Monday, October 08, 2007

Europe's Global Role at 50

Brussels, 4 October. How far and how fast will Europe's global role expand? This was the first question posed at the Friends of Europe VIP policy roundtable.

Europe's role
Security considerations are taking the EU into the Middle East and Africa, and on economic engagement with China, India and Brazil. The discussion considered the outlook for Europe's global influence in areas as diverse as security and peacekeeping, development aid, trade policy and climate change.

George Soros discussed the launch of the European Council on Foreign Relations, which aims to mobilise political will as well studying the issues. Karel De Gucht, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, gave a very positive view of the past and future emphasising the EU's leading role in addressing climate change, development aid and peacebuilding. Daniel Cohn-Bendit disputed this and stressed that EU action was hindered by "opting out" and that few joint EU positions exist in reality. Etienne Davignon emphasised that now there are 27 members, the opt outs could be tolerated to continue the majority view.

A new service for external relations?
Robert Cooper, Director-General for External and Politico-Military Affairs, Council of the EU General Secretariat, emphasised that there would never be common foreign policy without military capacity and institutions to deliver it. He questioned whether security and development really should be in different departments; surely there is an opportunity at the European level to address this. The idea of a common external service which is mentioned in the new treaty was also emphasised by Deheane of the Constitutional Committee.

No external without stronger internal relations
The Latvian and former Latvian presidents commented that Europe still fails to define itself in a process of self determination. Solidarity is needed for unity and this is needed for external power and influence. The CFSP has to be faced, having started with the comparative easy areas of cooperation on coal and steel we can't continue to ignore the need to address a common foreign and security policy.

Mabel van Oranje made a final point that two thirds of people want a CFSP and Europe needs to act now. In 2020 only 1% of the world's population will be European, in 2030 not 1 in the G8 will be European: Either other people decide our fate and we become a theme park to visit or we act now to ensure our experience is valued and drawn upon in the future.

See this interview with Mabel van Oranje.

by Chris Addison