The EU, as a sovereign subject that has a strategic autonomy, has to impose its role as a factor that is moving things forward, both in the international relations and the solving of disputes. At the same time, the Union has to try to instigate the observance of its values in various parts of the world, such as human rights and security, to offer solidarity and support where it is needed. In the last 10 years, even though it wasn’t easy because of the various notions of security and the interests among all EU member countries, still, the Union was slowly uniting itself following its strategic compass and was strengthening its role as an international factor. Thus, the rest of humanity now considers it an assistant.
Josep Borell, the current High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, including his predecessors, Federica Mogherini and Javier Solana, used this definition about the role and the place of the EU in the world when they spoke at the special conference at the European External Action Service (EEAS) on the occasion of marking the 10th anniversary of its foundation.
Borell, who took office a year ago as the High representative and Vice-President of the European Commission, at the EEAS’ mini-conference, that was attended by all its previous managers apart from Catherine Ashton, stated that despite the latest crisis with the coronavirus, the EU stands in front of another serious challenge and this issue is allowing to present itself in a better light to the world through a built narrative. Still, the EU crisis has managed to build the Europeans’ conviction that the joint hood allows much more to be achieved than each member alone could ever achieve.
“We have to have our own strategic concept. Each of us is striving to declare themselves the best during this pandemic, to solve the problems at home, and to help others. We, the Europeans have to have a narrative, as we have a good project, that includes many measures to protect the health of the EU’s citizens, but we are not selling it well enough. At the same time, the crisis revealed our vulnerability i.e. the face mask suddenly became necessary – something that is simple to be produced, has become a strategic object. Also, we weren’t ready at the start, we weren’t producing paracetamol, we thought the market would solve this issue, that an offer would appear. But, we learned from our mistakes and we really achieved a lot. The crisis in the Union gave added value among the citizens, who are understanding that united, with joined forces by 27 country members, we can achieve more than each country fighting alone… We have a gigantic office for solving problems, not just in the neighborhood, but also throughout the world, under the European banner, that wants to put all Europeans in its embrace and to provide solidarity and support. We are strengthening the role and the rest of humanity is considering us as a helping factor,” said Borell.
The first High Representative, during whose mandate (1999-2009) the EEAS was being formed, Javier Solana, said that the EU really handled this crisis more successfully than the crisis than the financial crisis in 2008, which is a proof that the lessons were learned. Still, the EU doesn’t have the same “weight” in international relations as before, said Solana. =
“For me, the EU’s reaction is different from that one in 2008 with the major crisis and the reactions are more different, and this is because we have learnt a lot from the past. The second issue, when we were starting peacekeeping missions, we had less infrastructure, less power, but we had more influence. Probably there is more power, more men…But during my time we had less force and more influence,” stressed Solana.
According to Federica Mogherini, a former EU’s High Representative, the collaboration within the EU and with foreign affairs, and many other areas have already become a part of the European’s DNA, and at the same time, it provides an opportunity for more achievements throughout the world.
“The EU has the authority as an international factor concerning some issues, firstly with normative issues, for eg., No one has such authority in the world, and this is followed by economic power and then the achievements in the domain of human rights. We should jointly invest in a partnership, but still, as an autonomous sovereign subject, and in that way, we can achieve more in the world,” said Mogherini.