11 Jul

EU Foreign Policy

Posted By Politybooks

karen smith

My book, European Foreign Policy in a Changing World, is out now in its third edition. In all three books, I have analysed why and how the EU pursues five particular foreign policy objectives:

-  The promotion of regional cooperation
-  The promotion of human rights
-  The promotion of democracy and good governance
-  The prevention of violent conflict
-  The fight against international crime

I explore whether the way the EU pursues these objectives marks it out as a unique, sui generis, actor, and I argue that to some extent it does. The EU relies on dialogue and institutionalised cooperation more than many other ‘powers’ and eschews the use of coercion (including sanctions) – though this can be the case because the member states cannot agree to impose negative measures.

Over a decade has passed since the first edition of the book was published, and much has changed within and outside the EU. Have the EU’s capabilities to pursue its foreign policy objectives increased over time? Is the EU more likely to be able to fulfil its foreign policy objectives? Is its foreign policy becoming more coherent and consistent – that is, are the member states and the EU institutions more in agreement about foreign policy priorities and how best to pursue them?

In the 1st edition (2003), I found evidence that the EU ‘actorness’ was strengthening: the EU member states had shown ever more willingness to devote resources to try to achieve the five foreign policy objectives. However, I warned that there was still an underlying tension between the member states’ desire to preserve national prerogatives in foreign relations and their desire to project a more assertive and effective collective international identity.

The 2nd edition (2008) was bleaker,concluding that over the past five years there had been continual internal negotiations over institutional reform, while the member states showed persistent differences over various foreign policy issues.

The 3rd edition appears after the EU has experienced the very severe euro crisis, which has tested solidarity among the member states, drained attention and resources from other policy areas (including foreign policy) and seriously dented public support for the EU. At the same time, the almost decade-long process of institutional reform finally ended with the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, which was supposed to help strengthen the coherence and effectiveness of EU foreign policy (among other reforms).

Simultaneously, the world has been in flux – with a diffusion of power away from the ‘West’, and a good deal of violent turmoil in the EU’s neighbourhood. A more multipolar world could foster an appreciation of the benefits of strengthening the EU’s foreign policy capabilities, but so far the evidence that the member states recognise this – and are prepared to act accordingly – is thin. Setting clear priorities and devising strategies to meet them are still particularly difficult tasks for the EU member states.

In this new edition, I explore why and how this is evident in the EU’s pursuit of the five foreign policy objectives.

Karen Smith is Professor of International Relations and Director of the European Foreign Policy Unit at the London School of Economics and Political Science.  European Foreign Policy in a Changing World, 3rd Edition published on 18th July 2014