A New Global Strategy for Europe?

Review of the ECFR Briefing ‘Why Europe Needs a New Global Strategy’

In the decade since European leaders approved the first ever European Security Strategy (ESS) in 2003, the world has changed dramatically and a re-think is now essential.   Policies that were once central to the ESS’s success are now holding Europe back.  That is the finding of a new European  Council on Foreign Affairs policy brief, a copy of which can be found here.

The ECFR identified six main changes since 2003.  They are:

1.  EU soft power as a wasting asset: Europe’s commitment to liberal values and human rights often conflicts with public opinion within the country that they seek to influence.  Nowhere is this seem more clearly than in the southern Mediterranean countries, where there is little desire to sign up to European norms.  Elsewhere around the world, the EU faces geopolitical competition from Russia and China.

2.  ‘Effective multilateralism in a neo-Westphalian world’: Rising powers have increasingly used the UN and other institutions as a means to counter Western ambitions.  As a new ‘multipolar environment’ takes hold, the report recommends that Europeans may have to go ‘forum shopping’ when the UN is gridlocked over crises.

3:  The death of liberal interventionism: Austerity has led to cuts in defence spending, while the experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in conflict-aversion.  The US is pivoting towards Asia and now expects Europeans to take the lead on conflicts in their own back yard.  The report argues that Europe must develop its own capabilities.

4.  Rising influence of Asia: Over the last ten years, trade links between Europe and Asia have boomed.  China’s influence now reaches far beyond Asia.  EU Member Sates must craft a joint approach towards China.

5.  Economic interests and the failure of convergence: Although the eurozone has restored some credibility since the summer of 2012, it is increasingly clear that economic interests will continue to vary from member state to member state.  Europe is increasingly divided into surplus countries and deficit countries.  The report argues that top-level political direction is needed to make the strategic case for cohesive defence efforts.

6. The necessity of choice: European nations must choose between pooling capabilities and losing them.  Despite the fact that different member states have different economic and security interests, the report concludes that ‘it is past time to get Europeans thinking strategically again’.

The ECFR’s report is thought provoking, and makes valid observations about the the changes in the strategic environment since 2003.  It is no doubt correct to conclude that the European Security Strategy must evolve if it is not to be of any value at all.  However, can the European Union rise to the challenge?  With anti-integrationist sentiment rising in many parts of the European Union, it remains to be seen if the collective action problem can be overcome.

The full report can be found here:  http://ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR90_STRATEGY_BRIEF_AW.pdf

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