26 February 2020

European Union- 2020 Political and Security Situation

Ştefan Oprea

The European Union, as any other global actor, has the great responsibility to solve current conflicts and issues and cannot afford letting member states alone. Therefore, the best contribution EU can bring to global peace is staying united, as multilateral institution, to approach global threats.

Image source: Mediafax

In hindsight, 2019 was supposed to be the year of a new political phase for Europe. The parliamentary elections, its political structure review and the designation of structures’ leadership were to substantially influence European Union’s ability with continuing the European perspective, following unity, and with its approach in important political topics, such as: the Euro zone crisis, migration and Brexit. Unfortunately, a divided parliament, brought about the elections, wherein the political coalitions will be even harder to be established, will question EU’s ability to reach its proposed ambitious objectives.

Given this circumstance, Europe will have to plan, for 2020, at least two things: a new role for the Europeans and a decrease of the transatlantic relation during president Trump’s new possible mandate.

EU’s adaptation to the new circumstances and the unilateral approach, with US’s small collaboration, ask for the admittance of the changing global political challenge. Anticipation is no longer an option. And for that, keeping its moral values means countering a liberal trade bloc to follow the exclusively European rules, forcefully fighting nationalism forces, xenophobia and racism and, not least, reinventing itself as military power.

Facing the bitter truth that America is going to be an unclear ally for the following years, the Europeans will have to find foreign and security policy solutions to go further with the European project and, after investing in its own military capacity, to get its independence on US, posing as the firm defender of the liberal international order. Possibly, but less likely. The political speech will not replace the human and financial effort to make these things happen. Furthermore, at least in terms of security, the European Union, given that NATO must solve its issues by itself, and as Brexit make it lose its strongest military contributor, will create a breach between its members.  Some European countries will try to sign bilateral agreements with US to provide their security, and other will follow the European solution.

Approaching the internal issues, when, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, wants Europe to get close to Russia and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, wants to extend its economic collaboration with China, we can hardly think of unanimity for the foreign and security policy decisions. Unanimously or not, the decisions will be mandatory. If for some fields the lack of unanimity can overpass any obstacle, in terms of foreign and security policy, at a moment when Euro-skepticism is already everywhere, it can turn into a “recipe” that could worsen things a lot.

Europe becoming a global actor. From this point of view, EU will do its best to reach this performance, in the following year, being aware that an attempt to find a new place in a changing world depends on bloc’s size. Claiming the open doors policy, however denying new candidate’s accession (Albania, North Macedonia and the Western Balkans) they are turning this desideratum rather into a perspective than a reality. Nor the Eastern Partnership (Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia) is that good, even if they clarified their European ambitions and have invested a lot in fulfilling their goal. European Union’s effort to create “an empire of the good” is affected by the so-called “enlargement fatigue”, wherefore the necessity to review the enlargement process will pressure its future agenda.

The need to review EU’s Global Strategy. The current geopolitical and strategic context, but also EU’s internal atmosphere will demand it, even if the five priorities we encounter in 2016’s Strategy are still available. Even if there is a lack of will in terms of these concerns, among the member states, and, furthermore, governments within EU are voluntarily undermining EU’s foreign policy, strengthening or blocking its positions, the new High Representative and Vice-president of the Commission will have to take the opportunity to express its priorities and shape EU’s foreign action. An unreachable strategy becomes a doctrine.

Migration stays a sensitive file. Europe, having around 77 million migrants, although it could be called immigration’s land, a populist opposition tendency is seeing the phenomenon as a possible “invasion”, “conquer” or even a determinant factor for states’ identity loss. Divided on categories, migration includes East-European citizens, beneficiaries of residency and labor openness, citizens looking for better a life and job opportunities, who run from crises and conflicts, citizens looking for their families (in 1974, Europe cancelled immigration with remunerated labor for non-Europeans), scholars and students who have ERASMUS, ERASMUS+ scholarship and residence permits for the qualified people and, not least, the refugees, who came from the Syrian crisis area. Europe will have to address this new situation promptly, a situation that will not stop very soon. Sharing the common values and being careful with public opinion’s concern on globalization and migration, EU will consider, besides the labor force need, its international commitments and entire population’s aging process.

The security and defence policy. The decisions adopted lately have underlined the importance of EU’s common defence and security policy. The consensus on improving Europe’s security urgently will force the new leadership to address, clearly, in the following year, the setting-up of all existent “pieces”. Starting from the global strategy, which defined the political ambition level (established in 1999!!!) and the responsibility to protect its citizens, EU must find proper solutions to become a global security and defence actor, accomplishing the strategic autonomy, but also conducting crises management military operations. Recent operations’ experience and learned lessons proved that EU’s military actions (with fewer forces comparing to the mission) did not engender a long-lasting peace, civilians’ interference in solving crises was not enough supported from an economic perspective and, not least, after the military deployment started, the political attention has immediately disappeared.

From this point of view, new tools, such as Permanent Structured Cooperation- PESCO and the European Defence Fund- EDF, along with other responsible elements in the field, must enter a structure that’s adapted to the current challenges as only together they can provide a complex approach. Therefore, EU’s member states must establish what’s necessary to get autonomy in crises management, to act in situations wherein the European interest is affected and, also, how they can call on NATO, given that most of EU’s states are Alliance’s members, hence, they will need additional capabilities to reach their commitments within NATO.

Translated by Andreea Soare