At the same time, most member states agree that the EU needs a geopolitical response to the challenge from great powers, and that no individual EU state is powerful enough to respond on its own. This picture of the world implies that the key task for the next EU leadership team is not primarily to forge new foreign policies. Instead, it is to establish a machinery, an attitude, and a competence that member states can have confidence in.
There are limits to how far Brussels can persuade member states to cooperate if they do not want to. But it can do a lot to induce them to want it. For instance, more joint reporting by EU heads of mission, orchestrated by the local EU delegation, would be valuable here. The EU must take the lead in finding new ways for Europe to organise itself better and take more responsibility for its own security.
Leaders in Brussels will need to consider measures that go beyond the usual concept of EU competencies. NATO will remain the central body for the territorial defence of Europe from Russia and other threats.
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But, for all other areas of their security, Europeans need to find ways to organise themselves better and take more responsibility. This is both so that they can be a better partner for the US and so that they can act alone, if necessary. If the UK leaves the EU, each side should conclude a security treaty to allow the EU to share information and work with the British on counter-terrorism and crime.
They will also need to establish new mechanisms for exchanging views and information, and for cooperating on sanctions and operations. Creating such mechanisms also gives Europeans the chance to develop structures that might be useful more generally. These could include:.
From plaything to player: How Europe can stand up for itself in the next five years
There are different models for organising this. At one extreme is the model of the United Nations Security Council, with permanent and rotating members. A model in between these options is that of the African Union Peace and Security Council, whose members are elected for two- or three-year terms from within regional groups so, eastern Europeans would have two seats, western Europeans would have three seats, and so on. One of the advantages of establishing a European Security Council is that it could also create a political superstructure for the European Intervention Initiative, a French-led defence cooperation initiative involving ten member states that sit outside the EU institutions and aims to develop a shared strategic and military culture.
European allies should, therefore, reflect on the possibility that US support through the European Deterrence Initiative could go into reverse. This would not involve immediately offering to take over current US efforts but rather proposing to emulate them. Overall, the US has a presence, familiarity, and credibility in the region that its western European allies lack. Europeans should contemplate more forward bases of their own, even on a permanent basis. But it at least has virtue in its implicit recognition that the Wales summit erred in stopping short — out of deference to Russian sensitivities — of permanently stationing forces on the territory of former Warsaw Pact allies.
If EU member states were to develop even a small facility in Poland, this would be a powerful demonstration of European defence solidarity. EU foreign policy works by unanimity to allow countries to defend their vital interests. But, in the past, member states used these powers only rarely and would go to great lengths to avoid being isolated.
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More recently, a minority of member states has taken to blocking EU decision-making as a way of courting favour with third powers. Hungary, Greece, and Slovenia, for example, have blocked or diluted resolutions challenging China on the issues of human rights and the South China Sea international arbitration. It is tempting to get around this by introducing qualified majority voting on foreign policy.
This suggestion has some merit, but it faces a practical as well as a philosophical challenge. The practical barrier is that unanimity is needed to introduce qualified majority voting. Philosophically, the EU would be better placed to persuade all member states that, by weakening the EU, they weaken themselves. The example of using qualified majority voting on refugee quotas was counter-productive, as some member states simply refused to follow the EU decision and the EU proved powerless to make them do so. On the most general level, the key to achieving this solidarity is by acting and being seen to act.
That is to say: the EU can best establish mutual trust through the practical experience of common action. The foreign policy muscle will only develop if it gets lots of exercise. More specifically, to move in that direction, the EU can take certain steps:. These efforts are clearly only the beginning of the story. The EU will need to forge strategies to deal with its principal geopolitical challenges from Russia, China, and even the US.
It will also need to agree on new approaches to dousing the ring of fire in its neighbourhood, from the Balkans to the Middle East and the Sahel. Australia is well placed to be a reliable and efficient supplier of goods and services to Europe. For information on export opportunities, see the Austrade country profiles for the various member states.
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