Home / Europe 2020 / What common foreign policy for the EU in 2020? EU neighborhood, UN reform, Human resources, Democratic legitimacy

What common foreign policy for the EU in 2020? EU neighborhood, UN reform, Human resources, Democratic legitimacy

Executive summary – Seminar GlobalEurope 2020 (Helsinki, October 26-27, 2004)

Organized by Europe 2020 in cooperation with the Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the remarkable Finlandia Hall, this seventh Seminar of Anticipation, opened by Mr Erkki Tuomioja, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland, concluded the first series of GlobalEurope 2020 seminars, the so-called “European” series [1]. Designed to draw conclusions from certain common tendencies in the six preceding meetings and to tackle four cross-sectional themes basic to the future of a common foreign policy [2], this seminar made it possible to confirm once again the very great convergence of opinions and analysis of parties to the accord and participants. As a result of this tour of the prospective planetary horizon, and of this tour of physical Europe (Paris, the Hague, Warsaw, Brussels, Lisbon, London and Helsinki), realized in partnership with seven ministers of foreign affairs, with the direct participation of almost 450 diplomats and experts from the 25 member states, the communal institutions, and the three candidate countries (Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia), one inference can be drawn immediately: the EU is ready to launch itself into the great adventure of establishing a common foreign policy. Obstacles no longer appear to involve the will of the leaders or the coherence of different actions and approaches. For example, as was underlined during the seminar, the relevant question of diplomatic human resources on the horizon of 2020 is no longer “who wants to be a European diplomat?” but rather “who still wants to be a national diplomat?” One could equally well add this central question which demonstrates the ineluctability of a common diplomacy: how is it on the horizon of 2020 for our member states to confront the costs of management of their national diplomacy where even today each one of them is confronting budgetary restrictions in this area?

Significant Aspects of the First Six Seminars

The introduction to the seminar made it possible to return to the conclusions drawn in the six preceding exercises which dealt with relations between the EU and six regions of the world (Arab world, North America, CIS, Africa, Latin America and Asia) at the horizon of 2020. Several important elements emerged.

On the one hand, the EU has entered into a process of “apprenticeship by doing” as regards foreign relations. From the “cooperation-development” of the early days to recent developments in matters of security and defence, and including agreements involving a common commercial policy, and its involvement with the great stakes in global governance (Kyoto, ICC…), the EU asserts itself increasingly in the international sphere of its activities. However, for lack of intellectual and conceptual independence, the Europeans still hesitate to take the initiative in questions of global affairs.

Nevertheless, at the horizon of 2020, the “demands” they must respond to are very important. Paradoxically, in proportion as the world becomes less “Europeanized” (compared to the 19th and 20th centuries), there is emerging an increasing demand for actions initiated by the European Union, in a world which seems increasingly in step with the essential components of the EU, namely a delicate balance of diversity and unity, of different histories and a common future, of diverse languages and common values, of concrete actions and long term processes. In a manner of speaking, it is this “call” for European action which constitutes a strong stimulus to the development of a common foreign policy.

However, it is up to the Europeans to bring about the necessary coherence between different common institutions, different member-States and different instruments of European foreign policy, as Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomija recalled in his opening discussion. In particular, as another participant stressed, the EU needs to anticipate new challenges in order to fully utilize its potential (integrating its instruments, defining its own strategies and the fundamental concepts underlying its actions, pursuing objectives which are its own.)

This demand, furthermore, is illustrated as well by the “six (regional) axes” of a future common foreign policy that have emerged from the preceding seminars of GlobalEurope 2020:

. The Arab World: Contribution to formulating a “common Arab vision” (to avoid the danger of a “common Muslim vision”), aiming to contribute to the emergence of an “organized Arab agent” on the international scale

. North America: Accompanying the United States to help it to adapt to the decline of its power while preparing for global governance in the 21st century; and while transforming the Transatlantic relation from a mostly US-European states relation to a US-EU one.

. CIS: Management of “Russian uncertainty” after decades of predictions and the vain hope of a “Western” Russia in the 90’s.

. Africa: Accompanying Africa in achieving interior stability and regional integration, as preliminary to its lasting development.

