Europe in the world: Towards a more effective EU foreign and security strategy Contents

Chapter 2: Strategy making in the European Union

Drafting a new strategy

10.The High Representative and the European External Action Service (EEAS) have been at pains to ensure that consultation on the development of the new strategy has been open and inclusive. Mr Pierre Vimont, Senior Associate, Carnegie Europe, and former Executive Secretary-General, EEAS, described “a very open consultation”, which included the “Member States, the think-tank community and civil society organisations.”7

11.The Political and Security Committee (PSC) Ambassadors of Germany, France, Poland and Italy and the FCO confirmed that they had been consulted by the High Representative’s team, and had provided significant input.8 Sir Robert Cooper KCMG MVO, former Director-General for External and Politico-Military Affairs, General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, saw value in developing a consensus among Member States.9

12.Mr Henry Wilkinson, Head of Intelligence and Analysis, The Risk Advisory Group, pointed to the importance of public consensus and support for EU foreign policy. European countries had to “explain to people how the policy will work, that it will deliver results, and that … crises can be dealt with better or even pre-empted.” That, he said, should “be an integral part of the plan”.10 Mr Sainty agreed that a “credible strategy needs to be underpinned by a strong degree of public support”; the UK would look to “ensure that a range of British views and opinions are heard”.11 To achieve this, we believe that the engagement of national legislatures and the European Parliament will be critical. The European Parliament will feed into the new EU foreign and security strategy in the form of an own-initiative report. Its Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) will adopt its draft on priorities for the new strategy in March, which will then be voted in the European Parliament plenary in April.12

Parallel processes

13.Several witnesses raised concerns about the simultaneous preparation of the strategy, reviews of other areas of external affairs policy, and about the unaligned timetables for the allocation of financial resources. Mr Vimont noted that reviews of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), relations with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific group of states and development assistance were also underway. The result was that the EU lacked a “coherent, comprehensive geopolitical vision”.13 Dr Federica Bicchi, Dr Nicola Chelotti, Dr Spyros Economides and Professor Karen Smith, London School of Economics and Political Science, emphasised that there was a “mismatch between the setting of foreign policy priorities and the debates on the EU budget”, which was “unsatisfactory”.14

14.Dr Simon Duke, Professor, European Institute of Public Administration, expressed particular concern that the Commission’s publication of a new ENP was “uncoordinated” with the foreign and security strategy.15 Dr Nicholas Westcott CMG, Managing Director, Middle East and North Africa, EEAS, acknowledged that it was “slightly bizarre” that the EU was “producing a neighbourhood policy before we have produced our grand strategy.” The EEAS was trying to make sure the two strategies were “coherent”, but the separate timetables were “not ideal.”16

Conclusions and recommendations

15.The consultation phase of the new strategy has been open and transparent, with a high degree of participation by academics and think-tanks.

16.Once the new strategy has been agreed at the European Council, the High Representative and the EEAS should reach out to the European Parliament and national parliaments to ensure they are informed and engaged. European legislatures could play an important role in reviewing the new strategy and ensuring coherence across EU external policy.

17.It is regrettable that the review of the ENP was out of step with the strategic review process. In her dual role as Vice-President of the Commission, the High Representative should ensure that a foreign and security policy strategy acts as a political framework to guide the policy and implementation of the ENP.

What type of strategy?

18.We heard wide-ranging views on what should constitute a strategy and what type of strategy would be useful for the Union. Dr Duke said the review should establish a “meta strategy”, by “outlining clear priorities” and make “the necessary linkages with existing sub-strategies.”17 Dr Westcott said the strategy should identify the “interests, values and priorities in terms of overall policy approach”, which would then govern “decisions on individual situations.” A “set of objectives and a list of things to do” was not his idea of a useful strategy.18

19.Mr Wilkinson advocated that the EU should prioritise “specifically what needs to be done to realise the outcomes that it wants, such as what to do about Russian foreign policy and the situation in Syria”.19 Dr Federica Bicchi et al. also suggested a detailed approach: a new strategy should assess the “instruments and resources that are necessary” to achieve its agreed objectives “within a specified time frame”, decide on “directing the necessary resources” and set out which “specific instruments and institutional actors” should be devoted to implement the decisions.20 The PSC Ambassadors of Germany, France, Poland and Italy believed the strategy should be a political framework that could be used as an operational document.21

