A New Chapter of the EU’s Foreign Policy

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Today, the global order based on universal rules and values is either being called into question or taken advantage of. At the same time, new political forces try to achieve their own global and regional ambitions without regard to those rules and values. Multilateralism must be at the centre of the EU’s efforts to prevent, mitigate, and resolve conflicts based on the norms and principles of international law.

It is the cornerstone of the EU’s foreign and security policy and represents the best way of ensuring peace, security, human rights and prosperity. In defending effective multilateralism, the EU should position itself as a global leader among likeminded partners.

The European Union has to act united, effective, stronger and more strategic, especially since a new European political cycle has just started. Commission President von der Leyen’s decision to transform the EU’s executive branch into a ‘Geopolitical Commission’ is a further step into the right direction.

The EU needs to become a credible and effective global actor so that it can take on a responsible, tangible, proactive and prominent leadership role at the international stage and unlock its political potential to think and act like a geopolitical power with a meaningful impact.

As regards our Common Foreign and Security Policy, it is important to switch from a responsive to an anticipatory approach and to team up with likeminded strategic partners. Therefore, it is important that the EU institutions and Member States stand united behind a common and strong EU-level foreign policy that gives the EU more credibility. Qualified majority voting in the Council would make European foreign and security policy more effective and would speed up the decision-making process. Also new formats for cooperation such as an EU Security Council should be discussed.

Many foreign affairs issues that will shape the EU-agenda during the years are yet to be known.

However, questions around the Western Balkans, the Eastern Partnership, the Transatlantic relations, China, Russia, the Middle East, Africa and the Arctic will definitely be priorities.

The European Parliament has supported the enlargement to the Western Balkan countries as soon as they fulfil the necessary legal, political and economic conditions. On the Eastern Partnership, the European Parliament is strongly committed to continue working with these six countries in order to assist them in democratic transition, economic growth and to monitor their internal reforms.

As regards multilateralism, the EU-US partnership is the most important alliance. This partnership is based on strong political, cultural, economic and historic links, on the promotion of shared values and on common goals. However, this partnership has been facing a number of challenges and disruptions lately, including the Middle East, climate change, and the disengagement of the US in multilateral agreements and trade issues. It will be a priority to strengthen the transatlantic alliance.

At the same time, the EU will continue working on the relations with Russia.  Whilst the implementation of the Minsk Agreement remains a key precondition for more enhanced cooperation with Russia, informal dialogue and confidence building measures remain a key objective. Building resilience, particularly in the cyber and media fields, including mechanisms to detect and fight election interference should be one of the EU’s main objectives.

The European Parliament has constantly reminded that the relationship with China is one of the most important for the EU’s external relations. The EU should be more proactive, coordinated and coherent in response to China’s major initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or China’s economic and financial presence in Europe. In particular, the human rights situation in China remains a constant concern.

In addition to the regional priorities, the EU has to focus on further enhancing its security and defence capabilities. Over the past few years, security has arguably become a major concern for our citizens. A rapidly changing geostrategic order with new emerging powers, armed conflicts on Europe’s doorstep, the rise in hybrid warfare and cyber-attacks against strategic infrastructure, and increasingly blurred boundaries between internal and external security contribute to making security one of the top priorities of the EU political agenda. Therefore, a genuine and operational European defence union should be established within the next five years.

Even though security and defence matters remain largely in the hands of Member States, the EU has been playing an increasingly important role in streamlining national efforts and coordinating defence policies with EU partners and NATO. The borderless nature of security threats, the current fragmentation of defence markets, the lack of interoperability and deficient cost-effectiveness are some of the key elements pushing Europe towards a more efficient use of resources and greater coordination of national efforts. The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), an inclusive instrument enabling interested Member States to strengthen their defence cooperation in specific areas, is the EU’s response to today’s security challenges.

All Members States and EU-institutions should work together to make the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy more effective, to strengthen multilateralism around the globe and to turn Europe into a global player.

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David McAllister is a Member of the European Parliament for the Christian Democratic Union of Germany. He chairs the institution’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET). Between 2010 and 2013, he served as Prime Minister of the German state of Lower Saxony.