Values: The cornerstone of EU Foreign Policy

9 03 2012

In respect to whether it is a goal or mission by the EU to portray its defining values (see article 2 and 3 of the Lisbon Treaty) around the world to third countries, it must be said without a shadow of a doubt that it is indeed. If we carry on reading up to article 2.5 of the EUT Lisbon Treaty, it is clearly stated the type of relations that the EU should establish with third countries and by which I quote: “(…) the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protections of its citizens”. What is being done here is to define EU foreign policy. Impressive words after many years of incoherence. Now is the time to respond to Kissinger’s remark of “Unidentified Political Object” and to “If I want to talk to the EU [EC at the time], who do I call?”. The text goes on: “It shall contribute to peace, security, (…), solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, (…), eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, (…) including the respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter”.

“Art. 21 of the European Union Treaty” clearly states that the principles that define the EU as an international organisation, and that have been used as its developing foundations, also serve as the basis of its relations towards third countries. In such a democratic ambiance after so many perils and revolutions, no less would be indeed expected. Intrinsic principles of the EU such as democracy, respect for human rights but also not so obvious ones like “de facto solidarity” (seen for the first time in the Schuman declaration of the 9th of May 1950) are values which the Union has seen worth exporting in an ever changing world, lest it redeem for the lack of interest of the developed world of fighting poverty, which seems to be a major and never ending burden to which the international scene has neither given much attention or thought to (save the Third World coalition in the Cold War…).

This shows the “added value” that the EU exports concerning its foreign policy in comparison to other major superpowers, such as the United States of America. Undoubtedly, it must be mentioned the amount of work and hardship put up by USAID around the world to not only nourish and provide basic medical care but to also provide democracy and governance assistance[1]. However, the EU isn’t exactly modest when it comes to international aid. As reported in “EUSIGHT” on September 2010[2], the EU’s interest in the accomplishment of the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) is serious and it foresees by 2015 to increase its contribution to development aid to a considerable 0.7% of Gross National Income.

In the same article, it is stated that in order to attain these goals, serious commitment is needed. Also, it is clear that it needs a powerful institution to highlight the issue and to come up on stage against the spotlight in order to act in a firm and united manner. The values stated in the Lisbon Treaty, which are the essence of the “added value” of EU in its foreign relations, make this achievement possible. As early as the Schuman Declaration of 1950 (when the EU was nothing but a foetus), we can perceive Europe’s ambition to be a real contributor in the world when it stated “to pursue the achievement of one of its essential tasks, namely, the development of the African continent”.

However, I think that there are many problems still due to its recentness. Also, the low profiles of Herman van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton as leaders of the EU suggest the “take it easy” policy or “ajournement”, which are well known in Brussels, in order to not discomfort Member States (especially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) who have a contrasting opinion towards the issue.

The European Union is known for its advances in human rights and democracy but we must understand the underside of it. This Union has also seen in its past the terrible events of both World Wars and the terrible Shoah. Maybe it is because of this that we Europeans have the responsibility (not guilt, for it is not us that have done these events) of admitting these terrible acts, of compensating and doing the best in order to never repeat theses horrendous episodes. It is within the act of compensating and making efforts that these acts will never see the light of day again. The fact that the EU seems to act in respect to the rule of law and democracy is not only a noteworthy example in the world but also a major asset that, constitutionally, they export. As a result, all of this has become a major cornerstone in EU foreign policy and will enable the EU to have a competitive advantage in world politics.

Cecilio Oviedo

[2] Countdown to 2015: The EU and the Millennium Development Goals (published by “EUSIGHT”, September 2010)