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EU should tackle threats on its doorstep, urges Lords Committee investigating security strategy

The EU needs to concentrate its resources on its immediate neighbourhood, and urgently re-think its foreign and security policy on Turkey, says a House of Lords report out today.

The EU policy towards Turkey, seen as a critical buffer zone in addressing both the refugee crisis and terrorism, is described as being in ‘disarray'. 

The House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on External Affairs says 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.

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, ‘Europe in the world: Towards a more effective EU foreign and security strategy', 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.

Commenting on the report, Committee Chairman, Lord Tugendhat, said

“The threats to stability in the EU neighbourhood have changed dramatically since the EU last agreed a security strategy, over 12 years ago. 

“We see the most direct challenges to the EU's security and stability as originating in the immediate European neighbourhood, where the new strategy urgently needs to focus its attention. It is clear to the Committee that there are glaring weaknesses in the EU's current approach to a number of countries. 

“A reassessment of the EU-Turkey relationship is imperative, particularly given the increasing strategic importance of Turkey in light of the war in Syria and the refugee and migration crisis. We welcome dialogue with Russia on areas of shared interest, such as the Middle East, while maintaining sanctions in relation to its breaches of international law. The Russian bombing operations in Syria over the weekend came after the completion of the report and must be condemned.

“We believe the EU faces a further test should the UK decide to leave the EU. If this were to happen, the UK's international reach would be significantly limited because it would not have access to Commission instruments. In turn, the EU's foreign policy would carry less weight. 

“Although there have been some EU foreign policy successes, notably the nuclear deal with Iran and maintaining effective sanctions on Russia, we believe that there is much room for improvement on how the EU's foreign and security policy operates. We hope that this report will have a tangible impact on the review being put together by the European Union's High Representative on Foreign Affairs.”

Other findings from the report include:

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. We recognise that these are problems that are too big for the EU to solve alone. 

The authors of the report conclude that 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. 

Embargoed copies of the report are available to the media from the Lords Press Office. To request a copy, or bid for an interview with Lord Tugendhat, please email or call 020 7219 8550. 

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