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  • on 05.03.2015
  • at 09:00 AM
  • by evelina

Already 100 days for EU foreign policy under the leadership of Federica Mogherini. What has changed so far? 0

The style of EU Foreign and security policy has already changed: Europe’s face is younger, more energetic, and often appears firmer than it did a year ago.

The stronger synergies between development and other external policies are expectedly less visible with a European agenda highly dominated by security crises. Yet the attitude is new: more self-assured and visible than Cathy Ashton, who reportedly hardly ever made public statements without preparation or a spokesperson by her side. Mogherini’s almost relaxed attitude – sometimes using her personal political charisma if not charm – and as her rather tough statements on the need for reforms in Ukraine during her press conference in Kyiv, contrast with her predecessor’s more discreet and measured tone. Mogherini does not hesitate to add a personal touch to her public statements – including on social media -which also seem to become more frequent and more assertive: Europe has found a voice.

Her record as High Representative so far is largely positive and she is still enjoying a honeymoon with public opinion and national foreign ministries, but this may not last long. Tensions at the Foreign Affairs Council of January 2015 around the need for more sanctions against Russian individuals and entities and the potential threat of a Greek veto show that clouds are gathering on the horizon. Criticism started with the EEAS issues paper on Russia, prepared ahead of the Council meeting, which was viewed as too soft by Merkel’s circles. Singing in tune – which means turning the policy wheel neither too fast nor too slow – with Member States and national foreign ministers will be the key to Mogherini’s success: leaving them enough space to play their role, and stimulating them when necessary. She did this well when she discreetly signing an op-ed with Germany, the UK and France’s foreign ministers on nuclear negotiations with Iran (a file still looked after by Ashton as Chief Negotiator within the EEAS).

Mogherini’s strength so far: no top-down revolution but listening and learning

Sensitive subjects on which any foreign policy chief can make mistakes or be criticised are numerous and Mogherini will soon be tested again by the national press but also a demanding European Parliament on Russia, Da’esh, terrorism and Libya. Until now, Mogherini has been wise enough not to try to revolutionise the European foreign policy system. She honoured her promise to pay more attention to the European Parliament, which now has to admit that she has better things to do than sitting for hours in the Strasbourg hemicycle. She will probably struggle to find time to brief MEPs ahead of each Foreign Affairs Council.

Some say her new working method that consists of narrowing down the agenda to a short list of key issues in the Foreign Affairs Council has not really been effective. This was confirmed by the postponement of a strategic debate on Africa this week. Yet burden sharing with Member States is certainly a useful and unavoidable approach and is already happening.

Mogherini’s intensive travelling schedule demonstrates her willingness to learn and listen, to broaden her personal network and to get involved directly in international affairs. It also perhaps reflects her priorities: The Southern Neighbourhood and Middle East peace process, Ukraine, the US, and Africa, where she was due to attend the latest African Union summit in Addis Ababa late January. Will Asia come later through a European pivot to the East matching the US one?

Some of the initiatives that Mogherini has taken are actually the results of ongoing processes, such as the upcoming presentation of a green paper on the European Neighbourhood Policy: the EU’s engagement with the Mediterranean, Eastern European and Caucasus countries had been under harsh criticism from within the EU diplomacy for months. The partnership with Africa acquired a roadmap at the Africa-EU Brussels summit in April 2014, several months before she took office: her added value on Africa was supposed to be demonstrated at the next Foreign Affairs Council in February where ministers held a strategic discussion on EU-Africa relations. The defence agenda has been sketched out mostly by the 2013 Defence Council: the High Representative is expected to present an assessment of global security at the Defence Council next June.

Continue reading on: Europe is talking – the blog of the College of Europe Community

By Damien Helly

Photo Credit: European External Action Service

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