With the debt crisis taking centre-stage in Europe right now, it may be tempting for EU leaders to forget the rest of the world is still trundling along out there. The Arab Spring, for example, has been described as the “most important event of the 21st century“, and the UN recently estimated that the ongoing violence in Syria has claimed over 5000 lives. These are, as the apocryphal Chinese proverb warns, “interesting times”.
We recently asked you whether “there were limits to EU enlargement“, and asked Slovenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Samuel Žbogar, to respond. Today, we’re asking more generally “What should European foreign policy look like?” and our interview is with János Martonyi, the Foreign Minister of Hungary.
First, let’s start with a comment from Victor, one of our readers, concerning Ukranian membership of the EU:
Ukrainians are Europeans; therefore we have a right to be part of the European family, in fact I would go so far as to say that Europe as a Union cannot be complete without Ukraine as a member… [but] if the EU does not hold out an olive branch in the not too distant future then the influence of both Russia and China could well make a future union less likely.
This is a controversial question at the moment – especially with EU-Ukraine relations having taken such a chilly turn following the jailing of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. What does the Minister think?
I would advise Victor not to accept this kind of “either / or” choice between Asia, China or whatever, and Europe. The Ukraine is a European country, the Ukraine is a member of the European family and the Ukraine does have a European perspective.
At the same time, of course, it’s a decision of the Ukraine how fast and how close they want to come to the European Union, in terms of their economy, political system, human rights, and so on. But they are a member of the family, whether they like it or not.
Next up, we had the following comment from Nikolai:
Turkey seems to be playing the Arab Spring with a deft touch at the moment and will become a significant power broker in North Africa and also the Black Sea region. Depending upon how Turkey fairs with North Africa it may be wise to welcome it into the EU fold to use its newly found influence there… [but will Turkey] want to join the EU as and when [the current] structural changes have taken place and the EU morphs into whatever it will be?
What does the Minister think?
Well, I share Nikolai’s view to the effect that Turkey will have to become a member of the European Union. Turkey is a candidate. We are negotiating with Turkey – of course, very slowly. As we know, there are risks involved in the process – one of the risks is precisely the one which he refers to.
I don’t think there is a direct relationship here with what has been going on in North Africa or the Arab Spring, though. It’s true that Turkey is a kind of emerging power in every sense of the word, but my position and our position has always been that Europe would be much better off with Turkey inside than outside.
But is now the right time to even be having this discussion? In the middle of the Eurozone crisis? Should the EU rather focus on “deepening” and not “enlarging”?
It’s a very old dilemma. People raised the same issue at the time of various enlargements – including ours for instance. So I can only repeat what we said 15 years ago: that there is no conflict between enlarging and deepening. In fact, if you look back at the history of European architecture, let’s say, over 60 years now – there have been parallel processes of enlarging 4 or 5 times at the same time as deepening has occurred. And the same story is going on now. In our case, we called it the “reunification of Europe” and it also brought about new treaties, new policies – some of which will have to be developed further in the upcoming years. And we go on – the Croatian example is the best demonstration that the process has not stopped despite the crisis… Whatever the concrete decisions, the main political message will be quite clear – and this is that the enlargement process goes on.
Moving away from the debate around enlargement, then, what about the EU’s response to the ongoing violence in Syria? You personally welcomed military strikes against Libya and the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, but the military option is apparently “off the table” when it comes to Syria. What makes the situation in Syria different to the one in Libya prior to NATO intervention?
This question is very much justified, but it’s based upon a moral approach. From a moral perspective, there’s no difference. So, if we could always give moral answers to dilemmas or situations, that would be very easy. But, realistically, situations are different. Possibilities are different. The military context is different. The regional context is different. Political consequences can be enormously different. And all of that has to be taken into account; that’s history. So, we have to be realistic. And you know very well that the military option in Syria is excluded, so we have to try to search for other solutions…
What do YOU think? What should Europe’s foreign policy look like? Should the EU really aspire to a common foreign policy, or is it more realistic to assume there will always be 27 different sets of interests? Which are the most important foreign policy objectives for Europe as a whole? And how large can the EU grow before it starts suffering from “overstretch”? Let us know your thoughts in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy makers and experts for their reactions.
Well if we are talking about a “common” foreign policy, it should be exactly that for starters…..COMMON..!! now of course since we are not even able to sort our internal affairs with unanimity, how can we speak to the world with one voice? and since we do not speak to the world with one voice, how then the world sees us as a “union”…?? they must be laughing…
it is understandable that different regions will have different sensitivities and problems…but why their “partners” are not able to understand where they coming from and help or at least compromise..?
we saw with the immigration problem, after the arab revolution hit north africa and thousands were loading themselves on a boat to enter EU through Spain, Italy, Malta or even Greece the northern states “ducked” once again and said the responsibility lied with the states that those immigrants were entering into EU..
But the immigrants do not want to stay in the poor south, they want to move on to the rich north..So why don’t the rich nations of Europe act as one with the states that are in the borders of the continent and assist them? instead they decided to chose the easy option and suspend the Schengen! Like France and Denmark. If they had any problems with how Italy, Malta and Greece handled the situation, then why didn’t all our governments together took action?
