November 14, 2012
EU foreign policy lacks focus. It is fragmented between member states and regional priorities. In its present shape the EU does not have much impact on global affairs. 140 embassies across the world, most of them in Africa busy managing projects, are no substitute for foreign policy.
To have more weight the EU should engage more with the two super powers, separately and, where appropriate, jointly.
This engagement should be pragmatic and low key. It should focus on domestic policies that matter for the three players. Economy, finance, banking, energy, environment, agriculture, research, urban planning, public transport come to mind.
To this end, EU Commissioners, accompanied by their top advisers, should regularly meet their counterparts for intensive one day forward-looking discussions. Assuming such meetings to take place in an informal atmosphere, they will create a better mutual understanding, which is important per se.
Similar consultations should take place on external policies. They should become routine ahead of major international conferences: with China, EU and USA pursuing similar lines the chances of more productive international meetings, e.g. in the UN framework,will rise substantially.
Such an approach will be demanding on the EU. The Commission will need excellent preparation. Before committing the EU it will, of course, have to obtain green light from Member States and the EP. But for any informal meetings should be to proceed on its own.
There is no need to give these meetings much publicity. They should have a positive impact on the quality of bilateral relations by the mere sharing of views and learning from each other.
Annual meetings of the presidents with their closest collaborators should complement the frequent ministerial meetings.
The Presidents of the European Council and the Commission should rapidly elaborate basic modalities before approaching their counterparts in USA and China.
Eberhard Rhein, Brussels.