EUROPEAN THINK-TANK REVIEW – III. (January 2014)

Written by | Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
European Values

The EU Diplomacy under Review
Antonio Zotti (Istituto per gli studi di politica internazionale)

Since it was established in 2010, the European External Action Service (EEAS) has been the subject of constant criticism. Disappointment and unfulfilled expectations is not the worst thing that the EU’s diplomacy will have to overcome. Negative prospects for the future of the EEAS are further reinforced by the relative unimportance and irrelevance that EU citizens attribute to the block’s foreign policy. As a matter of face, in times of financial crisis, social and economic reforms have become a greater priority. It is only now, that the EEAS enters a new phase and the High Representative Ashton could be replaced by someone new.
However, the appointment of the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is only one aspect of the institutional transformation of the EEAS. The way the EEAS is currently functioning is unsustainable, yet any new reform brings about unpleasant compromises. Changes should focus on three main areas of the EEAS: organizational structure, mode of operation and members of staff. Nevertheless, these changes by themselves cannot solve the EEAS´ most urgent problem: the lack of coherence and strategic vision of European diplomacy.
The answer to the current situation would be further convergence of European states’ interests and strategic perspectives, which is a process that would be strengthened if the European integration was to move towards federalism. However, the evolution of the EU into federal organization is rather unlikely since the Member States generally lack the political will for this to happen. Since the EU foreign policy is now in the hands of the Member States, the EEAS cannot be blamed for the EU’s lack of unity in international affairs. It is primarily the responsibility of the Member States to deal pragmatically with the tools that are currently available – and this is exactly what the EEAS itself has actually been doing until now.
(The study can be uploaded here: http://www.ispionline.it/en/pubblicazione/eu-diplomacy-under-review-9505)

The EU in Afghanistan
Michael Holtje a Ronja Kempin (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik)

The European Union is a major donor of financial assistance to Afghanistan. Besides that, it also supports programs for the development of democratic institutions, strengthening the rule of law, human rights or economic recovery. However, when compared with the United States, the role of the Union is still somewhat limited. The total amount of aid from the EU institutions and the Member States reaches a maximum of 15 percent of all aid for Afghanistan. For comparison, the United States alone supply around 40 percent. But now the Union is facing a strategic decision regarding its actions in Afghanistan. This year will bring the withdrawal of NATO forces while the Afghan forces will finally take full responsibility for the security of their country.
The EU has essentially two options. It can either maintain the current level of its engagement and level of the development and humanitarian assistance or it can cooperate with the US or NATO, and reduce its presence in the country and the level of financial contributions. However, as the European Union lacks a clear strategy for its future involvement in Afghanistan, it is likely to retain more or less the same level of involvement as before. However, according to the authors, this decision is a strategic mistake, because the major deterioration in the security situation in the country will occur after the departure of NATO troops from Afghanistan. Already now, when Afghan forces are gradually taking over their duties, the number of civilian casualties and deaths among police officers has dramatically increased.
If the existing limited degree of EU involvement in Afghanistan is maintained, European initiatives don’t have much chance of success in poor security conditions. Therefore, the authors recommend that it would be better for the 28-member Union to terminate the flow of aid to Afghanistan and leave the country. Thus, the EU will avoid a situation where it continues its programs, but fails to meet their objectives, thereby losing credibility as an international actor.
Withdrawal from Afghanistan does not mean that the Union should abandon the country. In pursuit of a long-term solution to the instability of the Afghan state, the EU should focus on the whole region of Central Asia and seek to develop cooperation with different countries in the territory.
(The study can be uploaded here: http://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/comments/2013C38_hot_kmp.pdf)

Eurocriticism: The Eurozone Crisis and Anti-Establishment Groups in Southern Europe
Thanos Dokos, Eleonora Poli, Chiara Rosselli Eudard Soler i Lecha and Nathalie Tocci (Istituto Affari Internazionali)
Eurozone crisis and the subsequent public alienation from the EU politics and ‘imperfect’ institutions has led to the rise of Euroscepticism in all Member States. Although Euroscepticism is not a new phenomenon, the rise of mass anti-system groups, particularly in Southern Europe, is a new phenomenon. Despite the fact that all of the significant groups differ on the basis of their political orientation and structure – Moviento Cinque Stelle, Italy (Movement five stars), SYRIZA in Greece and several socio-political associations in Spain – all became key players in their respective domestic political arenas, where they fight not only against domestic political elite, but also and especially against the EU austerity measures.
The authors of this study point out that these groups are not against the project of European integration as such, but criticize the lack of democracy and harsh economic policies, which has also led to the unfair labeling of the residents from southern European states as lazy and unproductive by their neighbors from North. It is through these groups and their criticism of the political situation in the EU that a better and more constructive debate can arise, which may in the future contribute to a deeper and more sustainable integration within the Union. For this reason, it is necessary to differentiate between Euroscepticism and Eurocriticism.
These ‘dissenting’ groups are now perceived as disturbing elements and opposition to the conservative parties who see them as a major threat. The authors, however, point out that these anti-system groups should not be perceived as anti-European, but quite the opposite – they argue for the reappearance of the old European system based on solidarity, and the restoration of national sovereignty. Most of their criticism is directed primarily to the representatives of national governments. This criticism should be welcomed as one of the options that would lead to the enhancement of EU integration. While it is clear that not all of their suggestions can be implemented, they clearly show a way ahead to create a new European social contract and to improve the functioning of the European Union principles.
(The study can be uploaded here:
http://www.iai.it/content.asp?langid=2&contentid=1030)

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