European Affairs

The EU Means Business in Foreign Policy     Print Email
Chris Patten

European Commissioner for External Relations

Despite the doubts and criticisms of Euroskeptics, not only in my own country, Britain, the European Union has been an unparalleled success.

In international commerce, it negotiates with one voice, as the world's largest trading group. Internally it has created a single market that is the basis of Europe's economic recovery. It has established an economic and monetary union and a single currency, the euro.


In addition to its contribution to Europe's post-War prosperity, the EU has been a tremendous force for political stability. It was the natural pole of attraction for Greece, Spain, and Portugal as they threw off dictatorship, and, today, most countries of Central and Eastern Europe aspire to membership after the long Soviet night.

The EU has pioneered a unique process of regional integration, balancing national sovereignty against the need for common structures and common disciplines, which offers Europe its best chance of channeling globalization to the benefit of all.

But there is one exception to this remarkable record: the relative weakness of the EU in the field of foreign and security policy. I say "relative," because we are now making real progress.

At first sight, it is strange that foreign policy should have lagged behind. The countries of the EU have long global experience - much longer, of course, than the United States. They retain a global reach and global responsibilities that give them a natural internationalist outlook.

Nor is it self-evident that foreign and security policy is the hardest nut to crack for countries bent on creating institutions to maximize their common influence. These were, after all, the first areas of policy pooled by the emerging United States, before the move to a single American market.

Europe's relative weakness in this area is not the product of indifference, as some Americans seem to believe. The EU countries have made Herculean efforts over many years to develop common policies, and to pursue them in concert.

We have been driven by an internal institutional dynamic, with repeated efforts to create structures for European Political Cooperation, and, more recently, the creation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), with a High Representative to help push it along.

We have also been driven by external events. With the end of the Cold War, it became clear that Western Europe had new responsibilities. We needed a greater capacity to deal with instability within our own continent. Our failure to resolve the Balkan crisis, and our subsequent reliance on U.S. military capacity in Kosovo, brought home to us the urgency of the task.

Why, in that case, has it been so difficult to forge a genuine common foreign and security policy in Europe? It has been difficult, I would argue, because - unlike the writers of the Federalist Papers who established the blueprint for the United States - the EU's leaders are not in the business of creating a supranational state.

The EU's member countries are rightly and passionately concerned to protect their nationhood, and foreign policy goes to the heart of what it means to be a nation. So the central institutions cannot hope,æand do not try, to agree a single foreign policy in the way that we conduct a single external trade policy, or enact joint legislation that takes precedence over national law. Rather, we encourage member states to do more in common, and we act on their behalf when they agree that we should.

Agreement is not lightly given. The member states have to be convinced in each case that they can have more influence if they act in unison, oræallow the EU to represent them, than if they act separately.

In other areas of policy, member states have agreed to abide by majority votes. In external relations this only applies in a few exceptional cases. That makes it harder, of course, for the EU to react quickly to international developments and to take strong, clear positions.

The very expertise and experience of the member states in foreign affairs is itself, in some respects, an obstacle to integration. And such problems are multiplied in the field of defense and security. Most EU member states belong to NATO. Some do not. All see defense as one of their first, and greatest, national responsibilities. Yet, despite all these difficulties, and despite Europe's slow start in this area, the CFSP has taken wing. The appointment of someone of the stature of Javier Solana to the key post of High Representative has been an encouraging sign that the member states mean business.

The beginning of a genuine European Security and Defense Policy was marked by the decision of EU leaders in Helsinki in December 1999 to create, within three years, a European Rapid Reaction Force of 50,000 to 60,000 troops capable of deployment within 60 days. Taking rotation into account, that means a commitment of some 200,000 personnel.

Perhaps even more important than this headline goal, we are challenged to improve the quality of what we spend and do for our collective defense through NATO - and quite right too.

Practical arrangements are being reached between the EU and NATO for cooperation in the further development of the European plans. No one now credits the absurd thesis that Europe, by seeking an autonomous capacity to launch military operations for intervention in crises "where NATO as a whole is not engaged," is seeking to rival NATO.

The core of NATO's function is collective defense, which is not part of the EU mandate. We want to strengthen our contribution to NATO and to European security. It is in neither the American nor the European interest that we should depend so heavily on U.S. capacity in situations such as Kosovo. The real danger for NATO is not that we might succeed, but that we might fail.