Objectives, ways and means

20.According to General Maxwell D Taylor, writing in 1981, a strategy consists of objectives (towards which one strives); ways (courses of action, concepts); and means (instruments) that can be used towards delivering the strategic goals.22

21.Building on this definition, a new EU foreign and security policy strategy needs to achieve three things:

Working to a clear framework, such as the one set out above, would set a benchmark for the strategy. The Union must be clear on what it wishes to achieve with the strategic process—it must define what success would look like. In our view, the strategy will be a success if it informs future decision-making by Member States, and improves the coherence of EU foreign policy and the functioning of EU instruments.

22.As a next step, the EU should use the strategy to align its policies, discipline its actions and prioritise its use of resources. It should therefore influence the planning and drafting of all relevant sub-strategies at the EU level. In our report, we offer evidence on a ‘grand’ strategy, and also provide some suggestions on practical implications for policy.

23.Finally, witnesses suggested that the implementation of the strategy should be kept under review. Dr Federica Bicchi et al. said that the new strategy must include a “feedback loop, with regular monitoring and assessment of progress made in implementation and achieving objectives, and adjustment of priorities and resources”.23

Conclusions and recommendations

24.A new EU foreign and security strategy should introduce the overall strategic rationale for EU and Member State action. It should help the EU prioritise, and not seek to offer prescriptive policy suggestions on every issue. The goal should be to guide policy-makers to make better decisions on specific issues.

25.The strategy must also take a comprehensive view of EU foreign policy instruments, in particular of how the resources and instruments of the Commission can support the foreign policy objectives of the Union. Military capabilities should not be ignored. We hope that the strategic review will also stimulate a discussion on how the EU and NATO can work together more effectively.

26.We recognise that Member States will continue to undertake their own sovereign foreign policies, but where appropriate they should use the new strategy as a framework to influence their policies.

27.We hope that the current level of engagement of Member States with this review means that national and EU foreign policy priorities should align more closely.

28.We suggest that a review should be undertaken every five years, in line with the term of the High Representative, in order to keep the strategy current and relevant to fluctuations in the EU’s strategic environment.

29.Clear goals and a more focused framework for action should build a more resilient EU. However, we acknowledge that crises intrude, events happen and plans fail. Member States will continue to face unexpected events, and their actions will have unpredictable consequences. The Union will not be able to predict the future, but the strategy should enable it to be flexible, agile and adaptable.

A focus on the neighbourhood

30.We believe that a key judgement that the new strategy must make is how the EU balances its global interests with the pressing insecurity in its neighbourhood, bearing in mind the practical considerations of the available resources and the political will of Member States.

31.Some witnesses argued that it was important for the Union to have a global foreign policy. Dr Catherine Gegout, Lecturer in International Relations, University of Nottingham, told us that “Africa, together with the Middle East, should be the two main priorities.” In “2050 there will be two billion Africans, and if poverty and lack of security are still rife in some African states, they will migrate to other regions in the world, including Europe.”24

32.Dr Anna Katharina Stahl, Research Fellow, EU-China Research Centre, College of Europe, urged the EU to “formulate a regional foreign policy towards Asia”, as well as to consider the implications for the EU of China’s One Belt One Road initiative.25 Dr Thomas Henökl, Senior Researcher, German Development Institute, viewed the maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas as tests of the “EU’s credibility to mediate and its capacities [to police] respect of the rule of international law.” He proposed an ambitious role for the EU to “invest in orchestrating its partners worldwide” and promote regional multilateralism in the Asian-Pacific theatre.26

33.Mr Sainty said the EU’s global interests demanded a global vision. The EU had, for example, very significant economic interests in China and the US. Furthermore, on “some cross cutting global issues such as climate change” the EU was “unquestionably a global player” and had to be part of the “global dialogue and negotiation.” In many cases, that engagement might “be led more by the Commission than the External Action Service.” However, the “overwhelming foreign policy priorities of the EU” were the “problems and challenges” emanating from the eastern and southern neighbourhood.27