. Latin America: Accompanying Latin America to realize lasting democracy, including especially the emergence of growing “native” elites (by contrast with the descendants of Europeans) and its regional integration.

. Asia: Accompanying Asia in the process of its integration with the first world (economic and military) while efficiently maintaining the success of regional integration of the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations).

These long term axes for a common foreign policy are inscribed in a global context characterized by three great pairs of determining factors as identified in the series of seminars: demography/immigration; natural resources/energy; and democratization/regionalization [3].

Subsequent work was focused on cross-sectional questions that directly condition the capacity of the EU to effectively establish a common foreign policy, in order to determine: the human resources available to this policy in the future, the definition of a politics of neighborhood, the contribution of the EU to reform of the system of global governance and the democratic legitimation of this foreign policy.

Implications for Human Resources

As regards human resources, the participants largely stressed the conceptual and operational duality of a common foreign policy. It is a policy which will be orchestrated above all by the Council and which should be capable of being taken over by the Member-States (as well by State mechanisms as by public opinion as explained below.) It will need in addition common instruments and common operators (as already exist in the Commission services, its 140 delegations and its financial instruments or its programs). The success of an external foreign policy, as well as the quality of its analyses and strategies, will depend on this delicate equilibrium of instruments and of agents.

The latter demand as well the creation of a European pole of anticipation as regards foreign relations. It could usefully organize itself as a network, directly connected to the Council (future Minister of Foreign Relations) as well as to the Commission and to the European Parliament. There should be no need of an ad hoc agency, based in Brussels (or elsewhere) to contradict the reality of the terrain. On the contrary it is the diversity of the “visions of the world” harbored by the “European vision of the world” that will constitute the greatest value added to the “pole of European anticipation” regarding foreign relations: in the last analysis, let the political authorities and the diplomats create the ad hoc syntheses. Financed by this institutional triangle, by means of an ad hoc EU program, this “pole” could thus regularly supply the European decision-makers with analyses by associating the “prospective units” integrated to the different national ministries of foreign affairs and to the common institutions, as well as the widespread European “think tanks” present in EU territory and beyond. To be successful in 2020 it really appears urgent to replenish the European “conceptual deficit” with respect to a common foreign policy.

This “European team” or “trans-European network” approach constitutes in addition an outstanding aspect of the discussions on this subject during the seminar. As one participant summed it up, in order to successfully create a common foreign policy it is “necessary to have agents who combine a excellent understanding of collective European identity with a very good knowledge of the EU from an institutional and grass-root point of view.” In the general view, only a European “team” will be able to integrate these types of understanding in the coming decades.

The linguistic example is under the circumstances obvious: one of the “strengths” of the EU at the international level arises from its ability to speak the dominant or vehicular languages (today and in the coming decades) of almost all regions of the world (French/English in Africa, Spanish/Portuguese in Latin America, English/Spanish/French in North America, English in Asia, English/French in the Arab world, English in Asia, Slavic languages in the CIS). The efficiency of a common foreign policy by comparison with that of other world powers will require that such a capacity, unique of its kind, is preserved. Indisputably this speaks for a multilingual and multicultural European diplomacy (since the aspects of cultural proximity are just as essential) and so that the agents of a foreign policy should be conceived in terms of European teams or European networks (teams of individuals and networks of organizations/institutions.)

Networks will be more effective for providing the intellectual and operational infrastructure of a continuous activity for a medium or long period of time, as for example in the case of the “European pole of anticipation”, or as well to assure at the local level the coordination of Member-States’ missions in a given country or of Member-States’ delegations near the international organization (as, for example, the UN, WTO (World Trade Organization, IMF, the World Bank,..). On the other hand, the “European team” approach is particularly well adapted to the handling of crises, or of periodic or highly politicized problems, notably via a “special envoy” or a “special representative” of the EU acting as “stimulus/ coordinator” of EU activity in the matter.

As stressed a number of times, these two approaches, “team” or “network”, will complement each other as proven already in the case of humanitarian crises that require the integration of different types of European networks (food supply, health, military,…).

