June 29, 2016
The EU Global Strategy contains several new priorities. It puts interests first, calls for a joined-up approach, and is more regional than global in its orientation.
By Dr. Hylke Dijkstra
Yesterday, the High Representative Federica Mogherini presented the EU Global Strategy entitled “Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe” to the European Council. While she was formally asked by the European Council in 2015 to write this Global Strategy, it was her idea to come up with a new strategy to replace the dated European Security Strategy (ESS) of 2003 and she has worked relentless on it over the past year. As such, it is very much her document.
So what does the EU Global Strategy say? First, that we “live in times of existential crisis”. As the world gets “more connected, contested and complex”, we need to stand united to promote our interests and values. Second, that there are five priority areas of external action (the Security of the Union; State and Societal Resilience in the East and South; an Integrated Approach to Crises; Cooperative Regional Orders; Global Governance for the 21st Century). Third, that to achieve our objectives, the EU needs to become more credible, responsive and joined-up.
The first thing to note is that the Global Strategy about our own internal security. While the ESS was talking about “a better world”, this new strategy is very much about us. “The EU Global Strategy starts at home.” Indeed, when the Global Strategy discusses our interests, it is about the security of EU citizens and territory, the prosperity of EU’s people, and the the resilience of EU democracies. As such the Global Strategy largely ignores the EU’s “external task” as defined in the Treaties (“It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth”, etc.; Article 3(5) TEU). While a “Rules-Based Global Order” remains a key interest in the Global Strategy, it is not as central as the notion of “Effective Multilateralism” in the ESS.
Second, and related to the emphasis on internal security, the joined-up approach is really at the heart of the Global Strategy (the French term “globale” as in all-encompassing is more appropriate as Ms Mogherini regularly notes). The Global Strategy talks about trade, development, climate change, energy, migration, enlargement policy in addition to counter-terrorism, cybersecurity and border control. While these policy areas are naturally all important, they are also outside the traditional realm of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). And also mostly outside the portfolio of Ms Mogherini. So a key question is whether she can deliver in this respect.
Third, the Global Strategy is more regional than global. The clear emphasis is on our immediate neighbours in the East and South as well as the “surrounding regions”. This is naturally perfectly fine and probably also realistic. But one does wonder what the EU position towards the emerging powers is given that the EU has previously invested in the so-called Strategic Partnerships. It is worth recalling that the Strategic Review of 2015, which triggered the Global Strategy, was very much about a “complex world” and multipolarity. Yet the strategic implications of the rise of China are not discussed at all in the Global Strategy. And while the Durban Declaration of the BRICS is implicitly recognised (“Resisting change risks triggering the erosion of such institutions and the emergence of alternative groupings to the detriment of all EU Member States”), the reform agenda proposed for global governance is EU-centred.
The priorities and the emphasis in the EU Global Strategy thus differ somewhat from the earlier ESS. Yet it is worth noting that the tools are still largely the same. Indeed, the ESS proposed a “more active”, “more capable”, and “more coherent” foreign policy while “working with partners”. This hardly differs from the more credible, responsive and joined-up approach of the Global Strategy. Partnership is even more the buzzword now than it was in 2003. Furthermore, when the Global Strategy talks about the ability to “act autonomously if and when necessary” outside of NATO, it just reiterates the Anglo-French St Malo Declaration of 1998. The Global Strategy does not propose an EU army, as some wanted to believe.
A key question remains whether the EU Global Strategy still matters now that the UK is on its way out. While Ms Mogherini considered postponing the Global Strategy until this fall, she ultimately decided to make it available as planned. In her forward, reflecting on the British referendum, she writes “This is no time for uncertainty: our Union needs a Strategy.” She is probably right. It is also clear that the Brexit discussion will not go away anytime soon. So postponing the publication of the Global Strategy would only have made matters worse.
But does the likely withdrawal of the UK matter for EU foreign policy? On the one hand, the obvious answer is yes. With a key military and diplomatic power leaving, the EU immediately looks less credible as an actor. The Global Strategy, for instance, regularly mentions the importance of maritime security. Good luck with that without the British navy. On the other hand, the actual military contributions of the UK to EU foreign policy have been limited at best. It does not even make the top-10 of troop contributors in the EU. Furthermore, the UK has continuously blocked various EU initiatives for domestic political reasons.
Equally relevant is whether EU priorities may change over time as a result of the Brexit. The spending of development money, international trade, and the EU enlargement immediately come to mind. Will more assistance go to Francophone Africa? What about TTIP? And who will champion the accession of the Balkan countries? The idea of a “A Rules-Based Global Order” is furthermore quintessentially British. Without the UK, EU foreign policy may become less outward looking.
Dr Hylke Dijkstra is an Assistant Professor (with tenure) at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Maastricht University. His most recent book is International Organizations and Military Affairs (Routledge, 2016).