The Committee has been investigating the effectiveness, strengths and weaknesses of the EU’s foreign and security policy, in anticipation of the new strategy to be published by the European Union’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs later this year.
The report concludes that the EU needs to concentrate on tackling insecurity and instability in its immediate neighbourhood, and not overstretch itself trying to fix too many problems at once. It emphasises that the responsibility for foreign policy rests with the Member States. The aim of the new strategy must be to provide the framework within which they can operate collectively to tackle threats to the security and stability of the Union.
The refugee and migration crisis, as well as the growing threat from terrorism, have placed Turkey’s role as a buffer state into the spotlight. Yet the EU’s approach to Turkey has been one of strategic disarray - the current EU approach to Turkey exposes the lack of consensus among Member States on their objectives for the relationship in the long term. The Committee urges the EU, as a priority, to revisit the whole relationship from first principles.
Russia and Baltic states:
The EU and Member States should pursue a dual-track policy on Russia, taking a coherent and credible response to Russian breaches of international law, as well as being open to co-operation and dialogue with Russia on areas of shared interest. EU and NATO deterrence in the Baltic States and Black Sea remains inadequate, and it is not clear that Russian military action would be met with a forceful response by European states.
Middle East and North Africa:
The EU needs to strive for security, stability and good governance in the Middle East and North Africa, as a means of stabilising its external environment, combatting terrorism and calming the refugee and migration flows. The report recognises that these are problems that are too big for the EU to solve alone.
A UK exit from the EU would diminish the effectiveness of the UK’s foreign policy. Many decisions agreed between the Member States are executed by means of Commission instruments, such as trade agreements and development assistance. A UK outside of the EU would not be a party to these decisions. The effectiveness of EU foreign policy would also be diminished.
Cuts in defence spending in some Member States, and a lack of co-operation between NATO and the EU, reduce the chances of the Union developing an effective military capability.
In the absence of a viable and realistic timetable for countries of the Eastern Partnership to accede to the Union, Member States should define their interests and objectives in the region and communicate these clearly to partner countries.
Ad hoc groups
Ad hoc groups are the most useful available format for rapid, decisive and ambitious action by Member States, which can then become the wider EU position. In order to gain the widest possible support among Member States, ad hoc groups should include the High Representative. The new strategy should explore how the instruments of the EU—the Commission and EEAS—can be mobilised to support such groups.
European Commission instruments need to be co-ordinated and aligned with the priorities of Member States—the means better aligned with the objectives. The EEAS has a critical role to play here. Trade agreements and technical agreements should be pursued when it is clear that they will deliver leverage in third countries and promote security, stability and prosperity in both the partner country and the EU.
The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)
The CSDP should be directed towards managing crises in the wider neighbourhood: the capacity to restore security, support the EU’s regional partners and secure the EU border is a clear priority.
The Committee intends that its report will inform the High Representative’s new global strategy, due to be presented to the European Council by June 2016.