Book Launch Seminar: In Times of Crisis: the EU's Global Role and Responsibility

The Finnish Institute of International Affairs · 07.11.2006 00:00 - 00:00

“A Responsible Europe? Ethical Foundations of EU External Affairs,” a new book on EU external policy, was launched on the 7th of November at FIIA. The book, published by Palgrave Macmillan, employs a normative, moral philosophical perspective to analyzing the EU’s global role. The volume is edited by Dr Hartmut Mayer from the University of Oxford and Dr Henri Vogt from the University of Helsinki. The topics of the articles are varied, ranging from EU crisis management activities to European development policy and EU-US relations. The book chapters are written mainly by European scholars, including Hanna Ojanen, Senior Researcher at FIIA, contributing on the Union’s responsibility for global security.

The seminar was launched with opening words from Dr Mayer, one of the editors. He argued that the EU needs to develop a new narrative for itself to legitimize its existence and to animate a younger generation of Europeans. The prevalence of peace on the continent is no longer a sufficient justification for the ever-closer union for young Europeans who have been fortunate only to witness stability in Europe. A purely economic rationale for deepening European integration is also problematic. A new narrative could be found in building an identity for the Union as a responsible global actor. The EU needs to contemplate the moral and ethical foundations of its external affairs, consisting of, among others, issues of crisis management, migration and trade relations. The book at hand aims to contribute to this contemplation by analytically dissecting the concept of responsibility in the EU context. Normative moral philosophy underpins the book’s central arguments and informs the view of responsibility as stemming from different, varied sources: for example, an actor, in this case the EU, has the moral obligation to intervene in a threatening situation if it has been a part of the cause of the situation, if it benefits from it, or simply is able to intervene. Responsibility may also spring from a stated commitment to solving a particular dilemma or from a collective sense of union or community. The book then attempts to discuss the EU’s global responsibilities on the basis of this philosophical framework.

Foreign Minister Tuomioja took to the podium next as guest speaker, centering mostly on the EU’s role and responsibility in international crisis management. The outlook of the Foreign Minister of the current EU President on EU crisis management capabilities was decidedly optimistic. At the outset Minister Tuomioja posed two questions. Is the value base of the Union healthy? Does the EU have the necessary capabilities to act responsibly and effectively? For the Minister, answers to both questions seem to be in the affirmative. The respect for human rights and multilateralism are basic corner stones of the Union’s value base and these values, shared by member countries, act as basis for the EU’s responses to any key global threats. The growing number of member countries through enlargement adds to the Union’s strength in being a positive force in the world. Regarding the Union’s capabilities Tuomioja called the EU unique in the range of its crisis response activities; for instance the EU can carry out humanitarian tasks alongside peacekeeping missions like the EUFOR Mission in Congo, executed in cooperation with the UN. Indeed, the World Organization must be a close partner for the EU in the future as well. The Minister pointed out that environmental degradation also poses a substantial threat to global security and needs to be addressed. On a more practical level Tuomioja confirmed that the current focus of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) lies on developing the European Rapid Reaction Force.

Topical challenges for the international community and the EU were also briefly visited by the Minister. The EU has assumed responsibility in the worrying Iran nuclear standoff. The Minister lamented the fact that, despite UN resolutions and the nuclear incentive package offered to Iran by EU High Representative Solana, Iran has not reacted to international pressure. The EU should also engage the Syrian leadership in a constructive manner. All in all, the credibility and leverage of the EU as an international actor depends on its degree of unity, policy coherence and ability to speak with one voice. The office of an EU “foreign minister” enshrined in the European Constitution would hence be helpful. In this regard Minister Tuomioja also viewed the EU’s actions in Lebanon as a success: the Union was unified in actively dealing with the crisis.