We in the European Commission are working on our own contribution to this new venture, on the non-military side. Conflict prevention and conflict management are at the heart of our agenda. This may cover such diverse actions as humanitarian aid, election monitoring, police deployment and training, border controls, institution-building, mine clearance, arms control, combating illicit trafficking, embargo enforcement, and counter-terrorism.

In all these areas, EU countries have considerable capacity, but it is too dispersed. Joint decision-making is too cumbersome for crisis situations. Budgetary procedures are too inflexible. My job, with Mr. Solana, is to help bring all this together.

As a first step, in June, EU leaders in Portugal agreed to concrete targets for civilian police capabilities. By 2003 they want to be able to provide up to 5,000 police to deal with crises beyond our borders, with 1,000 of them deployable within 30 days. Similar goals are being set in the areas of civil protection and support for the rule of law.

The EU faces few greater tests of its ability to project stability than right on its doorstep in the Balkans. Last year in Kosovo, the United States bore the brunt of the military campaign. Many Americans feel that it is time for Europe to take the lead in building the peace - in Kosovo and across the region. That is, in fact, what we are doing, in close partnership with Washington, and within the Stability Pact for South-East Europe.

American and European peacekeepers serve alongside each other in Kosovo and in Bosnia. Nearly two thirds of those troops - some 30,000 of them - are from EU nations.

Our overall strategy is clear: to build a strong and stable network of democracies in the region, a network that we hope will soon include Serbia under its new leadership. We have put forward radical proposals to open the EU market further to Balkan exports. We are working to integrate the countries of the region as fully and rapidly as possible into European structures through our Stabilization and Association process, under which each country will be offered closer ties to the EU in exchange for political and economic reforms. And we have made clear that the countries of the region are all potential candidates for EU membership. Overall, we have spent d17 billion ($14 billion) since 1991.

If the Balkans are on our doorstep, so too is the Mediter-ranean. The upside potential for the EU of a productive relationship with a stable and prosperous Mediter-ranean is obviously huge, as is the potential threat from instability - including migratory pressures that could prove very hard to control.

In 1995, the EU launched an ambitious project for closer political, social, and economic relations with the whole region. This, of course, covers substantial amounts of trade and aid. But the policy goes much wider than that. We now have a permanent framework in which we can tackle political and security issues, too.

Five years on, I want to give this process new impetus. I want to see a Euro-Mediterranean free trade area in place by 2010. That means streamlining our cooperation processes and accelerating the negotiation of agreements between the Mediterranean countries themselves.

It means a deeper dialogue on such issues as terrorism, conflict prevention, and crisis management, and it means a franker dialogue on human rights and political reform. All this, of course, would become very much easier if peace could finally be established in the Middle East.

Our other close neighbors are to the East, where our agenda is dominated by EU enlargement and a strategic partnership with Russia. The accession of as many as 12 or more new members is going to transform the EU over the coming years. It means radical changes to our institutions, and radical adaptations of policies, including the Common Agricultural Policy.

The full structural and policy consequences are very hard to predict - but in a sense they are a secondary consideration. The real point is that enlargement constitutes the single greatest contribution we can make to international stability. And that, in the end, is the central objective of the CFSP.

So what will happen in Russia? The question hangs, unanswered, over the European continent. The EU's interest, and its obligation, is to help Russia to build the structures she needs to develop a sound economy and a strong democracy, to become again the great power she should be. So our emphasis is on helping to create the institutions that can underpin growth, and secure the rule of law.

It is now clear that for much of the 1990s there was a triumph of hope over good sense in dealing with Russia. Many outside governments, consultants, and business people believed that Russia's transformation to democracy and to a market economy could be achieved almost overnight, with enough advice, enough aid, enough investment, and enough enthusiasm.

That was a profound misjudgment. Instead of fueling growth, it fueled corruption. For a modern economy cannot function unless there is real individual freedom, property rights can be enforced, the courts function properly, and the people feel secure, not just from violence, but from the arbitrary exercise of power.

That is now the focus of the EU's engagement. With all our hearts we want a cooperative partnership with Russia, and President Vladimir Putin offers the hope of a fresh start. But Russia must demonstrate her own commitment to building a sound, modern democracy. Events in Chechnya have been a setback, and show how long and hard the road will be.

There is a common thread in much of the EU's external activity, of which Russia is but one example. Our policy reflects our common values, our aspiration for stable, productive international relationships, and our effort to help reduce world poverty.

