The European Union´s Foreign Policy is complex, ambivalent and multi-layered. Torn between member-states ambitions to retain power of their competences and their ambition to achieve an effective impact in the wider world, the 27 country-spanning foreign policy is an allegory of the crux and struggle of the Union´s underlying challenges: member states are haggling over questions of leadership and ‘competence-creep’, loose the battle of effectiveness where it matters the most, and meet mostly at the lowest denominator positions.
The birth of the European Foreign Policy as a respectable actor in form of the Common Foreign and Security Policy was accompanied by the symptoms known for any project that promises to leave an impact: expectations towards the EU were miles beyond its actual capabilities. Admits an ever-widening multipolar world with many new actors, an international legal system whose future existence is on shaky grounds and the global challenges of terror, war and ressource-shortage on the rise, the Union and it´s member states struggle for significance instead of contributing and paving the way by example.
The questions that therefore have to be asked are: is the European Foreign Policy a feel-good project that assists member-states to feel better with themselves: Is its raison d’etre to sell their short-term ideas to the other states, to explain why they stopped investing in their foreign policy and to narrate that we need an EU to protect against the rest. Or are the EFP and its actors trying to make the right decisions towards balancing the fears of loss of power of member-states with the demand to act unilaterally in an integrated strategically sound vision.
Although one is often prone to thing otherwise the second scenario is true. In the words of Winston Churchill “Good things come at a snails pace”—European Foreign Policy is moving ahead one dispute at the time. The effectiveness of EFP, albeit in a very slow manner, has advanced substantially; since the moment where seven ministers decided to meet on an usual basis the demand for streamlining and dialogue has become ubiquitous, while its forms and ways have matured substantially. The sheer amount of communication does not amount to much, yet it speaks loud for the advances that have been made. Since 95 more than 1000 common strategies, common positions and joint actions have been issued; more than 2000 foreign policy statements by the EU Council and Presidency have been made and pledges of foreign ministers to continue walking this path are more than empty words.
2014 is a big year in the snail-race towards effective European Foreign Policy. In only one year the whole range of leadership will be replaced. The faces better be strong, charismatic and smart; keeping a low-profile on the leadership-stage of the EU might be a short time win for national governments against the invisible phantom of ‘competence creep’—it is however, also the formula that is most akin to bring disintegration, apathy and a lost quinquennium to the continent with the power and know how to bring solution and positive examples to the multipolar world of today.