A More ‘Global’ EU Foreign Policy for the Future

Chad Damro and Deyan Dimitrov

Following the recent publication of the EU’s Strategic Review on external action, Chad Damro and Deyan Dimitrov write that we must rethink what we mean by foreign policy. Through the lens of Market Power Europe, the external dimensions of the EU’s internal policies can be just as important as traditionally understood elements of external action. They argue that through the coordinated externalisation of its internal policies the EU can find and develop its foreign policy strengths.

A More ‘Global’ EU Foreign Policy for the Future
Foreign Affairs Council – July 2015, EEAS, CC-BY-NC-2.0

With all the attention surrounding Greece and its negotiations with creditors this summer, an important development in EU foreign policy has largely passed under the radar. The recently released EU Strategic Review, advanced by High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, is an ambitious document that provides a first step towards a global strategy for the Union’s external action.

It is an attempt to move away from the outdated 2003 Security Strategy and assess the EU’s position and capabilities in a much changed and complex world. Ultimately, Mogherini plans to deliver a new EU Global Strategy for foreign and security policy by June 2016. While this ambition is welcome, being global is about more than geographic scope – it must also mean spanning across policy areas. To put the ‘global’ into a Global Strategy, the EU needs to be able to identify and utilise all the external tools at its disposal and to create an integrated and cross-policy approach that goes beyond traditional foreign and security policies.

If the EU is to have a new vision for its external action, it is time to embrace and encourage a broader understanding of what is meant by foreign policy. Beyond the security and defence policies often associated with foreign policy, the EU’s other policy areas – including its predominantly internal policies – have considerable external dimensions and effects. By explicitly integrating the external dimensions of internal policies, the EU can develop a more confident, productive and ‘global’ strategic vision that contributes in innovative and decisive ways to achieving foreign policy objectives.

The notion of Market Power Europe (MPE) helps to capture the importance of the EU’s internal policies for external action. For MPE, the Union’s external action is notable for the large size of its market; various institutional capabilities, networks and platforms; and the role of domestic societal interest groups. MPE does not depict the EU as an exclusively neo-liberal and capitalist actor. Rather, it captures the importance of interventions in the market via economic and social regulation and, therefore, emphasises the EU’s ability to promote externally (whether persuasively or coercively) its economic and social agendas.

From such a perspective, external action is extensive and needs to be thought of as more than the EU’s traditional external policies: security, defence, trade, development, humanitarian aid, enlargement and neighbourhood policy. Rather, foreign policy also covers all areas related to the external dimensions of the EU’s internal economic and social market-related policies and regulatory measures. Such areas include, but are not limited to, policies on: agriculture, competition, consumer protection, the digital economy, energy, environment, food safety, fraud prevention, health, migration, maritime and fisheries, monetary and financial affairs, and labour and social affairs.

High Representative Mogherini is particularly likely to be aware of the need to integrate the external dimensions of internal policies, as she chairs monthly meetings of all commissioners with an external portfolio, which she has remarked includes ‘trade, development, humanitarian aid, neighbourhood policy but also energy and climate, migration, to ensure the coherence of the EU as a global actor’. Likewise, in its report on the EU as a Global Actor in Search of a Strategy, the European Commission signalled the importance of integrating the external dimensions of internal policies into a future foreign policy strategy.

The EU’s new Strategic Review makes an inroad by acknowledging that an increasing number of internal policy areas have developed their own versions of diplomacy and issue linkage. The document identifies environment, justice and home affairs, culture, science and research as some relevant areas. However, for all its ambition, the Strategic Review falls short of truly breaking the mould of traditional security issues.

While security issues like the Common Security and Defence Policy, counter-terrorism and international migration are important, focusing primarily on the capabilities (or lack thereof) in these security-oriented areas is too limiting. Such a strategy risks overlooking a host of tools at the EU’s disposal and it underestimates the Union’s real ability to exercise power in a much broader sense.

The comprehensive approach suggested here reflects and would enhance the EU’s existing capabilities and strengths, because it is through the externalisation of the vast array of internal policies that the EU often influences other actors in the international system. This externalisation also shapes external perceptions of the EU, as state and non-state actors across the globe engage with and experience the Union’s internal policies on a daily basis.

Mainstreaming the external dimensions of internal policies into EU foreign policy thinking is not to say that challenges in one policy area must always be linked to those in others (at the risk of sacrificing objectives in the former). Rather, the idea here is that thinking about the tools, capabilities and implications of each policy area for other policy areas must become more joined up, comprehensive and consistent.

This is a tall order for an actor that struggles to show coherence in its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). However, it is crucial to incorporate internal policies more fully into external action because these policies already provide the basis for the EU’s most consequential external impact – through the promotion of its economic and social agendas. In fact, the EU’s competence and coherence in many of these policies already tends to be greater than those found in the CFSP.

In order for the EU’s emerging Global Strategy to be successful, it needs to be more ambitious in scope by capitalising on the capabilities and tools of the Union’s oft-overlooked internal policies. It must also become more innovative in its approach by starting to think of its foreign policy explicitly in more cross-policy and ‘global’ terms.

Published: 10 August 2015

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Chad DamroChad Damro Edinburgh Europa Institute Logo(@ChadDamro)
The University of Edinburgh

Dr Chad Damro is Co-Director of the Edinburgh Europa Institute, Jean Monnet Chair and Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh. His research areas include international relations, international political economy, transatlantic relations and the EU in the world.

Deyan DimitrovDeyan DimitrovEdinburgh Europa Institute Logo
The University of Edinburgh

Deyan Dimitrov is Research Assistant in the Edinburgh Europa Institute at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests include international relations, international political economy, EU internal policies and EU enlargement.

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