NEW STRAT­EGY, NEW DILEMMA

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - BY STASA SALACANIN

What does the an­nounce­ment of the muchan­tic­i­pated Global Strat­egy for the EU's For­eign and Se­cu­rity Pol­icy mean for GCC-EU re­la­tions?

De­spite the fact that Brexit shook the very foun­da­tions of the Union, the EU High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fed­er­ica Mogherini pre­sented the doc­u­ment just sev­eral days af­ter the Bri­tish de­ci­sion to leave the EU, send­ing a sym­bolic mes­sage that she is stick­ing to her plan and show­ing that the EU re­mains united, func­tional and de­ter­mined to fol­low its set agenda. How­ever, this doc­u­ment, pre­pared and writ­ten be­fore the Bri­tish ref­er­en­dum, is go­ing to be se­ri­ously chal­lenged by the EU's new re­al­ity, calling into ques­tion its full im­ple­men­ta­tion and its re­al­is­tic reach.

“While the EU's vi­tal in­ter­ests and key pri­or­i­ties will not change be­cause of the UK's fu­ture depar­ture, the Com­mu­nity's ca­pac­i­ties to de­liver on its am­bi­tions cer­tainly will,” Balazs Uj­vari, Re­search Fel­low at the Royal In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions at the Euro­pean Pol­icy Cen­tre ( EPC) in Brus­sels, told

QatarTo­day. At this point it is still a great un­known how se­ri­ously the EU will be af­fected by the exit of one of its key states – a per­ma­nent mem­ber of the UN's Se­cu­rity Coun­cil with vast mil­i­tary and for­eign af­fairs po­ten­tial.

But even with­out Brexit, for­eign pol­icy has been the weak­est spot of the EU in­te­gra­tion. Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski, a fa­mous geostrate­gist and for­mer ad­vi­sor to US pres­i­dents Lyn­don B. John­son and Jimmy Carter, once de­scribed Europe as “too pas­sive re­gard­ing in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity. Too self-sat­is­fied, it acts as if its cen­tral po­lit­i­cal goal is to be­come the world's most com­fort­able re­tire­ment home.” There­fore, many say that it would ac­tu­ally be a great sur­prise if the new strat­egy brings any ma­jor pol­icy im­pact. But to be fair, the new EU global strat­egy is more re­al­is­tic and less ide­al­is­tic than its pre­vi­ous one, adopted in 2003. Uj­vari em­pha­sises five pri­or­ity ob­jec­tives the new strat­egy iden­ti­fies to be pur­sued col­lec­tively by the 28 mem­bers so as to secure their joint in­ter­ests: (1) the se­cu­rity of the Union it­self; (2) the sta­bil­ity of the EU's neigh­bour­hood; (3) ad­dress­ing con­flicts and crises; (4) co­op­er­a­tive re­gional or­ders; and (5) ef­fec­tive global gov­er­nance. Ac­cord­ing to him, three of the above ob­jec­tives are di­rectly re­lated to the Mid­dle East.

EUGS and the Mid­dle East

The EUGS men­tions the Mid­dle East on many oc­ca­sions, and it is un­de­ni­able that it con­sid­ers the re­gion a key strate­gic hotspot, An­drea Frontini, a Pol­icy An­a­lyst at the Euro­pean Pol­icy Cen­tre, points out. “Although the EU's per­for­mance in the re­gion has – due to a ‘lethal mix' of in­traEuro­pean di­plo­matic ri­val­ries – of­ten been dis­ap­point­ing, show­ing lim­ited ca­pac­i­ties of the EU to deal with its ex­plo­sive Mid­dleEastern neigh­bour­hood, EUGS could still con­trib­ute to a more tar­geted, re­al­is­tic and flex­i­ble EU en­gage­ment in the re­gion,” he told our mag­a­zine.

He be­lieves we can ex­pect a smarter, more fo­cussed and ul­ti­mately more po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment by the EU in the re­gion in the near fu­ture, pro­vided that EUGS's main pred­i­ca­tions are put into proper prac­tice, and that Mem­ber States – some of which re­main con­sid­er­able di­plo­matic and se­cu­rity play­ers in the wider Mid­dle East re­gion – truly de­cide to speak and act with more unity and greater co­or­di­na­tion.

