Strengthening the EU’s External Action: The Need for an EU Food Diplomacy?

Written by | Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Daniele Fattibene (Istituto Affari Internazionali)

Over the past few decades, the concept of food security has undergone a considerable development. It can be perceived on two levels. First, in a broad sense, it refers to the ability of the state to provide adequate food supplies for its population and, second, it describes the access of individuals to food. Relevant EU authorities are in charge of the phenomenon of food security and their increasing activity only affirms its ever-increasing importance. However, there is a considerable scope for streamlining the EU‘s actions and policies in this area. How exactly could this be done?

The EU‘s attitude to food security has been gradually changing since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty. The Union is currently dealing with food security at several levels, whether at the level of the Commission, where it is mainly the Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development and the Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection in charge of this issue, or at the international level, where the European Union cooperates with many international and regional players. The EU‘s food safety is, however, retaining its excessive sectoral approach and still lacks a clear strategy, which would have to include the widest spectrum of security dimensions that are linked to food security.

In recent years, a relatively broad debate has been initiated that highlights the link between food security, political instability and migration flows. The so-called Arab Spring is a prime example that confirms this connection. An overall lack of basic foodstuffs and the constantly increasing prices were only two of many other reasons that eventually boiled over into considerable social unrests. Data also confirms that a large number of migrants come from countries where citizens have a difficult access to basic foodstuffs. To this end, in 2015, the EU responded to this fact by creating a special fund that should address the root causes of migration.

In the context of an increasing importance of the phenomenon of food security, the Union should further strengthen its activities in this area. A greater participation of the European External Action Service (EEAS) is especially desirable as it is already playing an important role in the coordination of the various steps that the EU takes in food security through the involvement of individual EU delegations. The EU must therefore change the current sectoral approach and develop a clear strategy for food security, which will reflect current problems that arise in this area.

(The study can be downloaded here:

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