Shaping the world or being shaped? - Europe's quest for strategy

Endast inbjudna · Wanha Satama, Hall -G · 26.11.2013 13:00 - 15:00
  • Endast inbjudna

Endast inbjudna

Global balance of power is undergoing multiple, to some degree contradictory trends, including relative weakening of Europe and the US, shift of power from states to nonstate actors and subsequent pressures to reinvent existing inter-state structures. At the same time the need to move towards a more sustainable development path in the light of increasing resource scarcity and persistent poverty, both exaggerated by climate change, will shape the world in foreseeable future. How do these and other global trends shape Europe’s place in the world? How should the EU respond to these trends and (how) is it able to influence their direction? What are the EU’s strategic goals in the region and in the world? Would a new global strategy and/or a einforced comprehensive approach help the EU to re-define its global agenda and re-assert its role?
Giovanni Grevi, Director, FRIDE
Marcin Zaborowski, Director, the Polish Institute of International Affairs
Kirsti Kauppi, Director General, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
Hanna Ojanen, Jean Monnet Professor, University of Tampere
Juha Jokela, Programme Director, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Summary of the seminar: 

Programme Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs Juha Jokela opened the seminar by recalling that when planning the year at the Institute, the year 2013 seemed rather promising for European Union’s external relations. The review of the European External Action Service and — preparations for the December European Council meeting focusing on the European security and defence suggested that foreign and security policy would be high on the agenda of the EU in 2013. And while Europe’s financial crises have indeed directed a great deal of the EU’s and its member states’ attention to the European affairs, the world has not stopped changing around Europe. Thus the question whether EU needs to re-evaluate its security strategy (agreed in 2003 and updated in 2008) remains a relevant one. Moreover, the approaching appointment of the Commission and High Representative might open up a window of opportunity for strategic (re-)thinking in Europe. 

In his speech Director of FRIDE, Giovanni Grevi, focused on dimensional shifts and changing nature of power in global political system. He stressed the importance of partnerships in world politics, and the use of partnerships in shaping the world. Relatedly, he highlighted flexibility as an increasingly significant feature for the EU in doing so.   

Grevi identified four important dimensional shifts that should be recognized in world politics. First, a new generation of middle-powers has emerged, and they are likely to play a more crucial role in the future. Second, growing interdependency exposes states and other actors to several vulnerabilities. Third, increasing connectivity has improved citizens access to information. Fourth, the competition of ideas has increased. Against this background, Grevi suggested that the greatest added value that EU can bring to its member states is the ”politics of scale”.

Marcin Zaborowski, Director of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, presented some of the key points published in the recent report of the European Global Strategy project. The foreign ministers of Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden initiated the project, and four think tanks from these countries led the project. It aimed at beginning research and debate in the field of a common European strategy in global affairs.  Zaborowski noted that while the EU’s first security strategy was a rather optimistic document, today’s debate takes place in a more defensive atmosphere. The discussion largely focused on concerns related to preserving European power and influence.

Zaborowski discussed Europe’s strategic objectives in the terms of three different levels – European, regional and global – of strategic thinking and action. Regarding the first level, he reminded that difficulties at home make it difficult for the EU to project its influence externally.  Europe should increase its competitiveness and reduce the barriers between its internal market and the world beyond. Other important aspects that should be improved are energy-dependency and educational and scientific co-operation.

On the regional and global levels Zaborowski suggested that EU must prioritize trade and aid policies to areas that have strategic interests to the Union. Regarding the neighbourhood and regional level, EU should change the guiding rationale and include to its ”strategic neighbourhood” the traditional neighbours and also broader areas that are functionally linked to vital European interests. At a global level, EU’s development policy should increasingly support EU’s strategic objectives and the Union should reinvest in region-building and increasing the participation of regional organizations in global governance structures.

Director General of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Kirsti Kauppi, suggested in her comment intervention that the problem of Europe relates to EU’s capabilities in the field of foreign and security policy. According to her, in order to generate the political will to act together, EU needs a renewed strategy for foreign and security policy. She added that we should look at the world through the perspective of shaping it. What is required is a common sense of purpose and a clear vision on how to work together in practice.

Jean Monnet Professor of the University of Tampere Hanna Ojanen reminded in her comment that EU benefits not only from shaping the world, but also from being shaped by it. She also noted that sometimes the EU has shaped the world without clearly manifested intention. Therefore the EU is shaped – intentionally or unintentionally – by other international organizations and actors, while these actors, in turn, are shaped by the Union. However, and above all EU is shaped by various internal and external expectations. Strategic thinking is needed to respond to these expectations and prioritize among them.