In the first of a series of Jean Monnet blogs, Dr Amelia Hadfield reflects on European Foreign Policy, and asks what lies ahead for the new HR/VP Federica Mogherini…

The world has entered a particularly turbulent period. Eastern Europe is riven by the toughest east-west mêlée since the Cold War, with spats and sanctions raging back and forth between the EU, US and Russia. Israel and Palestine spent the summer locked in intifada-like battles. And ISIS has risen as the newest security threat; galvanising both geopolitical and religious dynamics from Iraq to Syria. Closer to home, UK terror levels totter. In an indication of the overall seriousness of key global issues, the UN has taken the ‘unprecedented’ step of declaring Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, and the Central African Republic to each represent a ‘Level 3 humanitarian crisis, the most severe designation.[1] O tempora, o mores, as Cicero famously said. The times, they are a-tough; the customs, they need to keep up. So do EU personnel. This first CCCU Jean Monnet Chair Blog reflects upon the challenges facing European foreign affairs as a result of the changeover of staff in late 2014.[2]

The UN’s announcement, and the ongoing EU-Russia farrago indicates the challenge that awaits the newly-staffed leadership of the EU institutions. This is particularly the case for foreign affairs novice, Federica Mogherini, who has become the EU’s new High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security Policy (as well as European Commission Vice President), and will take over the European External Action Service (EEAS), after having served as an Italian Foreign Minister for less than a year. Before her tenure begins in November, it’s worthwhile noting the challenges that Mogherini – among others – will have to face in her capacity as the external face of the EU.

No foreign policy supremo could work in a world of Kant’s perpetual peace. Nice though the idea would be, it would swiftly put them out of a job. Equally however, 2014 seems to be pushing global tension to real extremes, with relations and structures deteriorating swiftly on all fronts. Mogherini will need to look in both remote and proximate terms to being to compile a sequenced shopping list of issues. How do you start? With threats that are closest to home, most substantively real, with the greatest material impact? Or those whose origins are remote, but with a high likelihood of local impact? Unfortunately, traditional connections between near and neighbourhood, between distant and doorstep are increasingly ambiguous. Active security threats emanating from the Sahel, as well as an unprecedented outbreak of Ebola raging across Western Africa, constitute threats that undermine the Euro-Med neighbourhood in a way different than the more self-contained humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Central African Republic. Yet the latter are dire, worsening and visibly dependent upon the EU for emergency assistance (now the remit of the new Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner, Christos Stylianides). Mogherini will need to balance EEAS and Commission foreign policy remits in order to formulate a solution (hopefully she’ll take advice from the previous, and accomplished Commissioner in this area, Kristalina Georgieva).

The Middle East has traditionally been an area of quiet diplomacy for the EU. The time for such low-key tactics may well be at an end. Brokering a lasting, secure and honoured peace between the warring factions clearly needs to be underwritten from the outset by US and EU support (among others). This is an area where Mogherini’s predecessor, Baroness Ashton, made few inroads, and it could stand a fresh approach. The toughest, and most pressing issue however, is ongoing crisis in Eastern Ukraine. This is a two-fold clash: a tussle over Ukraine itself, and a larger, macro-tussle between the West and Russia. Mogherini will need to move swiftly to gain approval by the Member States to formulate an accepted, collective approach, as well as garnering the necessary degree of trust to work with her Russian counterparts. Geopolitics, trade, investment, energy security and broad east-west allegiances all feature in this ticklish mix. Separating them out in sectoral, as well as policy terms, is be a necessary start.

Lastly: look at the map. Ukraine is part of the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). So is Israel. And Palestine. And Egypt. Nominally, the ENP extends to sixteen states in all, forming a precarious arc of states that includes North Africa, the Middle East, and (in the form of the Eastern Partnership), Central Europe.[3] The original idea was to prevent, post-2004 enlargement, ‘the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged EU and our neighbours and instead strengthening the prosperity, stability and security of all. It is based on the values of democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights.’[4] Sounds good in theory. Some of the bilateral policies have generated change, reform, progress, stability. But others have signally failed to do so. Mogherini, in tandem with the ENP and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner (Johannes Hahn) will need to take a hard look at what has, and crucially, has not worked, both bilaterally and regionally in the ENP, in order to understand why this über-project has failed to transform, absorb, or even mitigate much of the current turmoil in this region.

Too much, too soon? Too bad. The time is now, and the staff are – or shortly will be – in place. The next few CCCU Jean Monnet Chair Blogs will reflect – inter alia – on the tug-of-war between Commission President Juncker and Mogherini, as they draw up remits and battle lines. For now, we – like Mogherini can reflect on the words of Brazilian author, Paul Coelho: “…there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”[5]


[2] With thanks to the inimitable CCCU 2014 Politics/IR graduate, Mr Michal Gloznek for his research and insights.

[3] The ENP framework includes Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.


[5] Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym, Harper, 2006.