‘Time for united EU to be global security player’

Henry Kissinger once requested the dialing code for Europe. As a global security partner, the EU must answer the phone as one when the foreign policy challenges of the 21st century come calling, says Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonin alongside her Swedish, Spanish and Polish counterparts.

'Time for united EU to be global security player'
Italy's foreign minister Emma Bonino. Photo: Tanveer Mughal/AFP

The European Union is step by step setting up new structures to deal with the foreign policy challenges of the 21st century. We have created a new European External Action Service (EEAS) to serve the overall EU interest abroad, effectively underpinning our role as a global player. We have sent additional national diplomats to reinforced EU delegations.

Later this year, a review of the EEAS led by Catherine Ashton will hopefully allow us to upgrade these new structures to a 2,0 version in time for the new crew entering the institutions after the 2014 European Parliament election.

The famous question posed by Henry Kissinger, the former US national security adviser and secretary of state, about the dialling code for Europe has, by now, by and large, been answered. Not that there is necessarily only one connection from the EEAS switchboard in Brussels, but at least the telephone number for Europe is in place.

The critical question is no longer how to reach us, but instead what Europe should say when the phone rings. Or, to put in another way, if we now have the hardware of institutions in place, we need to focus on the software of policies that makes the entire thing operate in a clear and credible way.

When we foreign ministers meet in the EU's foreign affairs council every month, it is usually the issues of the day that dominate the agenda. Foreign policy is, as the late British prime minister Harold Macmillan once put it, "events, dear boy, events".

But what Europe needs to deal with the challenges of today and tomorrow is a strategic framework to help it navigate a more complex world.

The ongoing economic crisis and the ever accelerating process of globalization pose an unprecedented dual challenge for Europe. In global competition with other economies, ideas and models of society, the countries of Europe will uphold their values and pursue their interests successfully only if we stand united.

The European Security Strategy from 2003 was a good document, which has provided EU external action with actionable guidelines. But it was a document still focused mainly on traditional foreign policy, not the broader competencies and capabilities envisaged in the Lisbon treaty. Since its adoption, the world has entered a period of profound transformations.

The time has come to engage in a new strategic discussion, taking into account the immense changes in Europe and the rest of the world during the last decade. And in a world moving towards hyper-connectivity in the entire realm between outer space and cyber-space, and with age-old sectarian tensions resurfacing, we need to think broader and afresh. The EU must take decisive steps to strengthen its act on the world stage.

What we need now is a more comprehensive and integrated approach to all components of the EU's global profile, doing away with the artificial distinction between internal and external security.

To name just a few themes among many possible ones, we badly need a common strategic approach to issues concerning energy security, climate negotiations, the management of migration flows and cyber issues.

This is why Poland, Italy, Spain and Sweden asked national think-tanks to come up with elements for a European Global Strategy. These four think-tanks went on to buildt a network of 24 associated institutes, conducted seminars and conferences, and stimulated discussion all over Europe.

Their report, which was recently presented in Brussels is a contribution to the strategic debate within the EU. At the same time, it is not the final answer. Bringing together all strands of European Union external action into one strategic framework is no easy task, especially as we are not always used to thinking about external opportunities and challenges in European terms.

The debate, which is useful in and of itself, should continue. New ideas and concepts should be presented and discussed. We therefore welcome the idea of a conference, organized towards the end of this year under the auspices of Lithuania's presidency of the Council of Ministers. This conference will bring together the proponents for strengthening Europe's global role in the world.

The work on EU hardware is important. But it should go hand in hand with efforts to update the software of the European Global Strategy, so that as we emerge hopefully from the doldrums of the aftershocks of the 2008 financial crisis, we will have a Europe better fitting the global century that we have already entered.

Emma Bonino, Radoslaw Sikorski, José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil and Carl Bildt are the foreign ministers of, respectively, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

The original version of this document can be found here:

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Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Italy’s government was plunged into turmoil on Tuesday as foreign minister Luigi Di Maio announced he was leaving his party to start a breakaway group.

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Di Maio said his decision to leave the Five Star Movement (M5S) – the party he once led – was due to its “ambiguity” over Italy’s support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

He accused the party’s current leader, former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, of undermining the coalition government’s efforts to support Ukraine and weakening Italy’s position within the EU.

“Today’s is a difficult decision I never imagined I would have to take … but today I and lots of other colleagues and friends are leaving the Five Star Movement,” Di Maio told a press conference on Tuesday.

“We are leaving what tomorrow will no longer be the first political force in parliament.”

His announcement came after months of tensions within the party, which has lost most of the popular support that propelled it to power in 2018 and risks being wiped out in national elections due next year.

The split threatens to bring instability to Draghi’s multi-party government, formed in February 2021 after a political crisis toppled the previous coalition.

As many as 60 former Five Star lawmakers have already signed up to Di Maio’s new group, “Together for the Future”, media reports said.

Di Maio played a key role in the rise of the once anti-establishment M5S, but as Italy’s chief diplomat he has embraced Draghi’s more pro-European views.

READ ALSO: How the rebel Five Star Movement joined Italy’s establishment

Despite Italy’s long-standing political and economic ties with Russia, Draghi’s government has taken a strongly pro-NATO stance, sending weapons and cash to help Ukraine while supporting EU sanctions against Russia.

Di Maio backed the premier’s strong support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, including sending weapons for Kyiv to defend itself.

In this he has clashed with the head of Five Star, former premier Giuseppe Conte, who argues that Italy should focus on a diplomatic solution.

Di Maio attacked his former party without naming Conte, saying: “In these months, the main political force in parliament had the duty to support the diplomacy of the government and avoid ambiguity. But this was not the case,” he said.

Luigi Di Maio (R) applauds after Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) addresses the Italian Senate on June 21st, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

“In this historic moment, support of European and Atlanticist values cannot be a mistake,” he added.

The Five Star Movement, he said, had risked the stability of the government “just to try to regain a few percentage points, without even succeeding”.

But a majority of lawmakers – including from the Five Star Movement – backed Draghi’s approach in March and again in a Senate vote on Tuesday.

Draghi earlier on Tuesday made clear his course was set.

“Italy will continue to work with the European Union and with our G7 partners to support Ukraine, to seek peace, to overcome this crisis,” he told the Senate, with Di Maio at his side.

“This is the mandate the government has received from parliament, from you. This is the guide for our action.”

The Five Star Movement stormed to power in 2018 general elections after winning a third of the vote on an anti-establishment ticket, and stayed in office even after Draghi was parachuted in to lead Italy in February 2021.

But while it once threatened to upend the political order in Italy, defections, policy U-turns and dismal polling have left it struggling for relevance.

“Today ends the story of the Five Star Movement,” tweeted former premier Matteo Renzi, who brought down the last Conte government by withdrawing his support.