. Secondly, climate change, which must be addressed more seriously, as otherwise it will become more and more costly to do so. Thirdly, terrorism. Finally, sustainability issues, namely those related to water and food resources.
In his view, it is also often underestimated that the EU is present and active in every crisis around the world (even more than the USA), even though sometimes only in terms of humanitarian assistance. Moreover, the EU has a multitude of instruments, ranging from financial resources to frameworks for political dialogue, crisis instruments, instruments for fighting terrorism, regulation, and humanitarian assistance. In this respect, he provided the example of the newly adopted policy for Syria and Northern Iraq launched by the European Commission, accompanied by a package of one billion-euro support.
To begin with, he noted that the main feature of today’s international context is the return of power politics. However, since there is no real leading power in the world, we are witnessing “power politics without power”, which leads to instability.
However, P. Vimont pointed out, if we look at “hard crisis” (i.e. Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Yemen, Libya) it is clear that the EU is not performing well. Even in regional and global issues such as migrations, climate change, terrorism, and energy, the EU is struggling to find its role.
He concluded on this point by describing the current record of the EU in the world as a glass that is “half empty and half full”.
He joined E. Letta in the acknowledgement of the inward-looking mind-set adopted so far by the EU. In fact, for P. Vimont, a shift towards a more outward-looking attitude is a primary condition for success, and would allow the EU not to miss the reality of the outside world.
- Halte aux idées reçues en matière d’immigration !
Elections législatives du 30 novembre en Moldavie :compte rendu de la réunion de la Commission AFET du Parlement européen en association avec la Délégation de la commission de la coopération parlementaire UE/Moldavie