Europe has key role to play in foreign affairs
The Ukraine drama demonstrates the need for Europe to have an efficient and coordinated foreign policy. It started with Ukraine’s refusal to join the European Union’s Eastern Partnership in November 2013. This was the centerpiece of the Vilnius Summit and refusal came as a complete surprise to the EU, although it could have been predicted after analysis of the players and the situation. Ukraine’s protesters in Maidan Square, Kiev, then did the work.
The EU’s foreign policy should have guided and helped reach a resolution in a peaceful and coordinated way over the last 15 years.
The Ukrainian situation deteriorated over three months and Brussels’ foreign policy role in mediating was described by the US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland, in a highly insulting, ‘F**k the EU’.
It was the involvement of three EU countries, Poland, Germany and France, which brought the change. Collaboration between Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Poland’ s foreign minister Radosław Sikorski delivered the breakthrough. They are both pragmatic and Mr. Sikorski can be considered highly knowledgeable in foreign affairs, experienced and truly international. He is probably the best foreign policy talent in European government.
What does this all mean? European intervention was good news. It showed that Europe is still important. The bad news was that the EU as an institution is not seen as a credible and ‘professional’ foreign policy partner.
The little foreign policy initiated by the EU so far was hostage to technocracy. There was little subtlety and pragmatism. Both are highly important to achieving success in international relations.
Impressing EU partners by displaying institutional systems and regulations rather than Europe’s traditional values will not do.
Ukraine is essential for Europe’s stability. Its divisions have shown that Europe needs an efficient common foreign policy. European elections are due in May 2014 and we will see a new commission.
It is essential that the new commission understands the importance of pragmatic and decisive foreign and security policy. It is also vital that the foreign commissioner is selected carefully on talent and does not emerge through internal EU horse-trading.