Euro crisis weakens EU in foreign relations

Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe? – Henry Kissinger

This is the fourth post in our series “A united Europe?”.

So far in this series we have been looking at the French-German relationship and then the relation between the East and the West in Europe.

This time we will try to determine the European Union’s role in the rest of the world.

Catherine Ashton during a debate in the European Parliament. (Photo by European Parliament, on Flickr)

Let’s begin with the high representative on foreign relations in the council of the EU, Catherine Ashton.

She’s the person that Henry Kissinger should call if he is still interested in Europe’s opinion – at least on foreign relations issues. Or at least, that’s what some hoped Catherine Ashton, EU’s high representative on foreign relations, would be.

Ashton has taken a job that is practically impossible to perform without disappointment.

The criticism of Catherine Ashton already began just 100 days after she took office.

She didn’t have enough dedication, stature or independence – which was exactly why she was chosen to become high representative in EU, where 27 countries have to agree on one person.

Few months later she was met with even more criticism. This time from the EU Parliament who wasn’t sure that she could manage to set up EU’s new diplomatic service.

Now she has been in office for nearly two years, and the diplomatic service is still far from fulfilled, but the criticism of Catherine Ashton isn’t as harsh anymore – and maybe that’s because the conditions of the European Union’s foreign policy have changed.


Now EU is the problem

In the annual European Foreign Policy Scorecard published by think-thank European Council on Foreign Relations the foreign policy of the EU is analyzed.

One of the new findings, and probably the most remarkable in this context, is that the European Union isn’t helping to solve the world’s problems so much – Europe, itself, has now become a problem.

With the Eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis, the power of the European Union has changed. The crisis has led to a loss in soft power, the scorecard concludes.

They argue that the euro-crisis has constrained Europe’s ability to react to revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.

The European Union simply had to deal with their own problems first in 2011 before they could act on problems outside Europe.

Although the report concludes that the muscles of the European Union on foreign policy have become weaker, they do notice a few successful events in last year’s foreign policy, such as Libya and the deal on climate change in Durban.


Ukraine and Turkey

This year EU did succeed with an enlargement. Croatia is now to become a member state of the European Union within the nearest future.

But most remarkable here is two other countries that have been in negotiations with the EU for a long time.

One of the hot topics right now is whether EU leaders should participate in the Euro2012 football tournament, which will be held in Poland and Ukraine.

This comes as the former prime minister, Yulia Tymoschenko has been jailed and on hunger strike, and who is now under treatment.

The case of Tymoschenko has delayed any process of further integration between Ukraine and the EU dramatically.

Also, discussions on a Turkish membership of the EU has been chilled, while Turkey is also less engaged in becoming a member after the crisis.



The EU still has political power in case of markets and has used it in the case of Myanmar, where they’ve suspended the sanctions against the country as Myanmar have opened up for reforms and allowed Aung San Suu Kyi to enter the parliament after elections.

In this matter EU have reacted more effectively and quickly than the USA.

Whether the suspension of sanctions is a good idea or not we will leave to others to answer, but the EU and Ashton’s office did succeed in acting on this issue.

Whether the EU stands more united in foreign relations – the answer would probably be yes. But the power is less worth after the troubles with finding solutions to the internal problems and the debt crisis.

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