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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

UK report on EU foreign policy: Is it working? Is it accountable?

How diplomatic are diplomats when discussing a rival?
We've already blogged about the Government’s balance of competences report on the EU's impact on the NHS, now time for a quick look at what was said about EU foreign policy and external aid. The EU's External Action Service seems to have attracted some criticism:
“Critics argued that it was unclear about its role; lacked strategic focus and a policy planning division; was less dynamic than previous good rotating Council presidencies; was reactive rather than proactive; was less expert than it should be on important TFEU aspects of external action, such as climate change and energy, because relevant staff had reverted to the Commission upon the EEAS’s creation; was insufficiently joined up with the Commission on external instruments; and had low staff morale.”
But for balance it has some supporters to:
"Many thought it had played a valuable role on a number of issues, such as Iran, Burma, the Horn of Africa, and the development of a comprehensive approach combining a range of instruments"
However beyond the good job / bad job narrative the more important question is to whom are these EU diplomats ultimately responsible? The report talks about the “complex legal and institutional framework for the EU’s foreign policy”. This is a fair observation and one that makes EU diplomacy difficult to hold to account. The report is clear that the European Parliament is not the answer: "If the institutions’ performance does not improve; or if there is an undesirable shift in control away from the Member States, such as a greater role for the European Parliament; how will we alter our approach."

If one problem is accountability the FCO
does not think MEPs are the solution
The report makes some other interesting points as well, noting that “there are now few international organisations where there is not at least some effort to forge a common EU position, and have that position, even if it only amounts to a lowest common denominator, expressed by one participant on behalf of all the Member States.”

The report also notes - correctly in our view - that "the EU lacks the capabilities and the political will to play a major military role.” The EU can never aim and should never aim to be a coherent military/diplomatic actor on the world stage. It cannot do so because it does not have the military capabilities, the wish to pay for them or more importantly the political will to act.

Moving onto the issue of external aid, the report notes that "Although policy making at the EU level is often critically important, it can sometimes result in compromise positions that do not give full effect to UK priorities or that lack impact."

We have argued that EU aid is poorly targeted, with only 46% reaching low income countries, compared with 74% of UK aid, 58% of EU member state governments’ aid and 56% of United States aid - figures first flagged up in our 2011 report on EU external aid. This is largely a result of the large sums of the EU aid budget devoted to the EU's neighbourhood. The UK report largely glosses over this by only focusing on EU "activities that have poverty reduction or humanitarian response as their central purpose," implicitly reinforcing the point that many of the EU's 'aid' activities do not.

At a time when public confidence in overseas development spending is faltering, it is essential that this ‘value for money’ question at the EU level is addressed.


Rik said...

Oh Herr wirf hirn vom Himmel.

The communication strategy/tactic for this report were again appalling.
It ended up with something like report says EU good for Britain.

Hague looks to have a sort of bipolair disorder on this subject. It is either simply good or total crap (like here), with very little in between these 2 extremes.

They can make a press release in the line like commonmarket of freetradezone good for the UK but rest need a lot of work.

Do these people still not understand that it is not mainly about the UK being economically good for Britain. Its population has heard that since 1975. It is about the UK electorate feeling at ease with the thing. And find things that can be improved (and there are a lot of those). Plus these 2 subjects are heavily related anyway.
No thoughts at all as well about being flexible when other ways of looking at things come up in the population.

In other words the reports look to be written from a completely wrong
starting point/ perspective.
Next to this is absolutely not the way to sell the EU. As said people have heard the crap (as crap as how the majority will see it) since 1975.
Plus it is very likely not the way to strengthen your negotiation position.
And a complete waist of time, it is simply as said before answering the wrong questions. I and about 10 million others could have told them from within 1 minute that the freetrade zone is very benificial and from an economic perspective outweights the political stuff attached to it. That doesnot have to take a year or so.

Overall very disappointing, simply a crap job and what is worse a total waist of time.

Rik said...

On the policy area itself.
Also this is appallingly bad.
What is needed for European Foreign Policy and from the people dealing with it:

1. Setting up an organisation that works (it is new and in general to function properly you need to have an organisation that works);
2. Give itself a face (as said it is new);
3. Come home with some successstories;
4. Look for costreduction say to replace some of the national embassies (national level) or make it easier to get a passport abroad (citizen level), things like that). Makes it much easier to sell the more costly set up to its stakeholders.
Not getting into priority setting between these 4 as well as the links between them.

