A more as­sertive EU in a volatile world

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • By HELGA SCH­MID

The prediction­s made last year with re­gard to the grow­ing im­por­tance of great power ri­val­ries still ring in our ears. What is more, our strate­gic en­vi­ron­ment grows ever more un­pre­dictable. Ma­jor pow­ers openly chal­lenge the rules-based in­ter­na­tional or­der and seek to pro­mote al­ter­na­tive vi­sions of a world di­vided into spheres of in­flu­ence. Geopo­lit­i­cal ri­valry stokes ten­sions and raises the alarm bell of a new “pro­lif­er­a­tion age” that risks es­ca­lat­ing into in­ad­ver­tent mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion. Cli­mate change is be­com­ing an ex­is­ten­tial threat while cy­berspace and dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns are the new weapons of the 21st cen­tury.

For the Euro­pean Union, these chal­lenges can be tack­led only through a mul­ti­lat­eral approach. We have the tools and the po­lit­i­cal weight to shape the fu­ture global or­der if we stay united. This is why in­stead of re­treat­ing from in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion and global part­ner­ships, the EU is step­ping up its com­mit­ment to ad­dress global chal­lenges to­gether with its part­ners. This is true for the Paris agree­ment on cli­mate change, the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion (JCPOA) on non-pro­lif­er­a­tion, the 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment, the EU’s strat­egy for con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween Asia and Europe or the re­form of the WTO.

While these agree­ments are – in essence – hard to reach, we are con­vinced they are the best way to en­sure a more peace­ful, pros­per­ous and se­cure world en­vi­ron­ment. Even more so when it is clear that no sin­gle coun­try can ad­dress these chal­lenges alone. I am con­vinced this approach is the right one and the fact that de­mand for Euro­pean ac­tion from our part­ners has never been so high speaks for it­self.

At ev­ery given op­por­tu­nity, the need to de­fine com­mon an­swers to com­mon prob­lems is not only high­lighted but trans­lated into ac­tion. The Euro­pean Union is there­fore in­vest­ing in broader in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion and part­ner­ships above all with NATO, the UN and re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as the Africa Union and ASEAN. Our tri­lat­eral EU-AU-UN co­op­er­a­tion on com­mon chal­lenges such as mi­gra­tion il­lus­trates how mul­ti­lat­eral so­lu­tions can con­trib­ute to greater safety, sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity.

For in­stance, as the UN IPCC Spe­cial Re­port on Global Warm­ing warned us re­cently, there is an ur­gent need to act on cli­mate change. This is the logic for the EU’s tire­less ef­forts to reach a successful out­come at COP 24 in Ka­tow­ice. The EU will lead by ex­am­ple by turn­ing its own am­bi­tious com­mit­ments for 2030 into con­crete ac­tion. This was made clear at the high-level event on cli­mate and se­cu­rity hosted by the EU last June.

In the se­cu­rity sec­tor, the EU con­tin­ues to as­sert its role as a se­cu­rity provider. Not only is it work­ing in­ter­nally to in­ten­sify joint ef­forts to ef­fec­tively fight ter­ror­ism, ha­tred and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism, it is en­gaged on the ground with 16 cri­sis man­age­ment mis­sions with nearly 4,000 men and women. From build­ing ca­pac­i­ties in Mali, Niger and Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic, to sup­port­ing se­cu­rity sec­tor re­form in Iraq, fight­ing piracy off the coast of So­ma­lia or pre­vent­ing a resur­gence of vi­o­lence in Georgia, the EU con­tin­ues to strengthen in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity in its neigh­bor­hood and be­yond. This is com­ple­mented by con­tin­ued en­gage­ment in more than 40 me­di­a­tion ac­tiv­i­ties across the world, from Colom­bia to Ye­men and the Philip­pines, and un­der­pinned by fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, as the EU re­mains the lead donor for devel­op­ment and hu­man­i­tar­ian aid.

As Europe is tak­ing more re­spon­si­bil­ity for its own se­cu­rity, the de­bate on Euro­pean strate­gic au­ton­omy has moved to the fore – and not with­out con­tro­versy. How­ever, at its heart is a sim­ple rea­son­ing: when needed, Euro­peans need to be able to pro­tect and de­fend Euro­pean in­ter­ests and val­ues and have the ca­pac­ity to act. We want to be able to co­op­er­ate with third coun­tries on our own terms.

