How can Europeans build upon common values to tackle global challenges, such as climate change, migration, terrorism, economic crises, tax evasion, organised crime, pandemics and humanitarian emergencies?
“Foreign policy begins at home,” according to the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) recent opinion on the strategy on foreign and security policy proposed by the European Commission.
The opinion emphasises the link between domestic and foreign policy, noting that European values are undermined by social inequality within the EU. “It does not seem realistic to envisage a more structured, shared and effective EU foreign and security policy without tackling the increase in economic and social inequalities amongst its Member States,” acknowledges the rapporteur José María Zufiaur Narvaiza. Europe must work on reaffirming its position as “the defender of equality” and a promoter of “freedom, security and prosperity”.
The EESC opinion recognises that uniting the EU’s citizens around its shared values, such as democracy, is crucial. To defend democracy abroad means building on a strong civil society at home. This is “key to developing closer ties with civil society in other countries”.
Being good neighbours
Geopolitical instability has grown since the last European Security Strategy in 2003. According to the EESC, an increased EU budget for external action is now called for, targeting humanitarian action, migration, development, education, counter-terrorism and diplomacy, and strengthening organised civil society. Priorities include:
- Strengthening the accession path of candidate countries, particularly the Western Balkans and stabilising the Eastern and Southern neighbourhood
- Fostering an effective Common Security and Defence Policy
- Responding to the flow of refugees and migrants;
- Promoting trade and investment
Tackling issues, such as climate change, migration, terrorism, financial and economic crises, tax evasion, organised crime, pandemics, humanitarian emergencies, means investing in the stability of neighbouring regions, not only economically through trade, but by supporting training, innovation and entrepreneurship, notes the opinion.
The Committee recommends the increased participation of civil society in the EU’s foreign policy. As concrete measures, the EESC proposes structured interaction between civil society and the High Representative, an evaluation report on the participation of civil society in the EU’s external policy, and formal cooperation between the European External Action Service and the EESC.
It is expected that the strategy will be presented to the Council before the summer.