In Greece we spend millions just to process all the refugee applications and house them feed them and either repatriate them or support them while in our country..and ideally they want to move to richer states, so why should it be our problem only?
About Ukraine and further expansion, i think we should decide on the agenda for the next years, and stick with it. make a plan, decide which states we want in in the foreseeable future and set up a time frame..Especially on Turkey we have to give them a clear answer..and stick with it..I am all for further expansion, but i also want further “deepening” ..
As for our involvement in the Arab spring…well we can not just watch…but we can not interfere too much either…we must support the civilians..I am not in favor for military actions anywhere..What is the UN doing? Aid and sanctions are my ideal ways of intervention..
And for our general foreign policies apart form the “united” (well of somewhat) i want to see a personalized European one..not just repeat what America is supporting. It is ok to be allies and disagree on something. I personally was disgusted when the UNESCO accepted Palestine as a member, the Americans withdrew their financial support from it..This is bullying..either you do as we say, or we use our most powerful weapon..our money! No, i do not want to see Europe acting like that!
If there is going to be a common EU foreign policy headed by the EEAS and Baroness Ashton then there must be some form of common thread to it.
That is not to say the EU or EEAS should throw out good in pursuit of best, but there must be a foundation of European sensibilities from where it will be projected that all Member States agree.
Unfortunately with 27 talking heads (soon 28) plus the various circles within circles of the EC, EP et al forming more circles of hell than Dante every envisioned, we will be left with an exceptionally poor common denominator that does not offend any Member State or create specific difficulties for a particular member.
There are times when weight in numbers counts for far more than the nimbleness of individual Member States own foreign policies, however, there are equally times when the nimbleness of sovereign foreign policy is far more successful.
Policy always falls into the categories of effective, ineffective and counterproductive. Sadly all too often, those policy makers seem to find an ineffective policy that is effectively implemented qualifies as a success. Quite how the successful implementation of an ineffective or counterproductive policy can be deemed successful just because it was effectively implemented seems somewhat bizarre. Successful policy should surely be measured by the casual effects it has and not how whether it overcame all the bureaucratic hurdles to turn from idea to policy.
There needs to be a SMART policy towards Turkey and Ukraine from the EU. It can of course be staged but it needs to be not only known to national governments and civil society but also to the general public.
In these times of bottom-up social pressure on governments enabled by the soft power social media now provides, almost to the point of removing civil society/NGOs and main stream media from the debate, informing the great unwashed masses directly is by far the best method to keep both traction and momentum with any policy.
Clearly stated SMART targets openly and repeatedly declared to the general public of Turkey and Ukraine will keep expectation levels realistic whilst keeping momentum should the public be behind the policies advocated.
Before this can happen, the EU and EEAS need to come up with a foundation for foreign policy which currently seems duplicitous and ad hoc to many would be and want to be EU citizens.
Let us take a specific example raised in an Early Day motion in the UK Parliament: and raised again in the Commons by Sir Gerald Kaufman – what is Europe doing about Israeli brutality? …the early-day motion 2527 which expresses revulsion at the murder by Israeli soldiers of a peaceful demonstrator, Mustafa Tamimi, at whose head they fired point-blank a tear gas canister, and following which they manhandled his grieving sister?
[That this House expresses its revulsion at the deliberate killing by Israeli soldiers of Mustafa Tamimi, aged 28 years, while the Palestinian was taking part in a peaceful demonstration at Nabi Saleh on Friday 9 December 2011; notes that an Israeli soldier specifically and deliberately aimed a gas canister at Mustafa Tamimi’s head, which hit him point-blank inflicting horrific injuries; further notes that these Israeli soldiers blocked access to an ambulance, pushed around Mustafa Tamimi’s sister, who was deeply distressed by her brother’s appalling injuries, and laughed and gloated at her; and calls for international action, rather than mild remonstrances, to prevent further Israeli murder of innocent Palestinians.]
Is he [the UK Foreign Secretary]aware that at his funeral, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and sewerage through hoses at mourners? Will he ask the Foreign Secretary to tell the Israelis that they have to stop this sadistic thuggery, which no doubt they will resume again tomorrow?
I am impressed, I suhlod say. Genuinely hardly actually do I encounter a blog that may be equally educative and entertaining, and let me inform you, you’ve got hit the nail about the head. Your assumed is spectacular; the problem is something that not sufficient individuals are speaking intelligently about. I am really blissful that I stumbled all the way through this in my search for 1 point referring to this
In western countries / EU and not only, there is a used often a politics with doble standards. The problem is that the Arab world is becoming too unstable to afford to comment to much the actions of Israelis. Israel it’s a very powerful state in the region and it’s important to maintain the order. Democracy will bring in Arab world probably a lot of Islamism. Europe must choose: Islam and Democracy or Non-Islam and Totalitarian states. All options are bad. Israel is not a totalitarian state but have tough reactions because huge security problems. When your soldiers are doing a stupid thing, you just can’t send them to judge because, the others will understand that the authorities do not defend them. So, the authorities are closing eyes at the wrong doings of the soldiers. The Arab world needs most probably NeoTechnocracy as doctrine instead of too much religious indoctrination. NeoTechnocracy promotesa much more evolved and stable democracy and non-violent approach. Will take probable some time until NeoTechnocracy will have enough adepts in Europe and outside of it.
