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

Policy Study

22/11/2017

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.

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