34.Other witnesses made the case for a more limited and regionally-focused strategy. Professor Karen Smith, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science, drew a distinction between being a global actor and having a global foreign and security policy. The EU had a global role in areas such as “trade policy or even to a certain extent environmental policy”. In that sense, the EU was a global actor—but that did not mean, “particularly given the challenges around [the EU], that it should have a global foreign policy.”28 Dr Alistair Shepherd, Senior Lecturer in European Security, Aberystwyth University agreed that the EU was “a global power” but “not a global security actor”; in the security realm it was “more regionally focused”.29

35.The ‘wider neighbourhood’ was suggested as the region of importance for the EU’s new strategy on foreign and security policy.30 Professor Smith defined the wider neighbourhood to include the 16 countries of the ENP, the accession countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia), Russia and, turning to the south, the “neighbours of the neighbours”—the Sahel region, Iran and Iraq.31 We would add Turkey to the list. We use this definition henceforth.

36.Witnesses emphasised the security rationale for focusing on the wider neighbourhood. Mr Vimont advised us that the EU should focus on Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Sahel, because this was “where the threats [were] at the moment with regard to our own security and stability”.32 The refugee crisis had underlined for Dr Duke that the focus on the neighbouring regions was “not entirely a matter of choice.”33 Dr Federica Bicchi et al. agreed that the security threats of the region were now of such a magnitude that it was “imperative that the EU re-focus resources” into this region. The “conflicts in the region have created serious security threats (terrorist groups in particular) and the current refugee crisis, one of the largest in post-war history.”34

Conclusions and recommendations

37.The strategy is an opportunity to reflect on the EU’s international role and set its level of ambition. The Union has global interests and, therefore, a global foreign policy, but a realistic assessment must recognise that the Union is not a global security provider. A new strategy should draw that distinction.

38.The current security imperative is the pursuit of stability, security and prosperity in the wider neighbourhood. We recommend that a new strategy—formulating the objectives for the Union in the medium-term—should focus on the neighbourhood.

39.A foreign and security policy in the wider neighbourhood must be supported by clear political will and exercise of action by Member States. Moreover, the execution of policy will require significant resources and more command power, including the civilian and military tools of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

8 22 (Chris Sainty) and Appendix 4: Evidence taken during visit to Brussels

12 AFET held a hearing on 14 January 2016 with a number of experts from think tanks and academia. Details of the AFET hearing are at: [accessed 8 February 2016]

14 Written evidence from Dr Federica Bicchi, Dr Nicola Chelotti, Dr Spyros Economides and Prof Karen Smith (FSP0006)

15 Written evidence from Dr Simon Duke (FSP0002)

17 Written evidence from Dr Simon Duke (FSP0002)

20 Written evidence from Dr Federica Bicchi et al. (FSP0006)

21 Appendix 4: Evidence taken during visit to Brussels

22 Arthur G Lykke Jr ‘Towards an Understanding of Military Strategy;’ in US Army War College Guide to Strategy, edited by Joseph R Cerami and James F. Holcomb Jr, (Strategic Studies Institute: February 2010), p 179

23 Written evidence from Federica Bicchi et al (FSP0006)

24 Written evidence from Dr Catherine Gegout (FSP0008)

25 Written evidence from Dr Anna Katharina Stahl (FSP0016). The ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative is a development strategy to build co-operation and connectivity between China and countries on the traditional overland Silk Road (principally Eurasia) and the maritime Silk Road (countries on the sea routes linking China’s coastal cities to Africa and the Mediterranean and key ports in Southeast Asia and the Suez Canal). It was announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.

26 Written evidence from Dr Thomas Henökl (FSP0014)

29 Written evidence from Dr Alistair Shepherd (FSP0007)

30 Written evidence from Dr Federica Bicchi et al. (FSP0006), Dr Amelia Hadfield (FSP0013) and Dr Alistair Shepherd (FSP0007)

31 Q 5 The sixteen countries of the ENP are Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, Ukraine, Belarus, Libya and Syria.

33 Written evidence from Dr Simon Duke (FSP0002)

34 Written evidence from Dr Federica Bicchi et al. (FSP0006)

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