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Blog Post

EU – A Way Forward

October 14, 2016

The current political and societal developments within the European Union, the armed conflicts around Europe, and the various threats to European security compose a troublesome and confusing geopolitical context, marked by many unknowns and moving pieces. The numerous internal and external rifts are so profound, that not only is Europe’s security increasingly difficult to maintain, but the liberal order and the institutions we created to maintain it seem weaker by the day. It is in times like this that the EU needs not only to address and solve its many crises, but to regain its ambitions, and believe in its power.

As longtime friend and fellow of The German Marshall Fund of the United States, the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini put it while addressing the Bucharest Forum, “we need to explore all our instruments that are already there. We need to make full use of them. To realize how powerful our Union is, I often say: you can be the strongest actor in the world but if you don’t realize your strength, if you are not aware of your power, if you don’t use it, it is useless. So we need to understand what works in the European Union, what does not work, what can work better and change what we need to change. And use what we have at full.” 

One tool the EU can use in regaining its posture and securing itself and its surroundings is the European Global Strategy. Presented this summer at the EU summit, the strategy “was born to make the common ground, the common interest of European citizens emerge in the field of foreign and security policy,” said Mogherini, outlining the need to center this policy around the citizen, but also to address foreign policy and  security together.

In a wider concept of security, which was fully understood after Russian aggression in Ukraine, state resilience is as important as military might. Building state resilience has hence become a security objective of great importance in Europe’s vicinity and in some member states. The approach to Europe’s surroundings, outlined in the strategy, needs to center on building state and societal resilience in both the East and the South. “From this side of Europe, from this side of the Union it is much more evident that we cannot split our foreign policy in two: those who are looking to the East and those who are looking to the South. You look at the Black Sea region, and it couldn’t be more evident than that; that you have to look South and East at the same time,” said Mogherini.

Though the European Global Strategy is still met with reservation by many who doubt it will ever be implemented, the fact that resilience and unity have become policy objectives should provide room for optimism. So should a less known and discussed effect of the strategy, which Mogherini outlined through an example: “Just two weeks after I presented the Global Strategy at the end of June, John Kerry joined a meeting of our European Foreign Affairs Council. And I was surprised to find out that it was the first time ever for a U.S. Secretary of State to join our European Union Foreign Affairs Council. Isn’t that incredible? Still we did it and we did it a few weeks after the referendum in the U.K.” Maintaining transatlantic relations as an important component of a more ambitious and powerful Europe is one of the most significant features of the strategy, and it is reassuring that it does translate into practice at planning and working levels.

Skepticism about Europe’s ability to reinvent itself has reached unprecedented levels, as proven by the rise of Euro-skeptic parties throughout the Union, and ultimately, by Brexit. The European Global Strategy beautifully outlines the way out – a more unified, powerful and resolute Europe. But in order to go ahead with any strategy and implementation plan we all need to follow John Kerry’s advice, as Mogherini herself suggested, “I encourage you all – and you as Europeans - to believe in yourselves as much as we believe in you.”