Policy Study


Principles and recommendations

Having coined the term “geopolitical Commission” in her maiden speech as Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen more recently declared that the EU has now matured into a geopolitical union. This purported coming of age has occurred against the backdrop of a major hardening of the global political order. Re-emerging systemic rivalries are jeopardising global supply chains and multilateralism, whilst Russia’s aggression is a threat to EU and global security. All the while, the climate crisis is accelerating. However, as the tenure of the first geopolitical Commission comes to an end, competition and conflict, rather than cooperation, appear to define and frame the EU’s geopolitical turn.

With the 2024 European elections on the horizon, this report formulates elements of what a progressive geopolitical EU could entail in the coming years.

In this study, we put forward a set of principles that can serve as a basis for a broader understanding and discussion on progressive EU geopolitics. These principles do not supersede a values-based EU foreign policy. Rather, taken together, they provide for a dynamic, applicable framework that serves as a basis for practical engagement and policy formulation.

We then apply these principles to specific initiatives in two policy areas: climate change and international trade. We identify how a progressive approach might have been applied retrospectively to the cases of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) and the EU-MERCOSUR Association Agreement.

The set of principles include the following:

1) de-othering foreign policy;
2) empathetic cooperation;
3) equal-to-equal cooperation;
4) prevention as security (or pragmatic pacifism); and
5) multilateralism.

Based on the retrospective analysis of the two cases, we formulate the following key recommendations:

1) upstream consideration of the interests and socio-economic environment of developing countries, when evaluating and formulating the external dimensions of any EU policy;
2) transparency on negotiation red lines and processes, and a much more anticipatory approach to sequencing and consultation internally throughout the process; and
3) continuous engagement implies resources and commitment to a sustained dialogue and interaction with civil society organisations, as well as at the level of officials.

This policy study was written as part of the FEPS Young Academic’s Network.

Karl Renner Institut
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