EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell recently published an interesting article on European foreign policy. He raised an unsettling issue all too familiar to many Europeans: the failure of the EU and its inability to play an active role in regional and global matters. EU has been further weakened by Brexit. As Borrell maintains, EU members have no common foreign policy or strategic approach to regional and global issues.
Borrell thinks "Europeans must deal with the world as it is, not as they wish it to be." The EU foreign minister identifies new approaches in world politics. According to the new rules of the game, world leaders make use of economic instruments, technology and trade policy to reach their strategic goals. Borrell adds that Europeans must "relearn the language of power" to not lag behind. Some people argue that Europe is too weak and divided to cope with this new world order. "Diplomacy cannot succeed unless it is backed by action," Europe's top diplomat said.
It would take many columns to cover all of Borrell's concerns here, but I would like to touch upon a handful of issues. Europe faces a refugee problem but the EU lacks a common policy on Syria. France attempts to play an active role in the Syrian theater, but Emmanuel Macron's hands are dirty. There is a major crisis underway in Libya, but European countries respond to that situation with an eye on their respective national security policies. For instance, France supports the Libyan putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar, whereas Germany hosts political talks to gain a foothold in Libya.
The same goes for the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey finds itself competing with EU members, Greece and the Greek Cypriots, over energy reserves in the area. Instead of promoting a win-win solution and, by extension, peace in the Eastern Mediterranean, the EU watches the dispute from the sidelines and limits its involvement to mounting pressure on the Turks. It is important to note that France distinguished itself from the rest of the Union by adopting a more obvious anti-Turkish stance.
But here's what Borrell's piece misses: If the EU wants to be relevant globally, it cannot get there by promoting a common foreign policy vision among its members alone. Britain's departure dealt a heavy blow to the Union. The U.S., Russia and China do not see the EU as a global player worth their attention. To muster central power, the EU must strike a balance among its members as well as find new strategic partners.
The EU and Turkey cross paths when it comes to a broad range of strategic challenges. Almost all issues that Turkey encounters fall within the scope of Europe's own interest. The refugee crisis immediately comes to mind. Turkey shouldered a significant burden to relieve pressure on the EU.
Ankara also plays a key role in Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean, Somalia, Qatar, Iraq, Syria and Eastern Europe through a range of military, diplomatic and energy-related steps. If the EU wants to play an active role in global affairs, it must repair its relationship with Turkey and learn to benefit from Turkey's clout.