In terms of individual recruitment, a clear-cut tendency emerged from the debates in favor of utilizing experienced personnel, rather than recruiting young graduates fresh out of college, training schools, or diplomatic academies. A good mastery of technical knowledge such as concrete familiarity with EU and national institutions should in fact prohibit direct access to the European diplomatic service. In a parallel fashion, the recommendation, above all, not to subscribe to a logic of “job for life” on the model of the status of civil servants (national or common), also contributes to favor a policy of recruiting after the first professional experience. The system put in place by the Central European Bank, involving the recruiting of personnel for a limited time period (in general ten years maximum), represents an orientation that should inspire a European diplomatic service in the future.

For all the reasons mentioned above, a very large majority of participants emphasized that it seemed to them essential, above all, not to create a cast of “common diplomats for life”. If some section of current personnel among the 140 foreign delegations of the Commission were to be integrated into a future common diplomatic service, it should only occur under conditions of their compatibility with the defined criteria and constraints. If not, the Commission should reintegrate them into service in other sectors. The availability of diplomats or of national experts should have precise limits; and it should go along with the establishment of an active policy of bi-directional “transfers” between the common diplomatic service and the national diplomatic service. As for the recruitment of personnel from the private sector, it should reflect the limitations already established for this type of personnel in national diplomacy.

As regards training, the creation of a “European network of training institutions to the common diplomatic service” should make it possible to provide the conceptual content and the necessary mastery of the instruments of common foreign policy. Functioning at two levels (a course of initiation for all students, including those who are destined for national service; and reinforced professional training for the persons recruited by the common service), this will make it possible to avoid repeating the possibly damaging divisions between national and common civil servants that are characteristic of the present system. The personnel of a future common foreign policy should be neither national mercenaries attracted solely by status or special benefits, nor “monks” of the common institutions, but diplomats , well-suited to work on a European team, to promote and defend the common interests of the EU while preserving the interests of the different Member-States. It will be a difficult but essential task that seeks to assure the coherence of recruitment and training with this objective in view.

A Future Common Strategy of Neighborhood

Unless conceiving an infinite expansion of the EU, EU enlargement implies that the EU grows closer to its “neighbors”. If the EU is faithful to its founding principles (aimed in particular at channeling power towards cooperation), then this policy of neighborhood becomes the missing link between a policy of enlargement and the foreign policy of the EU. It makes it possible to define a special relationship with those who are today “close to us” without “being us”; and to avoid relegating them to either of the two classical categories of power: the “future us” and the “nothing to do with us”, annexation or indifference.

As far as a common policy of neighborhood is concerned, the seminar’s delegates underlined several elements essential to a precise definition. It is a coherent policy addressed to an EU environment, to its “neighborhood”, and not a sum of bilateral policies directed at each neighbor in turn. It is a policy that should exclude the notion of line of division. It is a policy that should gather around the fundamental values of democracy, peace, prosperity, and security. It is a long term policy that should combine a comprehensive strategy towards the “arch of neighborhood” (from Russia to Morocco), all the while differentiating between countries such that each partnership is adapted to the needs and expectations of both the EU and the country concerned. Today, this neighborhood policy is aimed at 10 Mediterranean countries and 4 in the Caucasus. But it was recalled that it is not out of the question, regardless of the statements of both parties today, that future relations between the EU and Turkey will tomorrow likewise be inscribed in this framework, rather than in membership logics. The success of a European neighborhood policy suggests above all rendering attractive the status of “privileged neighbor” of the EU and creating a precise hierarchy of the contents of each policy, ranging from membership to basic commercial relations, by clearly defining the status of “neighbor” as the “second best” of the EU’s foreign policy offer.

In order to be successful with a policy of this kind, the EU must keep two essential elements in mind:
- the EU is not the locus of European identity; it is the Council of Europe that plays this role;
- the EU is not the embodiment of fundamental European values (democracy, rights of man,…); the Council of Europe, once again, is the essential institution; Now the “neighborhood of the EU” is notably constituted of countries that are indisputably European, and of other countries that aspire to share a number of common European values (such as democracy for example). The EU should therefore have every interest in integrating efficiently the Council of Europe in its neighborhood strategy. This approach could for example consist of contributing to strengthening its efficiency and its financial means, and of channeling a number of its policies belonging to the “neighborhood packet” (particularly culture, education, research,…) through the Council of Europe. The importance the neighborhood policy should grant to questions of democracy and human rights requires to grant great importance to partnerships between civil societies in the EU and the concerned countries – in fact, making this feature a priority of the policy.

