Sunday 23. January 2022
#179 - February 2015


Can the EU become a stronger global actor?


Crisis in Ukraine, ISIL-advances in the Middle East, one-eighth of humanity undernourished: the new European Commission is set to tackle the challenges in the global arena.

In view of the rapidly changing geopolitical environment, not least on the EU´s doorstep, Jean-Claude Juncker announced in his Political Guidelines for the new Commission as one of his priorities a concerted attempt to increase the effectiveness of EU external policy. Accordingly, the Commission included in its Work Programme for 2015 the launch of a review process of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in order to ensure stability on the EU´s eastern and southern borders. In March, a Green Paper will be published that – after a period of public consultation – should bring some new policy orientations and proposals for the future.


The 4th Eastern Partnership Summit next May in Riga will be the first good opportunity to reassess the approach. Besides deepening political and economic contacts with EU partners, it should also find a balanced relationship with Russia which, together with some other post-Soviet countries, recently established its own integration project – the Eurasian Union. The Eastern Partnership should dispel the perception of it as being a ‘zero-sum game’ and an instrument of geopolitical competition.


The European Neighbourhood Policy review process will however also need to have an equal focus on the Southern neighbourhood. A more flexible and individual approach combining rapid actions with long-term and context-specific strategies must be developed and replace the current rather mechanistic approach governed by outdated ‘one-size-fits-all’ blueprints. The renewed ENP will also need to fit in well with the EU´s comprehensive approach to external conflict and crisis and be tied more closely to the EU´s broader foreign policy.

Thus, it is particularly important that the European Neighbourhood Policy be better aligned with EU Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The Commission Work Programme calls in this respect for a “coherent and joined-up use of all instruments available”. As requested by the European Council in December 2013, an evaluation of the new global security threats is currently taking place. The EU´s twenty eight leaders will return to the matter next June when, in the light of the changed geopolitical and security environment, it is to be hoped that they will take a decisive step towards a new European Security Strategy replacing the outdated document from 2003. The new strategy should be developed through an integrated approach taking into consideration also the challenges to EU internal security, such as the foreign-fighters threat and terrorism. With a view to creating a lasting peace, it should promote reconciliation efforts both in the prevention and in the aftermath of armed conflicts, including forms of civilian conflict prevention.


Development, the new name for peace

This quotation of Pope Paul VI, who in his EncyclicalPopulorum Progressio” stressed that peace-building policies must not simply strive for the “absence of war” but also for a “more perfect form of justice among men” makes clear that a strong development policy must form an indispensable part of an effective EU foreign policy. The year 2015 - declared as the “European Year for Development”- will also be a crucial year in the international development agenda since a new universal programme of sustainable development goals replacing the Millennium Development Goals from 2000 is to be adopted at the UN General Assembly next September. The EU and its Member States are currently in the process of developing a common position for the upcoming negotiations. Following a Resolution of the European Parliament, the General Affairs Council adopted on 16 December 2014 comprehensive conclusions on the EU´s commitment to “an ambitious (post-2015) agenda, which leaves no one behind”. The Commission also included in its Work Programme a Communication which “aims at establishing EU common position on the Global Partnership to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals”.


From the Church point of view, given the responsibility of developed regions for supporting sustainable development across the world, it is important that the EU present a robust proposal addressing the root causes of poverty, injustice and inequality. Food security and enhanced participation of all citizens will also need to be important features of the new framework. Sustainability – as a principle of comprehensive human development – will have to be measured by finding the right balance between social, economic and environmental aspects and meeting the basic needs of the present as well as of future generations, especially the poor and marginalised.


The effectiveness of EU external action will mainly depend on its ability to ensure close cooperation and coherence in all its external and internal policies as well as consistency between Member States’ and the EU’s foreign policy goals. Then it will become a stronger global actor.

Stefan Lunte, Marek Misak

COMECE/Justice and Peace Europe

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Note: The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Jesuit European Office and COMECE.