Thursday

13th Aug 2020

Future EU foreign policy dependent on personal chemistry

  • A recent picture of a series of people responsible for EU foreign policy, including Ms Benita Ferrero-Waldner (Photo: EU Council)

The future of EU foreign policy under the new Lisbon Treaty will depend on the personal chemistry between its main players, says Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU commissioner currently in charge of external relations.

Speaking at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation on Monday evening (19 October) on the challenges for foreign policy under the new institutional rules, the Austrian diplomat noted that the European Commission president as well as the proposed new foreign minister and president of the European Council will all be "very visible."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"It is very important that the right personalities be nominated. Let us hope that we can have the right balance and that all three have the right chemistry with one another. This is important for the future working of the European Union."

The commissioner speaks from experience, having for the past five years been part of an external relations balancing act along with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. While Ms Ferrero-Waldner sits in the commission and holds the purse strings for external relations, Mr Solana, answerable to member states, is in charge of diplomacy.

The delicate set-up, with each figure supported by a separate administration, sees them operate in the same countries but not always with the same message. The fact that the overlapping functions have not led to more frequent policy clashes is largely seen as a result of their more discreet personalities.

While the Lisbon Treaty tidies up this situation by merging the posts of High Representative and External Relations commissioner - effectively creating a "Ferrero-Solana" - it creates new uncertainties on the future possibility of reaching a cohesive foreign policy together with the post of council president.

At present it is not clear exactly where the boundaries between the two posts will lie and what sort of role the president should have - purely organisational or something with more international clout.

Ms Ferrero-Waldner would not be drawn on which she thought would be the better set up for the EU. But she suggested the foreign minister post would be strong by virtue of being an "agenda-setting" job. The foreign minister will be both vice-president of the commission and chair the monthly meetings of EU foreign ministers, while being backed up by a new diplomatic service.

Speaking about the diplomatic service, the commissioner said she believed it would take "five years" to establish it properly. She pointed to the difficulties of trying to find places for the different experts from the commission, council and national diplomatic services, who often have overlapping areas of expertise.

Referring to the high-level experts on the Middle East in both the commission and the council secretariat, she asked: "What do you do with these people? Suddenly they are not good enough when the member state diplomats come in?"

With the future of the EU's common foreign policy still in flux, the commissioner warned against large member states trying to run it for themselves.

"We have to be careful that we don't go for a directoire [management board]," she said, noting that this would cause smaller member states to "revolt."

Minsk violence prompts talk of EU sanctions

Images of bloody injuries after police attacked protesters with batons and stun grenades marked Belarus' latest sham election, posing questions on EU sanctions.

EU wary of violence in Belarus election

EU states have voiced fear of violence during Belarus elections on Sunday, as president Aleksander Lukashenko seeks to maintain his third decade in power.

News in Brief

  1. Amazon people urge EU banks to stop funding pollution
  2. Russia vaccine could be "dangerous", Germany says
  3. EU to finance new Covid-19 research projects
  4. Croatia receives EU earthquake relief funds
  5. Facemasks required throughout Brussels
  6. EU opposes Mexico's transparent junk food labels
  7. Greece accuses Turkey of 'escalation' in maritime dispute
  8. Slovakia expels three Russians linked to Berlin murder

Feature

The Hagia Sophia and the global battle of symbols

The Turkish president's decision to restart Islamic worship services in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia last Friday is not innocent. So how should we react? By doing the opposite - and make Cordoba's famous Mosque/Cathedral in Cordoba a museum.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Belarus violence goes on, as EU ministers scramble
  2. French navy to deter Turkey's oil and gas grab
  3. EU ministers urged to talk Belarus, Turkey sanctions
  4. Drums of war again, in Europe
  5. EU looks on as Belarus protests turn lethal
  6. EU virus-alert agency says new restrictions needed
  7. Minsk violence prompts talk of EU sanctions
  8. Schrems privacy ruling risks EU's ties to digital world

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us