Facing military conflicts: Is the EU doing enough?
The EU has not remained silent over the current waves of violence in Ukraine, Gaza and Northern Iraq. And yet, it is questionable if it has deployed its full potential.
The newly appointed EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, will have to face a number of serious challenges when taking office on 1 November. In the light of the conflicts occurring in the world today, it is now more important than ever that the EU has a strong and comprehensive external action policy. At present it is still fuzzy in some areas.
EU’s response to the military crisis
The situations in Ukraine, Northern Iraq and Gaza have dominated the agenda of the recent meetings of the European Council, Foreign Affairs Ministers as well as the European Parliament. With regard to all three conflicts, the EU representatives have continuously expressed in their statements their deep concerns and called for a sustainable political solution in which the EU “stands ready to provide the necessary support”.
In respect of the escalation of violence in the Gaza strip last June, the EU prolonged the mandate of its two police missions EUPOL COPPS and EUBAM Rafah operating in the region until 30 June 2015 and offered both parties - Israel as well as Palestininians - a Special Privileged Partnership if they reached a final peace agreement based on the two-State solution. For the post-ceasefire scenario, the Foreign Affairs Council on 15 August expressed the commitment of the EU to develop further actions related to institution-building and reconstruction.
At the same meeting, the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers welcomed the decision of individual Member States to provide the Kurdish regional authorities with military material in order to stop the violent advance of the Islamic State (IS) in Northern Iraq and Syria. Realising the direct threat to Europe as a result of the high number of EU citizens joining the terrorist group, the 28 EU Heads of State and Government urged at their meeting on 30 August the adoption of measures combating radicalisation and extremism, including an EU passenger name record system, as well as to deny IS the benefits of oil sales in international markets.
In response to Russian destabilisation attempts in Eastern Ukraine, the EU has undertaken more concrete steps. Besides expanding the list of individuals and entities subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze due to their involvement in actions against Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the EU also adopted trade and investment restrictions for the illegally annexed region of Crimea and deployed an unarmed civilian mission (EUAM Ukraine) to assist Ukraine with the reform of the security sector. Economic sanctions against Russia restricting access to EU capital markets, the trade with arms and dual use goods as well as certain energy-related technologies were adopted at the end of July and further upgraded in September.
Making EU’s external action more efficient
Pope Francis together with a number of other Church representatives repeatedly urged the international community including the EU to respond with effective measures to restore peace in the present conflict zones.
Despite taking a series of symbolic and even more concrete actions, it is questionable whether the EU´s response to the current military crisis has been prompt or coherent enough.
One of the main deficiencies of the EU´s external action has proved to be the lack of strategic thinking in its security and defence policy. Since the European Security Strategy dating back to 2003, no strategic principle-paper has been adopted by the EU. The new EU High Representative Mogherini will thus be required to work on some strategic guidelines. These should include the development of forms of a permanent structured cooperation between Member States that wish to pool their defence capabilities in order to fully use the potential which the Lisbon Treaty (Art 331(2)TFEU) offers in this respect and to be able to engage in joint EU missions in crisis zones if necessary. From a Church point of view, an overall strategy for Europe’s security and defence policy should stress the importance of dialogue, mediation and reconciliation.
Another shortcoming of the EU´s external action that became obvious through the delayed adoption of the necessary measures, is the lack of unity among Member States and of their solidarity with the regions affected by the military conflicts. Due to her double-function as High Representative and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Council, Ms Mogherini will be in a good position to enhance the co-ordination between the EU and the Member States and ensure that collective action prevails over internal division and particular national interests.
Finally, taking into account the current atrocities committed on religious minorities in Northern Iraq, the protection of religious freedom will also have to play an important role in the EU´s foreign affairs agenda, in particular in the new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy.
COMECE/Justice and Peace Europe