But the primary instruments at the disposal of the European Commission are our powers to negotiate on external trade, and our responsibility for a massive aid program. At d9.6 billion ($9.0 billion) in 2000, external assistance accounts for 62 percent of all the programs directly managed by the Commission. That gives us the means to make a real difference, so it is imperative that the money should be well-targeted and well-managed.

Since the new Commission took office in 1999, we have launched a complete overhaul of our management of these programs. Getting this right is perhaps my highest priority in my present job.

I have concentrated on the EU's nearest neighbors, but we are also engaged across the globe. We have taken on an active role in Indonesia and East Timor. Like the United States, we have deepened our ties with Mexico. With the United States, we are working in the Korean Peninsula and in Colombia.

But apart from aid and trade, what does the EU have to offer to distant regions of the world? There is one area in which we can contribute from direct experience in a way that even the United States cannot. I am thinking of regional integration.

As globalization gathers pace, more and more regions of the world are trying to solve the problem that has confronted the EU for so many years: how to preserve what is best about separate nations - their language, their culture, their sense of themselves - while pooling resources and tearing down barriers between them.

Our achievements in pulling off this delicate trick offer a valid and credible model for other regions in the world. The first examples are already emerging. Mercosur, in South America, has explicitly mirrored itself in the European experience.

That is also the case for cooperation efforts in Central America and in the Persian Gulf, and for the Association of South-East Asian Nations. These regional groups are learning from our failures and borrowing from our successes.

We try to draw on our experience in other contexts, too. Almost every country in Africa, for example, has a historical connection with at least one EU member state. This could have resulted in a fragmentation of European policies, as countries nurtured their historical links. But we have tried instead to put these links to the service of the CFSP, drawing, for example, on Italian expertise in the Horn of Africa.

Member states can also find EU solidarity useful when historical ties start to chafe. In Zimbabwe, the U.K. was keen to observe the elections last June, to promote democracy, and to try to reduce violence. But President Robert Mugabe was not keen to see observers from Britain, the former colonial power.

We mounted a very successful EU observation mission, and while the British contingent was missed on the ground, the U.K. was very much present in spirit as a full participant in the CFSP.

The EU can play a crucial role in another area. I have observed that Foreign Ministers are happiest talking about the crisis in Ruritania, or other pieces of hard, breaking international news. They start to shift uncomfortably in their seats as soon as the agenda moves to such issues as drugs, trafficking in human beings, international crime, illicit arms dealing, or other kinds of illegal trade to finance and sustain conflict, pollution, climate change, the management and sharing of resources such as water, migration, and other cross-cutting issues.

These subjects are often formidably complex and technical, and largely beyond the reach of traditional diplomacy. However, the EU has experience and solid expertise in many of these areas, and I am determined that we should begin to deploy it more effectively. Whenever possible, we should do so in close cooperation with the United States and other international partners. Our relationship with the United States remains, of course, fundamental.

For many years the CFSP has been, like Shakespeare's dragon, "a creature feared and talked of more than seen." But in the last decade the animal has emerged from the realms of myth.

It may remain, at least for the foreseeable future, a slightly slower and less elegant beast than some would like to see. There are limits on how far the member states want to go in pooling their capacities, and on how much they want to spend on European, as opposed to national, policies.

The United States will need to call more than one telephone number to determine our line - just as there have been times when we have had to call several dozen telephones in the United States to determine the state of American foreign policy debates. The fact, however, is that the EU dimension of foreign affairs is real and is growing.

 

This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number II, Issue number I in the Winter of 2001.

 
  • How Automation Shapes the Labor Market AND Political Preferences

    By Thomas Kurer, University of Zurich and Bruno Palier, Sciences Po, Paris

    We do not believe that Brexit, Trump, or the alarming success of radical right parties in almost all European countries should be interpreted as mere “electoral accidents.” Instead, we suggest that the current destructuring of political systems is connected to the profound transformation of labor markets in times of automation. Our core argument is that the specific effects of current technological innovations are key to understanding their political implications.

    Read more ...

UMD Jean Monnet Research Project

The University of Maryland has received a Jean Monnet grant from the EU to conduct a series of policy exchanges between Europe and the US on filling infrastructure needs and the utility of public/private partnerships as the financing mechanism. If interested in participating in or receiving more information about these exchanges, please contact Rye McKenzie (rmckenzi@umd.edu).

New from the Bertelsmann Foundation

The Bertelsmann Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC with a transatlantic perspective on global challenges.

"Edge of a Precipice" by Nathan Crist

"Newpolitik" by Emily Hruban

 

Summer Course