“As for the EU- Gulf/GCC re­la­tions, there is grow­ing aware­ness in the EU, in­clud­ing in its top lead­er­ship, that the two sides face a num­ber of con­sid­er­able com­mon chal­lenges, in­clud­ing ter­ror­ism and rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion, state col­lapse across the Mid­dle East, pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tion, mar­itime piracy, re­gional peace­mak­ing, en­ergy and so­cioe­co­nomic tran­si­tion, and tack­ling the man­i­fold ef­fects of cli­mate change,” Frontini con­tin­ued. But Uj­vari thinks that the EU will face a great chal­lenge in seek­ing to pro­mote the re­silience of its neigh­bours: while the EUGS clearly low­ers the EU's am­bi­tion of de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion, it will not – and should not – en­gage in ac­tion re­sult­ing in the prop­ping up of un­demo­cratic regimes. When fac­ing this dilemma, EU strat­egy plan­ners should per­haps have in mind Henry's Kissinger thought that “a coun­try that de­mands moral per­fec­tion in its for­eign pol­icy will achieve nei­ther per­fec­tion nor se­cu­rity.”

On the other hand, it is ev­i­dent that se­cu­rity and de­fence is­sues are a mat­ter of ur­gency and the first pri­or­ity of the EU's ex­ter­nal ac­tion. New strat­egy is very am­bi­tious when it comes to mil­i­tary im­pli­ca­tions, say­ing that it “should en­able the EU to act au­tonomously” and “un­der­take ac­tions in co­op­er­a­tion

"As for the EU-GCC re­la­tions, there is grow­ing aware­ness in the EU, in­clud­ing in its top lead­er­ship, that the two sides face a num­ber of con­sid­er­able com­mon chal­lenges, in­clud­ing ter­ror­ism and rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion, state col­lapse across the Mid­dle East, pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tion, mar­itime piracy, re­gional peace­mak­ing, en­ergy and so­cioe­co­nomic tran­si­tion, and tack­ling the man­i­fold ef­fects of cli­mate change.” AN­DREA FRONTINI Pol­icy An­a­lyst Euro­pean Pol­icy Cen­tre

with NATO.” The re­cent open­ing of the NATO Re­gional Cen­tre in Kuwait, which rep­re­sents a nu­cleus for co­op­er­a­tion be­tween NATO and the GCC es­pe­cially in the war against ter­ror­ism, could be un­der­stood as one step to­ward this vi­sion.

How­ever, there is also an ev­i­dent lack of di­plo­matic am­bi­tion when it comes to deal­ing with con­flicts and crises. “The em­pha­sis ap­pears to be placed on the lo­cal level (strik­ing cease­fire), some­what ne­glect­ing di­plo­matic ef­forts nec­es­sary to end a con­flict. While the EUGS sets out to sup­port peace agree­ments re­sult­ing from cross-party di­plo­matic talks, it fore­sees lit­tle if any lead­ing role for the EU in driv­ing such ne­go­ti­a­tions,” Uj­vari added. But if the EU fo­cuses on some niche ar­eas where it can make a dif­fer­ence in the re­gion (in­clud­ing trade, de­vel­op­ment aid and hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, mi­gra­tion, and se­cu­rity sec­tor re­form) there would be con­crete chances for the EU to be­come one of the sta­bil­is­ing play­ers in the Mid­dle East, ac­cord­ing to Frontini.

Less mul­ti­lat­eral and more bi­lat­eral re­la­tions

The new strat­egy de­clares a will­ing­ness to pur­sue bal­anced en­gage­ment in the Gulf, which ba­si­cally calls for strength­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion with the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil while grad­u­ally en­gag­ing with Iran, build­ing on the E3+3 nu­clear deal. This ini­tia­tive will be ever more rel­e­vant and sub­jected to chal­lenges from new US Pres­i­dent Trump, who threat­ened to scrap the Iran deal. Also, launch­ing par­al­lel di­a­logues with the GCC and Iran is any­thing but an easy task and may prove very tricky. How­ever, this is still an op­por­tu­nity for stronger Euro-Arab po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and co­op­er­a­tion if the League of Arab States is will­ing to (or is al­lowed to) part­ner with the EU in ar­eas of com­mon in­ter­est. But there are no grandiose plans about trans­for­ma­tion of the re­gion, prob­a­bly to avoid rais­ing ex­pec­ta­tions while fail­ing to de­liver once again.