1. In general it is the opinion that this is not a success far from that. Most people including insiders would give it the totally insufficient label. Probably caused by the fact that top management is totally crap.

2. Give itself a face. Ashton is complete rubbish for that. Solano did a much better job with less backing and much less resources at his disposal.

3. Successes. Sucksesses would be more appropriate. Iran hard to see where the success is in there. If the EU FS had not existed we would most likely be at the same point. Burma, breakthrough happened mainly because internal reasons. And if foreign influence can take the flowers it is that of China, US and the neighbouring countries.
Horn of Africa, again what success?
Not even mentioning complete failures like Libya and now Syria. A lot could have been gained by acting properly with an eye on your own interest and acting timely. Syria it was clear that this would end in a civil war if the rebels were not surpressed earlier, Assad simply has too much backing also with large parts of the population who fear the other parts. It could however have been used as a way to decouple it from Hezbollah and Iran or increase the chance of formal peace with Israel. Now it is moving into the other direction plus likely at the end with several 100 000s casualties.

4. Basically is very similar to 1. And nothing mentionable happened in this respect.

Future prospects. Simply looks more of the same.

Anyway the fundamental question how to deal with the lack of military power is not properly adressed. To make it work the EU would have to move towards that. As I see it the UK cannot bring its military under an EU umbrella. Simply way to risky (depending on again the French). In that respect splitting the UKs FPolicy in a European and national part on a structural basis simply overall weakens it.
The UK is much better off teaming up more structural (except for the economy) with the US which is:
a) a more credible and effective power as far as military power goes and can make decisions much more quickly;
b) reliable (compared to say eg the French or some of the other handbag carriers);
c) the UK is more often on one line with anyway; and
d) the structure of cooperation makes pulling out of certain stuff much easier for the UK.

Average Englishman said...

@Rik is correct.

EU red tape, stolen fish, arrest warrants, vast waste, cash out/in deficit, uncontrolled immigration, etc., bad for the UK but EU trading benefits good for the UK.

However, the 'balance' of these matters is not the real problem for an Average Englishman like me. The real disaster is the completely non-democratic nature of the whole ghastly edifice and the continuing push to unwanted integration. The running of my country has now largely been taken over by a bunch of overpaid, arrogant, unelected officials residing in Brussels. Put simple, I want my country back and no blathering on about this or that benefit on a good day will do.

In addition, any correct assessment of the benefits of the UK staying in the EU should not compare the current situation to the UK stopping EU trade altogether but to the UK moving to join EFTA and retaining most of its trade benefits, whilst ditching the other rubbish. To do otherwise (as I believe is intended by three of the four main UK political parties at the moment) is just more deceipt and it will not work. I am not alone in being very angry at the way I have been lied to about Europe by politicians over the years and I will not accept another dose of their garbage.

Rollo said...

There is no EU foreign Policy so of course it is not working. The boss, Ashton, was only appointed because they had to give the UK a senior spot; and she was not Blair; and she was not a threat to any one else's ambition; and she had no financial knowledge
EU aid is a propaganda tool only; we should not channel one penny through the EU, as so little of it gets to worthy targets; and even less of it is sourced in the UK, which should be a benefit both giver and receiver.

Rik said...

Fully agree. The basics are completely simple:
-Freetrade zone is economically profitable;
-rest is not plus is highly unpopular at the UK homefront.

You donot need a 2 year study for that.

And starting from the abovementioned 2 basics.
The freetrade is still far from perfect (see the discussion on services) also caused by the fact that the EU looks mainly busy saving hamsters in Timbuktu iso making money (let their inhabitants make money).

Rest of the stuff (the political part) simply looks like the hobby projects by some written off former national politicians with no platform in the respective populations as well as an employment project for the EU apparatus, all with very little results on top of that.
Again you donot need 2 year study for that.
The EU itself has made a study on that a few years ago, might be open for some discussion for obvious reasons, but they indicate themselves that THE advantage is the large common market. The advantage of the Euro was much smaller (and that was before it collapsed) and the advantage of the rest wasnot even mentioned in monetary terms.