EUROPEAN THINK-TANK REVIEW – V. (February 2014)

Written by | Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
European Values

European Strategic Interests : Choice or Necessity?
Michel Foucher (Robert Schuman Foundation)
Major European problems are not solely due to the economic and financial crisis, but they come together with the geo-economical and geopolitical change. The time has come to move to the third stage of the European project. In the polycentric world, it is necessary to establish a center of power and influence, which will be capable of dealing with major contemporary challenges. To complete this project, the shortlisted interests agreed on by consensus should be identified while the focus cannot be just on the economy and trade. This step is an important aspect for defining a common external policy. Final report on the European future by eleven foreign ministers contains more references to common values than to common interests. This text does point out the significance of the EU as a global player, while leaving out any advice for the real action. Even many other documents and their revisions attempt to address the current situation, but none of them comprehensively identifies regional and global interests of the European Union.
Since the interests of the EU have never been clearly defined, Michel Foucher in his article presents some specific proposals, such as the maintenance of an European strategic autonomy in security matters, the draft of a long-term plan for positive interaction with neighboring geopolitical entities, a commitment to joint action in crisis management in regions 3 to 6 hours of range, an integration strategy for mid-sized developing countries (outside of China, Brazil and India), strengthening of multilateral organizations and applying the continental law to their agenda and actions, etc. It is now important for the European Union to decide whether it wants to be part of the West and divide the strategic challenges with other Western countries or whether it wants to become one of the centers of the multipolar world that takes on responsibility for global interests.
(The study can be uploaded here: http://www.robert-schuman.eu/en/european-issues/0294-european-strategic-interests-choice-or-necessity)

Egypt and the EU: Where Next?
Steven Blockmans (Centre for European Policy Studies)
Thanks to the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and the Special Representative for the Southern Mediterranean, Bernardino León, the European Union is in a better negotiating position in Egypt than other major international players. Hence, the EU remains Egypt’s most important and most trusted regional partner. Catherine Ashton being the only Western leader who was allowed to visit President Mursí after the military coup serves as evidence of this fact.
After the dramatic events of the Arab Spring in 2011, EU leaders were trying to develop relations with the main political factions in the country. In exchange for the respect of fundamental human rights and freedoms, the EU offered Egypt a financial assistance and negotiated a free trade zone between the two regions. Unfortunately, even the promise of providing loans and increasing investment did not provide a sufficient motivation for Egypt and the European soft power proved ineffective.
Although the Egyptian society recorded some progress in the past two years – when a free presidential election took place, state of emergency ended, and there was a referendum on the new constitution – still a number of serious misconducts were detected on the part of the ruling elites, such as the dissolution of the National Assembly. Importantly, Egypt also failed to significantly improve the human rights standard, but the greatest danger lies in the diversification of Egyptian society based on gender (discrimination of women) and religious faith (violation of freedom of religion). This polarization caused deep internal instability and the country is still in real danger of civil war.
The different positions of the EU Member States towards Egypt and their inability to name events by their real name – namely the above mentioned bloody military coup – prevented the EU from  creating a tougher policy towards Egypt (for example, the introduction of sanctions). The reconstruction of a police state currently underway is thus the exact opposite of what the Union was trying to achieve – a stable democracy. Yet, despite all its mistakes, the EU remains perhaps the most influential actor that should try to forestall a civil war in Egypt by all means. The EU should not give up on building mutual trust and it should help facilitate dialogue between the conflicting parties. If these efforts are successful, the EU should also focus on addressing the persisting socio-economic problems in Egypt such as the promotion of prosperity and stable democracy. This remains the EU’s strategic interest not only for the sake of Egypt but, in fact, for the sake of the whole region and even the Union itself.
(The study can be uploaded here: http://ceps.eu/book/egypt-and-eu-where-next)

Strategy and Its Role in the Future of European Defence Integration
Manuel Muniz (Istituto Affari Internazionali)
Strategic thinking is key in developing adequate skills and resources that help to deal with security threats. If the European countries are not going to think strategically when planning their defense, they may find themselves in a position where they will not be able to defend their vital interests. And this is quite a good reason to think about the strategic defense planning of the European Union.
The process of planning the security policy should always start by defining the strategic interests of the stakeholders, and continue by determining which of those interests are at risk while suggesting the resources that should be used to remove these threats to our interests. Finally, it goes without saying that it is also necessary to obtain an adequate budget. A closer look at defense policy within the European Union, however, shows us that not only the EU but also the nation states are already unable to fulfill the step number one in strategic planning – determine their and the EU’s strategic interests. In fact, even countries like France with a long tradition of military involvement beyond the borders of their country have failed to clearly define and implement a foreign policy in line with their long-term strategic interests. The inability of Germany to think strategically is even legendary. But only when we are able to clearly identify our interests, we can begin to develop an effective strategy to defend them. Therefore, the EU should take this shortcoming into consideration and try to clearly define its strategic interests.
An attempt to define strategic interests should begin at the level of individual Member States. The areas where most of the states share common interest should then serve as the basis for the common defense and security policy at the EU level. A similar debate on common interests would not only encourage the process of European integration in the field of security but would also contribute to the development of a clearly defined and effective common defense strategy.
(The study can be uploaded here:
http://www.iai.it/content.asp?langid=2&contentid=999)

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