Today, 27 European foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss joint EU foreign policy. It’s a packed agenda, with the EU’s response to the conflict in Syria up for debate (a topic we looked at last week here), along with (amongst other events of global import) the recent elections in Libya; the new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt; the tense state of affairs between Sudan and its independent neighbour, South Sudan, and the ongoing conflict between Islamists, Tuareg rebels and the government in Mali.
There seems to be no end to the number of conflicts, democratic transitions and contested elections for EU foreign ministers to pass comment on, but how effective is today’s meeting of ministers really going to be? Earlier, Nikolai sent us a comment expressing his cynicism about the effectiveness of EU foreign policy in general:
With 27 talking heads (soon 28) plus the various circles-within-circles of the European Commission, European Parliament et al forming more circles of hell than Dante ever envisioned, [EU foreign policy is] an exceptionally poor common denominator that does not offend any Member State or create specific difficulties for a particular member.
How, in fact, can the EU even have a position on Kosovo when so many Member States don’t and won’t recognise it?
We took this comment to one of Europe’s foreign ministers - Edgars Rinkēvičs, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia – in a Skype interview and we asked him to react. His response was to admit that there were indeed great difficulties in putting together a common foreign policy for 27 different countries. However, he then went on to argue that: “In those cases where we get consensus on certain political actions and when we act, then we have good results. And I think that one very good case where the EU has been acting in unison and also with other key players is Myanmar.“
You can read a policy-briefing on the EU’s role in Myanmar from our partner think-tank, Friends of Europe, here.
What about the example of Kosovo, brought up by Nikolai? Is it really possible to say that the EU has a “common” foreign policy on Kosovo when some member-states recognise it and others refuse to do so?
What do YOU think? Is it still possible to reach agreement in an EU of 27 member-states on issues such as foreign policy and the response to the Eurozone crisis? Does EU foreign policy lead to the “lowest common denominator”? Or do the common decisions that are taken pack a bigger punch because they represent the will of all 27 EU members? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.
Edgars Rinkēvičs is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia.