The EU's foreign, security and defence policy has been a desolate space in the last few years in terms of innovation and development, as well as being bereft of purpose, vision and unity. The two recent and bright exceptions are the EU Global Strategy (EUGS), published in June 2017, and more recently the activation of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in the field of defence in December 2017. Framing the EU Global Strategy is a revealing, elegant and pleasant account of why, how and when the EUGS was conceived, drafted and accepted by the EU and its member states, written by the EUGS's main author Nathalie Tocci. Tocci was invited by Federica Mogherini, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to compile the EUGS. Despite possibly being considered a ‘foreign element’ in EU institutional terms and perhaps not being trusted by resident Eurocrats, Tocci succeeded—under Mogherini's aegis—in drafting a policy paper accepted by the EU and all its members in toto. More importantly, though, Tocci set an agenda which should guide the EU's foreign and security policy for many years to come. The EUGS, according to Tocci, is neither an ‘action plan’ nor an account of the world as it ought to be. Mogherini wanted a strategy which would ‘provide the EU and its Member States with a common sense strategic direction that would ultimately guide action’ (pp. 33–4). Thus the EUGS sets out a strategy for EU action not merely as a response to events nor as a reaction to US policy, but based on a pragmatic understanding of a changing world order—and a changing EU position within that order—that necessitates stricter focus on the realities of geopolitics and interests. There are two major departures in the EUGS from the standard EU line. First, while it reaffirms the EU's global agenda in some areas, it openly acknowledges that geopolitics matters and that Europe's neighbourhood should be the priority arena. The document stresses that while the world is ‘connected’ and that regions are interlinked and not isolated from each other's influence, the EU should look closer to home and concentrate action specifically on its eastern and southern neighbourhoods. These regions have a direct and immediate effect on the EU and its citizens in material terms, whether as regards Russian revisionism or the refugee concerns due to conflicts in Libya or Syria. The second major departure in the EUGS from conventional thinking is that interests are given equal footing with values as a source of EU foreign and security policy. The EU's liberal values are still of supreme importance—even though they are to become ‘internal more than external’ (p. 61)—but the strategy recognizes that pragmatism should be the guiding principle of EU decision-making in the foreign/security policy field, according interests due weight within policy formulation. Indeed, the term ‘principled pragmatism’ leaps out of the text to any student of EU foreign policy, as it is a soaring departure from previous EU foreign policy language steeped in normative concerns and the spreading of values. Tocci puts up a brave defence of this redirection in EU thinking—or strategizing—attempting to convince readers that this is not a turn to crude realpolitik or the supremacy of material interests over values. She stresses that interests and values are mutually constitutive and proposes that ‘“principled pragmatism” [is] the notion that sought to square of [sic] the circle’ (p. 55) of idealism and realism. I have no doubt that Tocci's reaction to this review would be to criticize latching on to the geopolitical and, more importantly, the interest/values dimensions to the strategy. In fact, she notes in the book that many commentators on EU foreign policy have focused on these dimensions to the detriment of other issues—such as building resilience in neighbouring states and regions—that deserve equal attention. But it is so striking a departure, that I, too, have succumbed to the attraction of these innovations and felt the need to accord them due emphasis here. There is one more noteworthy strand of argument in the book which reveals much about the origins and purpose of the strategy. The EUGS was meant to reflect the EU's position in a turbulent and fluctuating international system, a ‘contested’ world in the language of the Strategy, and to set out strategic guidelines of potential action based on interests—and values—bound by serious geopolitical considerations. Equally, it was meant to focus attention on internal divisions within the EU as well as to rekindle ‘some Europeans to the European project’ (p. 42) and create ‘a degree of political unity in the Union as a whole’ (p. 17). This marks an interesting conceptual link between foreign and security policy and the idea of Europe, where the formulation of strategic direction and action towards the outside world is used as a way of defining and perhaps reaffirming European unity and even identity. This bears a strong resemblance to the very inception of EU foreign policy in the form of the European Political Cooperation (EPC) in the 1970s, which also emerged as a response to concerns regarding political unity. In conclusion, Tocci has managed to outline the raison d'être of the EUGS, and its possible implications, in a manner which is neither self-serving nor overbearing. Framing the EU Global Strategy thus sheds much light on a policy process which resulted in a strategy that will have long-term effects on the EU's position in the world. * See also Andrea Prontera, The new politics of energy security in the European Union and beyond, pp. 444–5. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal Institute of International Affairs. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Affairs – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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