Regarding EU and the Crisis – In this moment politicians do not have a CLEAR STRATEGY for Europe. They try some thing but this can’t be named STRATEGY or PLAN. It’s not an ACTIVE POLICY but a REACTIVE policy. The politicians only react to the crisis effects. People and member states leaders are seeing this and they are not conviced because there is no real plan for Europe. The Mercozy plan is not a PLAN but a UNCERTAIN FIX that will lead to something NOT CLEAR AT ALL. It’s an EXPERIMENT. From here comes the lack of trust of states, leaders and population. Almost everybody subscribed to Mercozy plan hoping to better, but there are not to much and big reasons for hopes. Europe NEEDS A PLAN, a strong and efficient plan with vision for mobilizing the population, but the actual leaders have no idea how will look like such a plan.
Foreign Policy is one of the most important and the most complex module of politics. Consequently in order to comment on this we need a thorough knowledge not only for our state but for the countries of the rest of the world. For this reason I will not comment on any issue that has to do with other countries as I do not have such a feedback. However I will say what is obvious (to me at least) that Europe has to reform its identity. To the eyes of the European people as well as to the rest of the world, Europe seems to have so many foreign policies as the number of its member states. I cannot recall a member state that has made a deal with a third country to include another member state in it. I cannot remember any member state that fought for the rights of another member state. Everything, inside European Union seems to be financial oriented and guided. That is wrong. Europe has culture, Europe has civilization, Europe has history and finally Europe has what it takes to create the ideal social structure and function. In order to do that we need a strong political unified system throughout Europe that will search and find all those points that people have in common and build on that ground to make a system that will make Europe the world’s No.1 country in every aspect (or however you can call it) that all the others will have to follow.
Indeed identity is an absolute and critical issue. Far too often we think of identity as a geographical issue within parameters which are no more than arbitrary lines on a map in many cases.
There are sovereign identities, regional identities within a sovereign, local identities within a region, our own individual identity.
At all stages of this question of identity there is the “self” and “others”.
We may on occasion actually think of ourselves as European on the rare occasion we are talking to somebody who is not from the continent but more often than not we will default immediately to the sovereign identity.
What the EU suffers from is indeed a lack of identity not only from without but also from within amongst its populous. A geographical supra-structural blob on the map with no clear ideology amongst its populous, despite what the elected and non-elected leaders may otherwise state.
To have an identity there needs to be a common ideology not held only by the leadership but by the populous. Broad statements relating to human rights, religious freedoms and democracy are not peculiar to “Europe” and therefore simply not enough to build a European identity around.
The common currency also failed in this as has the single market.
All of these common threads are still not enough for the populous to identify themselves as “European” or identify with, and more importantly legitimize, any noise which may come from Brussels.
In short the “European identity” holds very little recognition and therefore be default very little legitimacy with the public of the sovereign nations.
Many Europeans know their own sovereign regional MP by name and how their domestic governance system works.
How many can name their MEP and accurately describe how the EU circles of power work?
The disconnect is enormous and with it comes a lack of legitimacy and following that, the lack of identity.
Add to that sovereign interests (the default identity of a European citizen) do not necessarily match EU interests (a superimposed and secondary identity for most) and multiply that by 27 (soon 28) Members States and you are left with a psychological disorder that would vex the very best psychiatrists. That is even before we further consider the empire building and in-fighting within the EU establishments themselves and the schizophrenic personality it projects to the citizens it would like to identify with it.
Identity, as Michael Tsikalakis states is a huge problem for the EU.
First of all, I’d like to say thank you to the minister János Martonyi for the substantial comment, support and good neighbour policy.
Nevertheless, we have the result of the EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv. It is an information about the European identity of Ukraine and nothing else. It implies that by no means all in the EU are convinced and feel Ukraine is a part of the European family.
Besides, the EU leaders don’t hear the thesis that the Ukrainian people start to definitively understand that their views on the European prospect are absolutely different from the views the present Ukrainian authorities have.
At the same time, there is a threat that European extreme caution concerning the rapprochement with Ukraine will tire those very Ukrainians. They don’t need to prove themselves that they are Europeans. They know it. History convincingly proves it. But the European Union won’t benefit for sure, if the today’s Ukrainian elite decides to fence itself off the rest of Europe and make advances to Russia, which again plunges into the search of its own identity.
Russia is an eternal neighbour of Ukraine. Russia is a huge market. But the Russian political system needs a new architecture. The EU and Ukraine should help Russia with these changes. It will be safer in this way for all. The EU-Ukraine cooperation can become an effective model for Russian political reforms.
Director-general of the Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy “People First”
I would like to propose a somewhat surprising but long held belief that both Israel and Palestine should be invited to join the EU if they can make significant progress towards conflict resolution and civil rights reform.
I see this as the only sensible solution to the problems in the region.