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European Union Global Strategy Year 1 Report

The European Union Global Strategy Year 1 Report

The European Union Global Strategy (EUGS) is an attempt by the European Union to clearly outline and revitalize its involvement in foreign and security policy, considering the mistake of the past and the EU present-day reality.  The EUGS defines the actions the European Union must take and the capacities it must have for its own defence and security. It takes into account the long-term effects of its actions and understands that the development of the EU’s member states is essential to conflict prevention.

After the implementation of the EUGS in June 2016, the EU had faced many trying problems, such as the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the Union, continued terrorist attacks and threats, the lingering effects of the 2008 Great Recession, and the migration crisis caused by the civil war in Syria as well as the political unrest in other regions including the Middle East. Because of this, the EUGS Year 1 report was meant to show the progress made despite these setbacks while the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy of the EU, Federica Mogherini, claimed that the EUGS had proved its usefulness in a year of difficulty.

The EUGS Year 1 report outlines the progress made in the following areas: security and defence, resilience of states and societies in the Eastern and Southern Europe, external stability of neighbor states, and the migration crisis. The most progress was apparently made in the area of defence and security, with Mogherini claiming that “in this field, more has been achieved in the last ten months than in the last ten years.” One of the major achievements is to activate the PESCO, or Permanent Structured Cooperation in defense between the member states which is considered as an inclusive, modular system allowing member states to collaborate further in the area of security and defence on voluntary basis.  It can be an ace in the hand of the EU member states for acquiring and using the military capabilities necessary for a coordinated defence policy.

The implementation of PESCO would possibly mean a permanent standing army of the EU itself, as a distinct entity that flies the EU flag, has a common uniform, and is under the jurisdiction of the EU, not any single Member State. It would be a clear sign of EU integration and cooperation. But of course, the Member States are understandably hesitant about creating a military force that they themselves have no direct control over – some see it as a breach of national sovereignty. If the EUGS continues to pursue the implementation of PESCO, it would truly be a leap in progress in the project of European integration.

The section on external stability and resilience shows the importance the EU places on maintaining democratic and peaceful nations on its borders, through the European Neighbor Policy (ENP). The EU attempts to create “resilient” states that can withstand changes in the political and economic landscape, and adapt to them instead of giving way to political unrest. As outlined in the Year 1 report, the EU has done this through monetary support to countries such as Libya, Jordan, and Lebanon to help them deal with and adjust to the massive waves of refugees from conflict areas such as Syria. Other areas that the EU has supported include the Sahel region in Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia, for humanitarian and development programs and financial support to Ukraine to help its governmental reforms including anti-corruption and administrative and judicial reforms.  

The EU also has a plan to manage conflicts and crises. The EUGS Year 1 program emphasizes the prevention and post-conflict rebuilding. For example, they have plans to support Syria and Colombia after the end of their civil wars. This is what the EU calls the “Integrated Approach to Conflicts and Crises” which attempts to deal with the conflict in all possible ways. Unfortunately, this approach has not seemed to work in Syria. The largest attempts at achieving peace was made by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, as they came together in May 2017 in Astana to create four “de-escalation zones” in Syria. Even if it was not successful, it showed that these nations were willing to take proactive action in peace building. By not participating more in such efforts and relying on only soft power (despite Mogherini’s claims that “soft and hard power go hand in hand”), the EU, despite being an important stakeholder in the conflict, is sidelined.

The EUGS also emphasizes internal cooperation through “a joined-up Union.” This is to say that there must be infrastructure in place to allow for greater cooperation between the EU Member States. Two priorities were given in the area of internal-external nexus and public diplomacy. They promote a coherent approach to people, planet, prosperity, peace and sustainability and building resilience at all levels.  According to the EUGS, “a more prosperous Union calls for greater coordination between the EU and Member States, the EIB and the private sector.” This has led to projects such as the EU Trust Fund for Africa, and the Facility  for Refugees in Turkey.

The migration and refugee crises in the EU are also wreaking havoc on internal cooperation between the Member States. The EUGS Year 1 report claims that EUGS has helped with the management of refugees through the EU’s Partnership Framework on Migration and cooperation with the International Organization for Migration – yet recently, Operation Sophia, put into place by the EU to prevent refugee smuggling in the Mediterranean, had failed to stem the flow of these illegal immigrants, as an inquiry by the British House of Lords had concluded.

Even if some of the EU’s efforts may have paid off, its inability to effectively manage this crisis shows the shortcomings of the EUGS. This immigration issue has become an important issue, both as an internal and an external crisis, as it deals with the displaced population of another country that the EU feels it has an obligation to support. But this support has brought internal strife, especially as right-wing Eurosceptic groups gain ground, and the EUGS’ failure to bring organization to the illegal, dangerous, and chaotic process of refugee migration means that it will continue to plague the EU. If the EUGS program continues its efforts to effectively manage this issue and succeeds, it will be a great instance of using security and foreign policy to benefit internal cooperation and stability.

 

Analysis of the Consequences of the EUGS Year 1

By looking at the progress made in the one year since the creation of the EUGS program, we can see that the EU has put a lot of focus on soft power rather than hard power. Even if the first step to PESCO has been taken, it is uncertain whether it will actually succeed, or fail like a similar program proposed in 1950. Furthermore, since participation in PESCO is completely voluntary, it may simply separate the EU into states that desire greater integration versus those who are wary of the EU government impinging on their national sovereignty. In the end, internal conflicts must be resolved before the EU will be able to successfully exert hard power as a united body. This would mean that the EU is reliant on the utilization of soft power to exert influence over their neighbors – a tactic that, unfortunately, does not work well in places like Syria or Libya.

At the same time, it seems that the EU is willing to pursue many issues all around the globe. This indicates that even though issues persist inside and outside the EU, they are not going to back down in terms of global outreach. Southeast Asian is one of the regions that is recognized by the EU to cooperate in areas of counter terrorism and peace building. The EU engagement in Southeast Asia for a decade involved humanitarian assistance, peace-building and development in conflict situations including the PhilippinesMindanao, Myanmar and Southern Thailand.  Thailand is the recipient of around 12 million Euros worth of developmental assistance, in the areas such as peace building, reconciliation and development efforts in the Southern Border Provinces, If the degree of threats in terrorism and its contagion in the region is increasing, this engagement may create an environment conducive to greater European involvement in Southeast Asian in various peace and security fields.

The EUGS calls for deepening of economic diplomacy and an increased security role for the EU in Asia. On the economic diplomacy, the emphasis would be on concluding ambitious free trade agreements with strategic partners such as Japan, India and ASEAN member states. The second economic strand would be ensuring the EU-China Connectivity Platform as well as the ASEM and EU-ASEAN frameworks.  These policy frameworks will hold much importance to Thailand at present and in the future since the country has to adjust its strategy to respond the changes from the changing economic and security landscape in ASEAN, East and South Asian countries.

Moreover, as the EU and the EUGS aims are to promote resilience through coherence between internal and external policies, in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda, especially in the human rights and development areas, the diplomacy with the EU will continue to remain relevant. The EU will continue pressure Thailand on the issues such as the IUU (illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing) fishing, democracy and human rights.  In the end, it is up to Thailand to take the opportunities provided by the EU’s continued global outreach and utilize it for increased cooperation and development.