A number of delegates commented that the eventual admittance of Turkey implied a considerable expansion of the EU neighborhood policy by automatically including to it the quasi-totality of the Middle-East and of central Asia; all the while making the preservation of the category of “neighbor” impossible in the case of countries such as the Ukraine or Armenia who would insist on becoming members of the EU. This situation will not fail to put pressure on the future status of EU-Turkish relations and will strongly militate, according to a number of participants, in favor of a future framework for this relation to be one of “neighborhood” rather than membership (and this regardless of the EU’s decision next December). This will also be an opportunity to endow the neighborhood policy with an “External Relations” component too aimed at developing common policies with our neighbors, in order to organize our relations with the regions where our interests converge, and where the “neighbor” present specific assets. Without such an instrument, the EU is doomed to see its frontiers extend infinitely.

The EU’s Contribution to Reform of the System of Global Governance

On this theme the debates centered on the question of the reform of the UN (and of the connected system IMF (International Monetary Fund), World Bank, WTO (World Trade Organization),…) The essential question remaining of course “how to be heard and to have an optimum impact insofar as the European Union is concerned”, the discussion took the form of exchanges bearing on the objectives and methods of such an activity on the part of the EU within the UN. It was clearly demonstrated that it is very probable that the structure of the UN in general, and of the Security Council in particular, as we know it since 1945, should be the object of a radical reform in the coming decade. This reform will very certainly grapple with three crucial problems with the current system of the UN, in other words:

- to modify the role, constitution and nature of the General Assembly

- to modify the constitution and the role of the Security Council

- to rethink the general architecture of the system of the United Nations.

Several ideas are already under consideration inside, as well as outside, the United Nations regarding these questions. The EU should provide itself with the means to have a decisive impact on this reform because in a certain sense it is the future of the political model it embodies that could be involved. This is the case for instance with the archaic regional distribution of the planet (stille based on Cold War logics) which contributes to over-represent Europe. This example well illustrates the choices that the EU will have to confront. In order to attract a large majority of States towards its vision of reform, it will be necessary to take into consideration their expectations: notably as regards the disappearance of inherited relics of the post World War II period, from the colonial era or from the Cold War. All of this will “cost” the Europeans in terms of “acquired advantages” (mainly the Member-States, in fact.) On the other hand, this will make it possible to conceive a system integrating two of the factors essential to the EU in the coming decades: orienting the system of the UN towards a base founded at least as much on “regional integration” as on the Nation-States, and reinforcing collective European influence. The EU should assure that the relevance of its approach to the geopolitical future of the planet is recognized (an approach that has been increasingly inspirational to other regions such as the ASEAN, the African Union, the Mercosul (Common Market of Southern States,…), to avoid “standing outside the door” of the future system of global governance.

As regards the multiple organs of the UN system, the EU should militate for a strong rationalization of the instruments and for the simplification of the system, notably to make the functioning of the machine of the United Nations more understandable for world public opinion.

As for the Security Council, the debates clearly demonstrated that it would be completely illusory to imagine that at mid-term the two European states that are permanent members of the Security Council should renounce their position (France and the United Kingdom being the two sides of one coin, dating back to the colonial era, they will remain or depart together; now, and for the years to come, they will wish to remain); in the same way that the advancement of other Europeans states to the status of permanent member seems equally illusory (the rest of the world assumes that there are already “too many” Europeans in the Security Council). Under the circumstances, the reform of the Security Council of the UN will gradually become a central question of European foreign policy; and probably a test of its credibility. The situation is simple: either the Europeans find a solution that suits them and that suits the rest of the world; or this issue will poison intra-European relations. But as it was clearly pointed out during the debates, let’s not forget that the “European solution” to this question only has value if it addresses the concerns of the rest of the world regarding the future Security Council. UN member states will indeed not make up their minds until the different propositions are fully known and they can assess their compatibility with their own interests.

