1.The European Union (EU) is undertaking a strategic reflection on its foreign and security policy. In June 2015, the European Council mandated the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission (hereafter the High Representative) to:
“continue the process of strategic reflection with a view to preparing an EU global strategy on foreign and security policy in close cooperation with Member States, to be submitted to the European Council by June 2016”.
2.The basis of a new EU strategy on foreign and security policy will be the High Representative’s June 2015 report, The European Union in a changing global environment: A more connected, contested and complex world (hereafter the background report). The background report described a changed global environment. It listed five broad sets of “challenges and opportunities”: European Neighbours; North Africa and the Middle East; Africa; Atlantic Partnerships; and Asia. The background report suggested five key issues that the EU must address in order to improve the functioning of its external instruments: direction; flexibility; leverage; co-ordination; and capabilities.
3.Such a process of strategic reflection was last undertaken in 2003 and resulted in the European Security Strategy (ESS). Since then, the external security environment facing the EU has deteriorated significantly and the context, as the High Representative asserted, has become more “contested and complex.” Mr Chris Sainty, Head of EU External Department, Europe Directorate, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), pointed out that the ESS had begun:
“with the now slightly infamous words, ‘Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure nor so free. The violence of the first half of the 20th Century has given way to a period of peace and stability unprecedented in European history.’”
That language had not been “outrageously complacent” at the time, but the context had “changed a very great deal in the intervening period.”
4.We agree that a strategic review is timely and necessary. In order to pursue its interests and protect its citizens in the context of the return of geopolitics, instability in the neighbourhood, the diffusion of international power and persistent economic challenges, the EU will need to improve its capacity for strategic thinking and its execution of foreign and security policy. The strategic review provides the opportunity.
5.Our report first considers the strategic review process and the critical components of a strategy for foreign and security policy (Chapter 2). In Chapter 3, we set out the background—a considerably altered internal and external context—to the drafting of a new foreign and security policy. Here we consider the major security threats facing the Union. We then turn to our witnesses’ views on the objectives of a new strategy and which factors should guide a process of prioritisation (Chapter 4). In Chapter 5, we consider how the EU can effectively use its instruments to deliver its political objectives. We illustrate our evidence with case studies from the European neighbourhood.
6.We hope that our report will make a contribution to the process of strategic reflection, and thereby to the preparation of a new strategy on foreign and security policy.
7.The inquiry that led to this report was carried out by the External Affairs Sub-Committee, whose members are listed in Appendix 1. The Sub-Committee’s Call for Evidence, which was launched on 23 July 2015, is reprinted in Appendix 3. A full list of witnesses, including their affiliations, is printed in Appendix 2. We would like to thank all our witnesses, along with those who facilitated our visit to Brussels. A note of this visit is provided in Appendix 4.
8.Before the inquiry was launched, the Sub-Committee held a scoping seminar in July 2015, with Mr Nick Witney, Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations, Dr Spyros Economides, Associate Professor of International Relations and Deputy Director of the Hellenic Observatory, London School of Economics and Political Science, Dr Joost Hiltermann, Program Director, Middle East and North Africa, International Crisis Group, and James de Waal, Senior Fellow, International Security, Chatham House. We would like to thank the participants at the seminar for their guidance and expertise. Finally, we are particularly indebted to Dr Kai Oppermann, our Specialist Adviser for the inquiry.
9.We make this report to the House for debate.
1 European Council, European Council Conclusions, 25–26 June 2015: [accessed 1 February 2016]
2 European External Action Service, The European Union in a changing global environment: A more connected, contested and complex world (25 June 2015): [accessed 1 February 2016]
3 European Council, A secure Europe in a better world: European Security Strategy (12 December 2003): [accessed 1 February 2016]
4 European External Action Service, The European Union in a changing global environment: A more connected, contested and complex world (25 June 2015): [accessed 1 February 2016]
6 (Chris Sainty)