The EU Global Strategy: Realpolitik with European Characteristics

Written by | Monday, August 15th, 2016

Sven Biscop (EGMONT – The Royal Institute for International Relations)

On 28 June, Federica Mogherini presented the Global Strategy for the EU Foreign and Security Policy (EGS) to the European Council. Following the referendum on the UK’s exit from the EU, which poses a big challenge, the Union must not withdraw into itself and the new strategy is now therefore more important than ever before. EGS introduces a new approach to the foreign and security policy and it can be seen as a revision of the 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS). How exactly does the approach of EGS change from that of ESS?

Firstly, the document lists EU’s priority interests for the first time in its history. EGS puts a greater emphasis on safeguarding the EU’s security and European Neighborhood Policy. After the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels and due to the ongoing refugee crisis, a greater focus on the above-mentioned priorities is vital so that EGS could be credible both for the citizens and the individual Member States. The second shift is seen in that it has less emphasis on democracy and democratization. EGS tends to focus on the strengthening of stability in the problematic countries rather than on the change of the local regimes. The objective is to combat poverty and social inequality, so that in the future a positive change can arise from within the concerned states.

The third major change compared to ESS is a greater emphasis on military means. The ambition is to enhance the ability to protect Europe, respond immediately to external crises and help with the defense capacities of our partners. The EU should be able to act independently, but also contribute to the NATO missions. EGS calls for a greater cooperation and integration in the field of security and proposes a coordinated review of annual military spending plans of individual Member States. The new strategy also reflects, more than EBS, geopolitical tensions between global and regional powers. A great emphasis is placed on diplomatic initiatives and platforms, such as ASEM and the EU-ASEAN partnership, as well as the inclusion of trade policy into the overall EU strategy.

For the new Global Strategy to meet its goals, it must be translated into real political decisions and actions. EGS has already now brought up a proposal for implementation, a clear process and a time schedule, which did not happen in the ESS’ case. The strategy should be institutionally enshrined not only in the European External Action Service (EEAS) but also in the Commission, and it is essential that Member States adopt it as their own. The current international environment needs a confident EU. Only then, its responsible approach can bring about a positive change in the world.

(The study can be downloaded here:

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