Can Europe Speak With One Voice?

Article published on April 26, 2004
community published
Article published on April 26, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Should the EU leave world diplomacy to the United States or concentrate on developing its multilateralist possibilities? The foreign policy debate.

Foreign Policy has been somewhat of a headache for the EU. The last decade has seen, amongst other things, inaction in Rwanda, division over Iraq and paralysis in the face of turmoil on our continent as civil war broke out in the Balkans. Four young party activists give their views on the much maligned Common Foreign and Security Policy and whether EU foreign policy really comes down to a question of New Europe vs. Old Europe....

The Greens want a European seat at the Security Council

For FYEG it is imperative for the EU to show its responsibility as a Global Actor. They express concern over US policy, chiefly the fact "that it does not offer a viable solution to growing violence in the world". They suggest implicitly that the EU should provide a counterweight role to that of the US.

In their answer the Greens make clear that they see the need to prevent violence, conflict and to promote human rights as a priority for any 'real' common foreign, security and defence policy. To this end they wish to see the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports made binding and support a Civil Peace Corps with military capacity for the intervention in order to prevent conflict, providing their action is mandated by the UN. Interestingly, they do not rule out military capacities, but they would like to see such capacities restructured to serve EU goals.

For the Liberals, ‘the international institutions need to be reformed’

A clear assumption by Liberals is that the EU should lead by example. Promotion of democracy, civil society and liberty are key imperatives for LYMEC. They are keen to develop international law and see a reformed UN taking a strengthened role, whilst internally, they feel that a European diplomatic service should be gradually developed and the offices of the Council High Representative and External Relations Commissioner merged. They see economic development as a means by which the EU can help strengthen the Less Developed Countries. They fall short of recommending the establishment of a European army but note instead that defence co-operation should be strengthened through research, logistics and support capabilities.

The only group to answer our question directly, LYMEC refute the notion that there is a "new" vs "old" Europe, as this is a notion based on a system which privileges rival national states and implicitly antithetic to the EU.

For the EPP, ‘the problem with the common foreign policy is that it is not common

YEPP prioritises the need for unity at the institutional level in order for the Union to have a strong presence on the international stage. This means a CFSP where Member States speak with one voice rather than being undercut by divisions. They advocate decision-making by QMV rather than individual Member States being able to exercise a veto which, they argue, would be unworkable.

YEPP favour an EU Foreign Minister, but only providing his work is not disrupted by divisions amongst Member States. According to YEPP the EU should recognise the importance of a strong transatlantic partnership whilst developing a military capacity that can operate autonomously in the world.

The Socialists don’t want an EU which is ‘an economic giant and a political dwarf’

ECOSY wants to see the EU speak with one voice on foreign affairs and is therefore in favour of a Common Foreign and Security Policy "constructive abstention" of Member States who disagree with the majority opinion.

Development and co-operation is clearly a priority for ECOSY who see Member States as having international duties to spread their wealth through allocating a percentage of the GNP to development aid. According to ECOSY EU international economic policy should be defined publicly and transparently so that the institutions can push towards developing a social policy at an international level.

The young Socialist vision of the EU's role in promoting peace and security is interventionist. A more active role should be played in crisis prevention and management. Supporting multilateralism at all levels, they do not see a future for Europe in standing as a counterpart to any other power.

United we stand, divided we fall

For all the representatives it is implicitly understood that by acting together, the EU can create a better world. Yet the representatives differ over the extent to which a CFSP should be institutionalised. There are also differences over the importance and nature of co-operating with lesser developed countries, and what form that development should take, whilst the groups also divide over the need for military capacity at the EU level and the nature of the EU's relationship to the US.

These statements contain few surprises and reflect that political debate between the Conservative, Socialist, Liberal and Green movements is alive and well as regards international relations. Yet from their different standpoints the representatives of these very European parties agree that national interests of individual Member States should no longer undermine Europe in its attempt to influence global politics for the better.

Ief Janssens, Vice-President of ECOSY

Arnt Kennis, Vice-President of YEPP

Jacopo Moccia, candidate for the Belgian organisation écolo-j, close to FYEG

Aloys Rigaut, Treasurer of LYMEC