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The EU faces a raft of foreign policy challenges

A European answer

05/05/16

Amidst pressing challenges at home and abroad, Elmar Brok MEP calls for stronger European action and more solidarity

Every day when we open newspapers, Facebook or Twitter we are flooded by images of refugees escaping war, bombed houses, crying children, and terrorist attacks in and around Europe. Every day, European citizens are asking why Europe is doing so little to stop these crises. A recent survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation showed that 90% of EU citizens want a common European asylum and migration policy. Furthermore, 79% backed a fair distribution of asylum seekers across all EU member states. In other words, citizens understand very clearly that the EU’s response can only be based on solidarity, mutual support and effort.

Not only is there support from the EU citizens for a more coherent and a solidarity-driven approach to tackling security challenges, but we actually have the tools to deal with issues such as the migration crisis and terrorism. The EU possesses an impressive range of policy instruments, be it in the area of diplomacy, conflict prevention and management, defence, trade or development co-operation.

But then why is Europe not fulfilling the expectations of its citizens? Some blame austerity, others mention the capabilities-expectation gap, or the fact that the EU was not designed to deal with such a security challenge. In fact, however, none of this is true.

Can do better

With a clear recognition and definition of the EU’s foreign and security policy goals, and better synergies between different policy areas – especially between internal and external policies, including foreign, trade and development policies – the EU would be able to reach more with the same financial means. In terms of terrorism, this means closer co-operation between police and intelligence services, both within and between member states. Member states must finally put their legal obligation to exchange information into action. It is not about money. It is about a smarter, better connected Europe.

Secondly, we cannot afford to speak with 28 different voices any longer. Instead, the EU needs to be more unified in its foreign and security policy and an important starting point is the EU Global Strategy, which is currently being drafted by the vice-president of the commission and high representative for foreign and security policy, Federica Mogherini, and which will be presented to the European Council at the end of June. This strategy has the potential to enable the EU to define its values and objectives and become a more coherent, stronger and more effective foreign policy actor. However, in order for this to happen, it is crucial on the one hand to finally implement the instruments provided by the Treaty of Lisbon, such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation and, on the other hand, to mobilise and combine all instruments and resources at our disposal in a consistent way.

Working together

In the end, it all comes down to political will. The will to co-operate more closely among EU member states and EU institutions, and to further strengthen collaboration with key organisations such as NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, as well as with regional organisations. We can only succeed in facing today’s challenges if we work together and speak with one voice. European leaders need to finally understand and take up this challenge.

Pan European Networks Ltd