The EU’s Foreign and Security Policy requires an update in a changing global context. Julian Fricke lays down the key challenges to which the new EU Global Strategy needs to respond and derives three objectives innate to the EU’s foreign policy. As the strategy is still under development, he also extends an invitation to the broader community to weigh in on this on-going debate.

By Julian Fricke

More than a decade after the 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS) was adopted, the world as well as the European Union itself has changed dramatically. The famous first sentence of the 2003 ESS – “Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure nor so free” does not apply anymore. Our world today is more connected, contested and complex. This makes our global environment more unpredictable, creating instability and ambiguity, but it also leads to new opportunities. The EU’s new ‘Global Strategy’ will respond to the three key challenges identified in the assessment report “The European Union in a changing environment”, presented by High Representative Federica Mogherini in June 2015.

  1. A more connected world: Globalisation has given rise to an unprecedented degree of connectivity and surges in human mobility. Online connectivity opens opportunities for political participation and business, but also for economic and financial crime, terrorism and trafficking. Finally, the impact of greater market connectivity became apparent by the Eurozone crisis, which showed that we need to tackle economic problems together through deeper integration.
  2. A more contested world: Nation states are under unprecedented strain. Fragile states and ungoverned spaces are spreading. Ideology, identity and geo-political ambitions drive tensions that can lead to instability and violence. In Europe and beyond, new narratives challenge democratic values. Demographic trends, climate change and growing inequalities also aggravate these tensions, while the rapid development of new technologies is changing the nature of conflict.
  3. A more complex world: Global power shifts and power diffusion bring an end to single power dominance. Around the world, emerging powers are rising in global rankings; different regions display different configurations of power. Globally, power is spreading beyond the nation state towards a network of state, non-state, inter-state and transnational actors. Traditional multilateralism faces a delicate challenge: emerging countries want to reform the post-World War II architecture – yet opposing existing global governance mechanisms has been easier than creating new ones.

An EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy will enable the Union to identify a clear set of objectives and priorities for now and the future, focussing on the “EU value added”. On this basis the European Union can align its tools and instruments to ensure that they have the greatest possible impact. This will help promote the EU’s interests globally, and ensure our security at home and abroad. The strategy serves three overarching objectives:

  1. To develop a framework that allows the combination of swift action with long-term measures.
  2. To corroborate how the different instruments of our external action can be put to the service of a common set of goals.
  3. To accommodate the increasing blurredness of the traditional distinction between what is internal and external policy. Many of the important political challenges of our time have a security and defence dimension, but none of them could be solved looking through this lens alone. Hybrid warfare, terrorism and cyber security are just three prominent examples in a very long list.

The strategy will have a ‘global’ scope in geographic terms, while having a strong regional focus as well. Only by addressing the challenges in its neighbourhood successfully the EU will be able to shape decisions on a global scale as well. Vice versa, global issues such as fragile states, cyber policy and energy have concrete domestic ramifications such as migratory flows, privacy violations or economic growth. Besides, the strategy will be ‘global’ in terms of covering different functional areas, being comprehensive in addressing the whole toolbox of EU foreign and external policy, including diplomacy as well as security and development. Finally, the Global Strategy is planned to articulate a vision for the EU with guidelines for action, rather than provide a detailed list of tasks. Nevertheless, it should provide hooks for concrete operationalisation in the follow-up of the process.

Process and outcome

The European Union’s Heads of State and Government decided to assess the challenges and opportunities that come with these shifts. In June 2015 the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, presented her strategic assessment of the global context to EU leaders. They asked her to prepare an EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy to guide the European Union’s global actions in the future. The Global Strategy, which will be presented to EU leaders by June 2016, will be developed in a genuinely inclusive approach and in close cooperation with Member States, as well as with EU Institutions, the broader foreign policy community and civil society. Over the coming months, the High Representative will lead a broad based reflection phase on the strategic outlook for the European Union’s global action to ensure that a wide range of views are taken into account and ownership of the crucial actors is being fostered. This process of reflection is as important as the end product of the exercise itself.

A dedicated website has been created to present the key issues in the debate on the EU Global Strategy. It offers details on the various events, commentary and opinion as well as key policy documents and allows all people involved and interested in the process to be kept up to date. You can also find out what people around the world think about the EU Global Strategy by following and contributing to the conversation on Twitter #EUGlobalStrategy.


Julian Fricke is a policy advisor for the Strategic Planning Division in the European External Action Service


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