In this re­spect, we stepped up the devel­op­ment of joint mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Through our Per­ma­nent Struc­tured Co­op­er­a­tion (PESCO), we will in­crease joint in­vest­ments through the Euro­pean De­fense Fund. We are stream­lin­ing mil­i­tary com­mand struc­tures (MPCC) and we agreed on a com­pact to strengthen our civil­ian cri­sis man­age­ment. These initiative­s also con­trib­ute to strengthen NATO’s Euro­pean pil­lar and con­tri­bu­tion to col­lec­tive de­fense.

Greater re­spon­si­bil­ity also in­cludes beef­ing up our own re­silience and ca­pac­ity in en­ergy, space, in­fra­struc­ture and other crit­i­cal sec­tors. We Euro­peans can­not ac­cept in­ter­fer­ence and desta­bi­liza­tion through hy­brid and cy­ber­at­tacks, hence our on­go­ing fo­cus on re­in­forc­ing cy­ber­se­cu­rity ca­pac­i­ties, im­prov­ing the pro­tec­tion of data and con­tain­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion through the re­cently adopted Ac­tion Plan on Dis­in­for­ma­tion.

We also need to be ex­tra vig­i­lant to pre­serve achieve­ments on non-pro­lif­er­a­tion, such as the INF treaty or the nu­clear deal with Iran, as the stakes for our own se­cu­rity are sim­ply too high. The start­ing point can­not be to dis­man­tle the cur­rent ar­chi­tec­ture and start from scratch. We Euro­peans are work­ing at all lev­els to pro­mote the uni­ver­sal­iza­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of ex­ist­ing agree­ments, such as the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty or the Hague Code of Con­duct against Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Pro­lif­er­a­tion. We are also push­ing for the Com­pre­hen­sive Test Ban Treaty to come into force, which could play an im­por­tant role as we work to­ward a com­plete, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of Korea.

Tak­ing greater re­spon­si­bil­ity does not stop at de­fense is­sues. Se­cu­rity is also about eco­nomic se­cu­rity. This in­cludes the strate­gic im­por­tance of the Euro and the need to en­sure that the sin­gle cur­rency can play its full role on the in­ter­na­tional scene. Pro­mot­ing the Euro’s in­ter­na­tional role is part of Europe’s com­mit­ment to an open, mul­ti­lat­eral rules-based global econ­omy. The ex­tra-ter­ri­to­rial ef­fects of sanc­tions also chal­lenge the EU’s ca­pac­ity to fol­low through on our own po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ments. In this con­text, we are de­vel­op­ing mech­a­nisms that will as­sist, pro­tect and re­as­sure eco­nomic ac­tors to pur­sue le­git­i­mate busi­ness abroad.

As Euro­peans, we can­not af­ford to waste time or to be less in­no­va­tive than oth­ers. We need to mod­ern­ize our ap­proaches and en­gage more ac­tively with new ac­tors at the in­ter­sec­tion of tech­nol­ogy and for­eign and se­cu­rity pol­icy. This is why the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive launched the Global Tech panel with the CEOs of ma­jor tech com­pa­nies, in or­der to help en­sure that in­ter­na­tional ethics and rules can keep pace with hu­man in­ge­nu­ity. To har­ness these op­por­tu­ni­ties, we also must take the se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tions se­ri­ously, hence the re­cent Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Com­mu­ni­ca­tion on Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence.

Sup­port­ing rules-based mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism and greater Euro­pean strate­gic au­ton­omy are not con­tra­dic­tory ob­jec­tives. If we strengthen our re­silience in the face of new risks, the Euro­pean Union will play its part in rein­vig­o­rat­ing the mul­ti­lat­eral or­der and be reck­oned as an as­sertive ac­tor in a volatile world.


PLAC­ARDS ARE pic­tured dur­ing the ‘Rise for Cli­mate’ demon­stra­tion in Brus­sels on March 31.


HELGA SCH­MID, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Euro­pean Ex­ter­nal Ac­tion Ser­vice.

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