Unity and Flexibility in the EU

Expert Meeting and Public Panel on the EU’s New Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy

On September 30, 2016, The Hague Institute for Global Justice convened an expert meeting and public panel discussion entitled “The EU’s New Global Strategy in a Troubled International Environment”. During the day the EU’s new Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy was discussed. The event was co-organized with House of Europe (the European Parliament Information Office and the Representation of the European Commission in The Netherlands).

On 28 June 2016, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini presented the new EU Global Strategy to the European Council. The Strategy is supposed to become the cornerstone for the EU’s foreign policy agenda for the following years. It is the product of a year-long process during which High Representative Mogherini consulted with experts, member states, civil society and other stakeholders. This process included an expert consultation and a high-level panel with the High Representative and the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders  last December, organized by The Hague Institute and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to inform the Dutch input statement in the strategic review process.

The Strategy was adopted in the midst of several crises within and outside of the EU. This includes the UK’s referendum on EU membership, the war in Syrian, terrorist attacks, and a failed coup attempt in Turkey. Taking both the opportunities and challenges of the EU as a global actor into account, the expert meeting, which brought together Dutch policymakers and other specialists from diplomacy, global governance, international security and justice, and civil society, focused on three particularly relevant themes as regards the implementation of the Global Strategy:

  1. The Future of the CSDP in a deteriorating security environment: Strengthening the EU as a security actor
  2. Common global rules for common global challenges: Strengthening rules-based global governance in the EU’s Global Strategy (using cyber governance as a case study)
  3. Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: Strengthening capacity-building as part of the EU’s ‘joined-up’ approach

Following a summary of the key points of the closed sessions by Dr. Aaron Matta (Senior Researcher at The Hague Institute), The Hague Institute opened its doors for the public panel discussion.

The public session was opened by Dr. Abi Williams (President of The Hague Institute) and Ms. Maria Silvia Gatta (Head of the Political Department of the Representation of the European Commission in the Netherlands). Opening keynotes were provided by Mr. Alfredo Conte (Head of Strategic Planning at European External Action Service) and Ms. Lise Gregoire-van Haaren (Head of the Political Affairs Unit at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Mr. Alfredo Conte highlighted the process and main ideas behind the Strategy from the EEAS’ perspective. In addition, he stressed that commitment and ownership from the Member States is critical to make the Strategy a success. At the same time, he noted the importance of outreach and reconnecting with the public. Ms. Gregoire-van Haaren focused on the Dutch perspective concerning the Global Strategy, underlining that citizens were at the core of the Dutch priorities for the Strategy’s implementation.

Event Panel: EU and the World
Dr. Williams opens the panel discussion.

Following these statements, a panel moderated by Dr. Joris Larik (Senior Researcher at The Hague Institute and Assistant Professor at Leiden University) engaged in a debate. The panel consisted of Ms. Farah Karimi (CEO of Oxfam Novib), Prof. Dr. Joris Voorhoeve (The Hague University of Applied Sciences, Leiden University and former Defence Minister of The Netherlands), and Mr. Alfredo Conte. The discussion revolved around the security and defence cooperation with relation to capabilities and operations, civil society engagement and the concept of ‘resilience’, the Strategy’s emphasis on ‘responsive Union’ and the concept of ‘joined-up approach’, as well as the notion of ‘principled pragmatism’.

Mr. Conte stated that one of the main challenges Europe faces is a Europe where unity is eroding. He argued that the EU wants to strike a balance between preserving unity and guaranteeing flexibility. Mr. Conte argued that unity should not become a straightjacket: “We need an ambitious agenda. We need a realistic agenda.” Striking the right balance between unity and flexibility prevents divisions within the EU. Prof. Voorhoeve noted at the outset that nothing can succeed without leadership. He observed that there is currently a lack of political will in European capitals to effectively deal with the current challenges that surround Europe. This is problematic and has fed into the growing sense of anti-internationalism. Ms. Karimi emphasized the role of NGOs and the need for cooperation, but also remarked that it is vitally important to be able to explain, communicate and have the support of the people for certain policies, such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Hague Institute will continue its work on the Global Strategy and its implementation. As the next step, the main findings of the expert meeting and public panel will serve as the basis for a report that will be presented to the European institutions in The Hague later this month.

Further Reading

Abandoned Church of St Nicolas at Mavrovo National Park

Past initiative: Primary Education in Macedonia

The Hague Institute for Global Justice, with the support of the Embassy of Switzerland in Macedonia is leading a six-month research project that will…


Active: Distinguished Speaker Series

The Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS) showcases eminent practitioners in international affairs and is the centerpiece of the Institute’s high-level engagement with practitioners and academics in the city…


Rule of Law

The Rule of Law Program fosters accountability and trust in societies in transition by supporting effective formal and informal justice institutions. The overarching goal…