A few months after the European Parliament elections, and a few weeks before a new European Commission is fully operational, the European Union is facing old and new challenges, both domestic and international.
Since the Russian aggression in Ukraine, relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation have been at an impasse. The EU has limited cooperation with Russia to the principle of selective engagement. This model lacks precise definition and is not conditional on changes in Russian politics, so may weaken the EU’s external policy and threaten the bloc’s security.
It may strike as odd coming from this author, but this is no time for grand strategy. As the European Union enters a new cycle, it’s overarching priority in the world should be action.
The last five years have been formative as far as European foreign policy goes. They have set the foundations for a European defence union. Whereas the EU acronym soup of recent defence initiatives may appear obscure to outside observers, for a Union that has historically struggled to inch forward in this field, they are huge. Furthermore, the outgoing Commission and High Representative have triggered a fundamental change in the way the EU works in the world. While institutional silos still exist, joined-up foreign policy making and an integrated approach to conflicts are now part of the European foreign policy lexicon, and to an extent practice too.
European Security is in crisis. Like every crisis, this one not only has a prior history, it has also been in the offing for quite some time. 2008 marked a first peak, after the Bush administration offered the NATO Membership Action Plan to Georgia and Ukraine: Russia demonstrated in the war with Georgia who sets the tone in the former Soviet Union. A similar pattern emerged in 2014 in the Ukrainian crisis, this time with the EU in charge and Russia reacting even more forcefully. Since then, the crisis has escalated with almost unrestrained momentum. Its most recent expression is the termination of the INF Treaty, which carries with it the acute danger of a new (medium-range) missile crisis on the continent.