Without entering into all the details of solutions called forth, one may cite two original ideas: the first would consist of taking one of the two current permanent European seats and making it a “common” seat and dividing the second between the two permanent members in question (with a rotation every 6 months, or every year); the second, more responsive to the expectations of the rest of the world, would assume first of all the recasting of the concept of the Security Council by devoting a number of permanent seats to each continent/region (at least 3) and beginning with the number selected to construct common representation (certainly combining the presence of France and the United Kingdom with that of other Member-States in a proportion and regularity to be negotiated internally in the EU). As one participant pointed out, just 15 years ago few people thought it conceivable that the central banks and the European ministers of finance would accept the principle of a European Central Bank and of a EuroGroup. This evolution militates in favor of some optimism as regards European representation in the Security Council.

Finally, attention was devoted to the need for cross-sectional coordination in all the international institutions. The creation of a unity of coordination in this regard, together with the future European Minister of Foreign Affairs, should seemingly be an imperative.

Founding the Future Common Foreign Policy on Democratic Legitimacy

In conclusion, it was judged necessary to debate a question that is essential but too often neglected in experts’ debates on questions of foreign policy: the democratic legitimacy of European foreign policy. This is nevertheless an important aspect which will directly determine the capacity of the EU to actually put in place this policy. In a parallel fashion, we saw with the Iraqi crisis, how much European opinion could converge even when the leaders were divided; or rather, in the case of Turkey, how much the leaders could converge and public opinion diverge with that of its leaders. In any case, the credibility of the EU or of its engagements is at issue. The question of democratic legitimacy in European foreign policy is therefore central.

Structurally, by the very nature of the EU, this common foreign policy is submitted to democratic constraints that in general national foreign policies escape. In fact, European “interest” is neither “obvious” nor “natural” at this stage of European construction, contrary in general to “national” interests that are forged over the course of centuries and that are familiar to our fellow citizens in each Member-State. European interest should therefore be clarified and founded across a vast debate that could itself appear legitimate in the view of public opinion, rather than seeing its conclusions implicated in the least change of leader (that, however, is the danger that lies in wait for the EU’s future decision with respect to Turkey, as one participant recalled.)

To respond to this constraint, a delegate demonstrated how impossible it would be to avoid putting into place tomorrow trans-European party politics, which alone could give the European Parliament the political foundations it needs to play its role in European foreign policy. Without this new constituent of the European political game, the debate on a common foreign policy will remain confined to national democratic arenas, which by their very nature are incapable of being grasping the collective European interest (or rather they identify it with their national interest); at the same time, without this new political mediator between citizens and European leaders, the European foreign policy will be exposed as the fruit of compromise between States and various European lobbies, without legitimacy and therefore in sum, without far-reaching significance.

The recourse to NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and to civil society for mediation has been judged necessary as long as these trans-European political forces have not emerge, however the problem of the legitimacy and representativity of these organizations was raised, recalling in particular that “Brussels” NGOs generally represent nothing but themselves and have no real impact on European civil society. This situation calls for more involvement on the part of national and local opinion relays in this type of process of debate, information, or consultation.

In any case it emerged clearly from this last subject that even as regards a common foreign policy, EU democratization was not a choice of options; but rather a political imperative. And this is all the more true since, as several participants recalled, the question of the role of the EU in the world is certainly one of the subjects most apt to arouse the interest of the greater public for the European debate.

Translated into English by Emily Robin Jackson (Alabama, USA) November 19, 2004

Europe 2020 takes full responsibility for this document.


[1] A second series of seminars, GlobalEurope II, the so-called “world” series, will begin in the spring near Washington (with the joint support of the ambassadors of Germany and of France in the United States), to continue , in the course of 2005/2006, in Johannesburg, Cairo, Rio-de-Janeiro, Bangkok, Moscow and at the UN headquarters.

[2] This summary note, which has been distributed to thousands of decision makers and opinion relays in Europe and in the world, only uses the term “common foreign policy” in order to avoid acronyms (such as CFSP) that constitute a handicap in communicating this same policy to European citizens. Which in itself renders more difficult the process of implementation of this policy for lack of sufficient political legitimacy.

[3] It is worth remarking that neither terrorism nor conflict of civilizations was mentioned as a key-component of the global environment in the coming decades

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