The session “New challenges and Priorities for the EU – do we need a new Foreign and Security policy?” during the The AEJ Congress in Neusiedl was dominated by the crisis in Ukraine. It was led off by Olexander Scherba , special ambassador to Ukraine’s foreign Minister – he spoke very passionately about the problems confronting his country – pointing out that just months ago it would have been unthinkable for a Ukrainian to shoot a Russian, but his remarks were off the record and so cannot be re-produced here.
The next speaker was Wolfgang Petritsch, a senior Austrian diplomat who served as High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovin. He looked at the twin challenges of Ukraine and the Middle-East, talked about traditional borders being swept away and wondered what had worked and what hadn’t in relation to the Foreign and Security Policy of the EU . He said the Neighbourhood policy of 2009 was a shambles, and that in the Middle East, the EU was reduced to the role of payer.
Politically, he said, the EU’s role was limited in terms of nuclear policy, citing the EU’s role vis a vis Iran, there had been a breakdown of illusions in 2014 – the notion of soft power or smart power was gone.
Where is the border? Confronted with the facts we see that Russia and Ukraine are deciding for the time being, Mr Petritsch said he believed Black Sea policy needed to be revisited.
There is an opportunity for the new Commission, new Parliament and a Polish President of the Council, but Mr Petritsch reckons the conflict won’t go away because Russia wants to drag it out .. He also suggested that Serbia was being financed by Russia, that Brussels had virtually withdrawn from the West Balkans and he cautioned against revisionist powers/ administrations.
The next speaker was Eduard Kukan, MEP, a member of the Foreign Policy Committee and a former Foreign Minister in the Slovak Republic… he spoke of the difficulties for 28 EU states to come up with a workable solution but said we needed a CFSP because we were unprepared to deal in a timely fashion with current crises.. He too spoke about the EP Neighbourhood policy – in 2011 he said, the neighbourhood was at a crossroads and Russia was a strategic partner … now its annexation of Crimea is against all laws – Mr Kukan said we were looking at Russia the way we wanted to see it!
And this as the Lisbon Treaty was being constituted with its High Representative for Foreign Affairs – this took time to get established (and he noted that the Foreign Policy committee had been very impressed at recent hearings by the new High Representative Federica Mogherini, despite a perceived lack of experience etc.)
He stressed the importance of leadership (a voice and a face) which he said was lacking during the economic crisis. He also spoke about the increased powers of the European Parliament in the Lisbon treaty and said that in relation to the CFSP it wasn’t a new policy that was needed, but new thinking. strategic thinking from an EU perspective.
The final listed speaker was Anton Pelinka, a Professor of Political Science who said the EU didn’t need a CFSP, rather a trans-national strategy. He recalled Henry Kissinger’s remark – ‘If we want to call Europe, who do we call?’
Mr Pelinka maintains it’s not about policy but politics, and says the high Representative on Foreign Affairs bridges that gap. However, he is not very optimistic about a common policy re Ukraine, when you have to take on board the Hungarian voice, the Polish voice and the Turkish voice.
He added that London and Paris still see themselves as global powers.
He sees a need to move from co-ordination to integration asking what is the EU about?
He is not optimistic, noting that integration touches on NATO and remarking that any Russian President would love to play Warsaw against Budapest, Paris against Berlin.
He re-iterated the notion of moving from policy to politics but acknowledges that this could be problematic in relation to the treaties, and cautions that in five years time we could be facing another crisis like that in Ukraine…