There is a gen­eral be­lief that the EU will be pre­oc­cu­pied with the im­pli­ca­tions of the Brexit vote, which may de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of the EUGS. As a con­se­quence, this may lead to less mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism and more bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween EU mem­bers and GCC states. “It is un­ques­tion­able that in ar­eas like com­mer­cial promotion, po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions and de­fence co­op­er­a­tion, sev­eral EU Mem­ber States pre­fer ‘to go it alone' in the Gulf,” Frontini noted. But this is some­thing that Qatar is good at, so we may ex­pect fur­ther strength­en­ing of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with key EU coun­tries, such as France and Ger­many.

How­ever, the col­lec­tive weight of the EU, and the ben­e­fits of us­ing it to deal with "macro is­sues" like trade and in­vest­ment, cli­mate change, mi­gra­tion, "soft se­cu­rity" (in­clud­ing cy­ber and piracy, but also counter-ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism) and oth­ers, re­mains sig­nif­i­cant. But the GCC-EU Free Trade Agree­ment ne­go­ti­a­tion, which in any case has not seen any im­prove­ment for many years now, may fall vic­tim to Brexit. Ac­cord­ing to Jo­hann Weick, Brus­sels-based lec­turer on in­ter­na­tional trade re­la­tions and Euro­pean pol­icy and an­a­lyst on GCC-EU re­la­tions, “the EU is in­sti­tu­tion­ally bound to ap­ply con­di­tion­al­ity (po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and hu­man rights) in trade deals with ex­ter­nal trad­ing part­ners. Grant­ing the GCC an ex­cep­tion will cre­ate a prece­dent for other par­ties ac­tu­ally or po­ten­tially trad­ing with the EU.” Nev­er­the­less, the GCC and EU al­ready en­joy sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic re­la­tions. The EU is the fourth largest ex­port mar­ket while the EU is the GCC's num­ber one trad­ing part­ner. Trade vol­umes be­tween the two re­gions have al­most dou­bled dur­ing the past decade and stood at slightly more than 155 bil­lion eu­ros in 2015. The Euro­pean Union – which has seeks to lessen its de­pen­dency on Rus­sian gas – is in­ter­ested in ac­com­plish­ing en­hanced en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion with the GCC states, Weick con­tin­ued.

“How­ever, the GCC states seem to have their reser­va­tions, ap­par­ently mak­ing the con­clu­sion of the long-sought, yet per­sis­tently elusive com­mer­cial deal on free trade be­tween the two re­gional blocs as a pre­con­di­tion for new or en­hanced co­op­er­a­tion in other ar­eas of mu­tual in­ter­est,” he told QatarTo­day. With ab­so­lutely no sign of a de­ci­sive GCC-EU trade ne­go­ti­a­tions re-en­gage­ment, it is log­i­cal that the GCC states seek to es­tab­lish a closer re­la­tion­ship with Bri­tain, a coun­try with long-stand­ing (friend­ship) ties, a glob­ally cred­ited fi­nan­cial cen­tre (Lon­don) and more fa­mil­iar­ity with the con­flict­sus­cep­ti­ble Gulf re­gion than any other (cur­rent) EU mem­ber state, he con­cluded

"The EU is in­sti­tu­tion­ally bound to ap­ply con­di­tion­al­ity (po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and hu­man rights) in trade deals with ex­ter­nal trad­ing part­ners. Grant­ing the GCC an ex­cep­tion will cre­ate a prece­dent for other par­ties ac­tu­ally or po­ten­tially trad­ing with the EU." JO­HANN WEICK Lec­turer and An­a­lyst GCC-EU re­la­tions, In­ter­na­tional trade re­la­tions, Euro­pean pol­icy "While the EU's vi­tal in­ter­ests and key pri­or­i­ties will not change be­cause of the UK's fu­ture depar­ture, the com­mu­nity's ca­pac­i­ties to de­liver on its am­bi­tions cer­tainly will.” BALAZS UJ­VARI Re­search Fel­low, Royal In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Euro­pean Pol­icy Cen­tre

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