By Eloise Ryon.
The European Business Summit, an event that ran from the 23rd to the 24th of May 2018, featured Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission as one of their main speakers. She appeared alongside Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of Belgium, on the topic of “the EU as a global actor”. I had the privilege to witness this discussion and now to analyse their words.
Didier Reynders began with the vision of a Union that is a “Champion at promoting rights”. However, the Deputy Prime Minister affirmed that the EU, in order to promote rights and liberties, first needs to be “organized at home”. The EU needs to “practice what it preaches”. In fact, the rise of attacks to fundamental rights in countries within the European Union does not make it easy for countries outside the Union to take it seriously and respect its standards. The Polish ban on abortion, or the agressive repression of migrants at the Hungarian frontier, are examples of EU values being challenged. Therefore, before taking a role of leadership in the area of fundamental rights, the EU should for sure clean up its own porch.
“The EU is not only about fiscality and economics” said Federica Mogherini. In fact, since the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community, the EU has considerably evolved. There was a need and the will to develop this economic partnership towards a more integrated unity, which has given birth to the European Union as we know it. We however should not forget that the EU is only what it was allowed to become by the member states. The EU therefore should not only be the one to blame when its efficiency reaches its limits. Member states have the biggest responsibility, they have the future of the EU within their hands. As Ms. Mogherini stated “No one is giving marks … , the EU is a voluntary family”. That is the reason why the growth of extremist parties and the constitution of euro-sceptic governments is so worrying. That is the reason why we need citizens to be informed, and citizens who are not afraid to express themselves, during elections but also on a day to day basis. Opinions needs to be challenged.
What are the next steps? Can we say the EU is a global actor? Being one of the largest economies, that is still growing at the moment you are reading this article, and giving a louder voice to smaller and bigger states on the international political stage, the EU can certainly be said to be an important actor. But is it a global actor? We can see through the Iran Deal, which was “facilitated by the EU” as explained Ms. Mogherini, and through its stand on fundamental rights and the environment, that the EU has an enormous potential as a global influencer. The Iran Deal still stands because the EU, and the international community has proclaimed its validity. The EU’s political power appease Iran and balance the rejection of the United States, clearly demonstrates the Union’s strength on the international stage. But then why does the Union have no power over the instability caused by the proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the United States? Because there are several global actors in our shared society, each actors has its on cards to play and they are playing it (such as China with its road-belt initiative), the EU should do the same. Mr. Reynders proposed the idea of a seat for the EU within the Security Council, recognizing through this project that Belgium would have more power being one of the member states of the European Union than by requesting a seat for themselves. This trust in the EU is what it takes in order to transform the Union of today into the Union of tomorrow.
Our capacity to recognize the benefits, as well as the disadvantages, of the European Union, our capacity to take our own actions, to represent our own interests through one single voice, will determine the future of the Union. And do not forget,that each of us, has a role to play as the EU is and will always be what we decide it will be. Citizens: do not forget to vote at the next European elections and political leaders: be ambitious, realisitic and responsible.