Federica Mogherini is on the right track with the global strategy, but its success depends on the political will of the member states, argues Fraser Cameron.
This article was originally published by The Parliament Magazine.
While most of us will be enjoying our vacation in August, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini will be heading to Manila for the ASEAN regional forum. No one can doubt the stamina of the EU’s chief diplomat. She chalks up more air miles in a year than most of us will achieve in a lifetime. But what difference has she made to EU foreign policy and how should we regard her pride and joy – the EU’s global strategy – which was one year old in June?
The High Rep job is almost impossible given the different hats she wears, the number of meetings she has to attend and the 28 masters she has to please. She also has no real deputy.
But Mogherini has thrown herself into the position with youthful zest and energy. Unlike her predecessor, she has a good background in foreign policy and is media friendly. She still, however, allows too many meaningless press releases to be issued in her name.
The Italian high-flyer has not managed to secure a seat for the EU in the Russia/Ukraine crisis nor is the EU a real player in the horrendous Syrian conflict. But Mogherini has played to the EU’s strengths as a soft power, deftly formulating an integrated approach to conflicts in the neighbourhood and wider afield.
Mogherini has also taken Brexit in her stride. It could have been a fatal blow to lose one of the two top military powers from the EU, but she seized the opportunity to argue that the EU should redouble its efforts to provide for its own security.
In security and defence, it is not far-fetched to argue that more has been achieved in the last 10 months than in the last 10 years. The new command centre for EU military training and advisory missions is now reality. A coordinated annual review of national defence budgets is taking shape, while an EU defence fund is being established.
She has persuaded member states to pay more attention to potential conflicts in crisis areas in the neighbourhood, in the knowledge that failure to tackle the problems will likely result in increased migration to the EU. It was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, who agreed the deal with Turkey to limit migrants for money.
The advent of Donald Trump in the White House has also been an important catalyst pushing the EU together. Like Merkel, Mogherini argues that as a result of changed circumstances (read the US and UK) the EU will have to do more for its own security.
In her annual review of the global strategy, Mogherini places great emphasis on ‘resilience’, meaning that the EU should do more to ensure there are no failed states in its neighbourhood. This entails bringing all the EU’s tools into play – development, technical and financial assistance – as well as energy, trade, migration and public diplomacy.
In practice it means promoting security sector reform in Ukraine, training of the Libyan coastguard and boosting employment opportunities in the Sahel. Resilience also applies to member states in areas such as hybrid threats, cyber security, strategic communications and counter-terrorism.
This integrated approach to security finds little resonance in Washington, where Trump has announced a massive increase in the defence budget and continues to bang the table about the importance of Nato members spending two per cent of GDP on defence.
Few Europeans have questioned the relevance of this figure, let alone challenged the US to a debate on the nature of security in today’s world.
If the EU is convinced of its concept of the integrated approach to security then it should be doing more to influence American opinion. After all, it was General Mattis who famously said, “If you cut the State department budget, it means I have to buy more ammunition.”
Overall, Mogherini is on the right track with her global strategy. The CFSP is still too bureaucratic and too slow to react to sudden crises. The EEAS has almost no budget to its name. But these issues can be ironed out given sufficient political will in the member states. That remains the crucial element for a successful EU foreign policy.