When the World is Out of Joint A Progressive Critique of European Foreign Policy

Policy Study


By Mafalda Dâmaso, Michele Fiorillo, Enza Roberta Petrillo, Denis Preshova

The migration crises, the continuous terrorist threat, the result of the British referendum to leave the European Union (EU) and, finally, the election of Trump as President of United States of America have led to the idea, shared publicly by EU policymakers and senior figures, that if the EU is to survive it must overcome its inner tensions, namely in terms of foreign policy and security.

In this context, this paper critically evaluates the values and practices that guide recent and current EU foreign policy. We do so in a twofold manner: on the one hand, we test to what extent EU external action can be seen as guided by a set of ethical principles broadly understood according to the framework of cosmopolitanism; on the other hand, we evaluate its balancing of conditionality and stabilisation. Our analysis suggests that the EU’s Foreign Policy agenda is currently fragmented and responsive to short-term needs rather than strategic or guided by a clear set of values, which offers a clear opportunity for progressives to develop an alternative political vision – that is, a renewed values-based foreign policy driven by an internationalist cosmopolitan Weltanschauung – that will respond to the wake of recent global political turmoil posed by Brexit, the advent of Trump and the general spread of sovereignty-based movements and populisms.

Specifically, and firstly, we start by discussing our theoretical framework, which considers both the framework of cosmopolitanism on the one hand, and the nexus between democratisation and stabilisation on the other hand, taking into consideration constitutional patriotism as a possible method of coexistence of different cultures. Secondly, in light of this discussion, we analyse three EU Foreign Policy areas of action: a) the EU Global Strategy and External Action, especially on how it relates to the migration dossier and to the European Neighbourhood Policy; b) democracy promotion in third states and in global institutions; c) recent proposals for the integration of international cultural relations and cultural diplomacy in EU external relations. We conclude with a discussion of our findings and a set of policy recommendations.

Our analysis has a double goal: theoretical and political. While our theoretical discussion allows for a better understanding of the assumptions behind current foreign policy dynamics, the discussion of the political standpoint sheds light on the challenges faced by the European Union in trying to move towards a common action in the field of foreign policy. On the basis of our institutional and political findings and the critical issues raised in the three case studies, we identify areas of political and geopolitical interest for EU external action and where further EU action is needed.

Find all related publications

A European feminist foreign policy?

The need for a progressive and transformative approach

The European Political Community

Informality as a key to success

Progressive ideas to make international trade successful for all


Progressive Yearbook 2024

Looking back to look ahead
Find all related Progressive Post
Progressive Post

Ukrainian democracy vs. the Russian war: how to increase resilience


European integration in wartime: the EU’s imperative to preserve and rejuvenate Ukraine’s democracy


War economy: how economic policy can help Ukraine win the war

Find all related events
Vienna, Austria (Expert meeting)

A new global deal to advance and implement the SDGs

Towards the Summit and Pact of the Future
Brussels, Belgium

Towards a global pact for a better future for people and the planet

Navigating through the poly-crisis
04 - 06/03/2024
Abuja, Nigeria

The Africa we want and the United Nations we need

Africa Summit of the Future Dialogue
Find all related news

FEPS President on Euronews talk-show ‘Brussels, my love?’

NATO extension, Portuguese elections, far-right and gender equality were the topics of the debate

FEPS at the ‘Africa Summit of the Future Dialogue’ in Abuja, Nigeria


FEPS mission to Brazil


FEPS President mission to China

Maria Joao Rodrigues participates in the ‘2023 Understanding China Conference’
Find all related in the media
In the media

FEPS President on Euronews talk-show ‘Brussels, my love?’

by Euronews 16/03/2024
FEPS President Maria João Rodrigues discusses NATO expansions and elections in Russia and Portugal on Euronews talk-show ‘Brussels, my love?‘

What are Hungary’s conditions for lifting its Ukraine Facility veto?

by Euractiv 12/01/2024
In this episode, Evi Kiorri asks Andriy Korniychuk, policy analyst and expert on Ukraine matters at the Foundation for European Progressive Studies: what are Viktor Orbán's conditions, and why is Hungary considering changing its position?

Une réforme de l’UE qui intéressera forcément les Suisses

by Le Temps 24/11/2023
'EU reform bound to be of interest to the Swiss', an opinion piece in Le Temps on EU Treaties changes by Maria João Rodrigues, FEPS President, Guillaume Klossa, Director of think tank EuropaNova and Daniela Schwarzer, Executive board member Bertelsmann Stiftung

« Le moment est venu de lancer un débat sur la réforme de l’Union européenne »

by Le Monde 22/11/2023
'The time has come to launch a debate on the reform of the European Union', an opinion piece in Le Monde on Eu Treaties changes by Maria João Rodrigues, FEPS President, Guillaume Klossa, Director of think tank EuropaNova and Daniela Schwarzer, Executive board member Bertelsmann Stiftung