20th Mar 2023


EU diplomacy 2.0

  • Germany's David McAllister (l), chair of the committee, with Angela Merkel (Photo: CDU Niedersachsen)

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee (AFET) ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia in the next five years, according to its German chairman, David McAllister.

They should also help forge an EU "Weltpolitikfähigkeit" ('world-politics capability') vis-a-vis the US and China, he said. But AFET contains the same divisions that have held back member states from acting together, its Polish deputy chairman indicated.

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The European Parliament has no decision-making powers on EU foreign policy, which member states do by unanimity.

But AFET MEPs have in the past "played a prominent role in parliamentary diplomacy, including in mediation and conflict prevention" and the EP's "diplomacy role should be strengthened" in the new legislature, McAllister said.

MEPs should support Western Balkans enlargement, promote democracy in former Soviet countries, push for implementation of a Russia-Ukraine ceasefire deal, and help develop EU strategy on the Middle East and Africa and on counter-terrorism and migration, he said.

AFET deputies should also "promote multilateralism and a global rules-based order", the German added. EU-US relations had faced "challenges and disruptions", but must be fixed, and EU-China ambitions must not forget "human rights", he noted.

If AFET helped the EU emerge as "a global leader", that would be its biggest achievement, McAllister said. But issues such as reforming EU foreign policy unanimity, getting along with US president Donald Trump, and Russia could be "controversial", the German politician warned.

And member states' divisions were replicated inside AFET, its deputy chair, former Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski, indicated.

Speaking out on Russia's "open conflict" against Ukraine and on the need for Russia sanctions should be the committee's top priority, Waszczykowski said, in a narrower threat assessment.

And EU gripes on Trump should not be used to mask that reality, he added. "Some see Trump as more of a danger than [Russian president Vladimir] Putin, to marginalise the Russian threat, and that is not acceptable to us," he said.

Poland was unlikely to give up its foreign policy veto in the EU Council for the sake of "Weltpolitikfähigkeit", in a position he justified. "This is not a cultural problem, or a community problem, it's a matter of national security," he said.

But the divisions also had ideological roots, his comments suggested. "Federalism is a recipe for catastrophe," Waszczykowski said. McAllister's German chancellor Angela Merkel opened EU doors to refugees in 2015, but that was a mistake because "the next wave could be even bigger" and we "have to stop such an invasion", the AFET deputy chair said.

Michael Gahler (EPP, Germany) is the committee coordinator for the centre-right group, with Tonino Picula, (S&D, Croatia), Hilde Vautmans (Renew, Belgium).

Other coordinators include: Reinhard Bütikofer (Greens/EFA, Germany); Thierry Mariani (ID, France) ; Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland); and Idoia Villanueva Ruiz (GUE/NGL, Spain) and Manu Pineda (GUE/NGL, Spain).

This article first appeared in EUobserver's latest magazine, Who's Who in European Parliament Committees, which you can now read in full online.
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