Towards a European Foreign Policy

Charlemagne’s Notebook at the Economist has a great blog on the evolving foreign policy of the European Union. According to the story, the European Commission and the national governments are at odds over the future of Europe. Member states are worried that the Lisbon Treaty may grant the EU’s new High Representative (read: Foreign Minister), Baroness Catherine Ashton, greater autonomy in foreign policy decision making than the Member States are comfortable with.

But more interesting are the underlying differences between the governments of the Member States and the European Commission on the nature of foreign relations. According to Charlemagne’s Notebook, EU Member States tend to have a foreign policy generally based in tenants of realism. But because of the nature of the power and authority afforded the European Commission, EU foreign policy tends to be dominated by liberals. Because it lacks a standing military and is unable to exercise hard power, the European Union relies almost exclusively on soft power. In other words, according to Charlemagne,

“The Eurocrats who currently staff the commission’s worldwide network of delegations know how to manage programmes, and talk about trade and development, goes the charge. They are not diplomats. Leave the Eurocrats in charge of the EAS, and national diplomatic services will send duffers on secondment to the EAS, rather than their high-flyers.

That certainly won’t make Ashton’s job any easier.


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