On June 28th, 2016, the European Union officially announced its brand new Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy with a focus on accelerating close and comprehensive cooperation for a stronger Europe. This has been seen as the most fundamental change in EU foreign and security policy since 2003 and expected to have a profound impact on the face of the world security.
According experts in international relations, under the title “Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe”, the new Global Strategy of the EU includes an important point which is the adoption of “principled pragmatism” to international challenges in the neighbouring regions of the Europe and even in Asia.
|EU leaders at the Summit held on June 28th, 2016 (source: AFP)
1. The Strategy’s background
After the EU announced its Security Strategy in 2003 and the EU Commission issued the China’s EU Policy Paper 10 years ago, the world changed fundamentally. China is rising; Russia is restoring its status as a great power of the world; the U.S. is implementing its rebalance strategy in the Asia-Pacific Region, and the world’s geopolitical and geoeconomic centre is shifting to Asia. Meanwhile, the EU is itself facing profound changes, particularly the European migrant crisis and widespread bloody terrorist attacks in this continent. Notably, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, also known as Brexit, risks undermining new NATO Defence Strategy.
In that context, the EU is aware that it should have a new strategy with new vision and action to deal with the challenges and make it a stronger Europe which is directly connected by its wealth and Asia’s security. Thus, European politicians believe the Strategy is of utmost significance and importance.
2. Aims of the Strategy
In its new Strategy, the EU set various aims, including general, core ones and the others, to make it stronger. Together with neighbouring regions of the Europe, the new Strategy has paid regard for Asia on the following aspects. First, the EU would strengthen its economic presence in Asia to maintain a prominent role in the world economy. That would enable the EU to look after its interests and win a complete respect of this key region right in the early 21st century. Second, to contribute to Asia’s stability, it would encourage cooperation and mutual understanding at global level. Third, it would facilitate economic development in the most impoverished countries and regions. EU members would continue to reduce poverty and promote sustainable growth in regional countries and groups of countries. Fourth, it would support and strengthen democracy, rule of law, human rights and other basic freedoms in Asia.
3. Major contents of the Strategy
As for China, the Strategy has identified the foundation for EU-China relations from present to 2020, with focal contents, such as: stimulating benefits, broadening cooperation and calling for China’s responsible participation in solving global challenges. In this regard, the EU has formulated 6 main principles for its relations with China, namely: (1) furthering cooperation under the mutually beneficial principle. The EU pledges to support China’s economic reform and gives priority to signing the Comprehensive EU-China Investment Agreement and negotiating a Free Trade Agreement between the two sides. The EU believes that China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative and economic opportunities will have geopolitical impacts on China forcing the country to respect market rules and international standards, which helps bring benefits to the two sides. (2). China must behave responsibly and respect international law. (3). The EU must have unanimity within itself. (4). The two sides pledge to support and protect human rights. (5) EU respects the “One-China” policy and the “One country, two systems” formula, and continues to further its relations with Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. (6). The EU encourages collaboration with the U.S. on its general policy with Asia-Pacific Region and other partners, such as Japan, South Korea, ASEAN and Australia.
As for Russia, the EU Strategy has confirmed that Moscow is a “strategic challenge”. It has claimed that Russia’s annexation of Crimea and destabilization of East Ukraine are challenges to the European order and security. The EU is planning to use the two separate Summits of EU and NATO to accelerate the reform of the two security pillars, which aims to lessen its dependence upon the US. That is the realization of the guideline to connect NATO and a stronger EU in the context of migrant crisis and Russia’s “provocations”. In fact, it aims to enable the EU to carry out “activities independently” when necessary. However, in the international aspect, the EU calls for “selective cooperation” with Russia in the fields of mutual benefits, including climate change, maritime security, education and people-to-people exchange.
As for East Asia and Southeast Asia, the EU will assist the regions in improving maritime capabilities and support the “ASEAN-led security architecture”. It will also further cooperation with Japan, Indonesia and other countries and accelerate the Free Trade Agreements between the EU and ASEAN.
It is believed that the new EU Global Strategy basically aims to strengthen security and defence role within the bloc and cooperation on security between EU and NATO, and enhance its capabilities to conduct independent military operations. Moreover, in the Strategy, the EU is determined to realize its ambition of increase its presence and making contributions more practically to Asia security. Paying more regard for China, the Strategy has clarified the nature of both cooperation and combat in the relations with China. The EU supports China’s strengthened role in international issues, but it is concerned by the country’s behaviour. To contain Beijing, the EU advocates working with the U.S. to request China to act responsibly and respect international standards while continuing weapons ban on the country and not recognizing China’s market economy status.
However, the question of the degree of success of the highly ambitious EU Global Strategy remains unanswered. Many experts believe that the growing right-wing populism, widespread skepticism, EU’s failure to resolve the issue of migration and Brexit will possibly bring the EU to a multi-aspect crisis. According to experts, instead of great aims of the Strategy, the EU should give priority to restarting serious discussions about a balance between sovereignty and national interests, enlargement and consolidation of the Union. Those are urgent matters to ensure the EU stability ahead of the aim of “making the Europe stronger” in the near future.
Duc Cuong - Thanh Minh