EU must develop ‘appetite for power’

MUNICH: European Union governments need to be willing to intervene in international crises or risk prolonging paralysis in their foreign policy, the EU’s top diplomat said on Sunday. The EU is the world’s largest trading bloc but it often fails to speak with one voice on foreign policy because its policy-making requires consensus among members. EU governments are divided on issues from Libya to Venezuela.
“Europe has to develop an appetite for power,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the Munich Security Conference, stressing that did not only mean military power.
“We should be able to act… not everyday making comments, expressing concern,” he told leaders, lawmakers and diplomats.
With its economic power, the bloc has been able to boast of a “soft power”, but its influence in the world has waned, partly because US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies have undermined European priorities.
Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as well as the Paris climate accord, his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital before a final peace settlement and his criticism of Nato are at odds with European positions.
With new leadership in Brussels, the EU has launched into a flurry of diplomacy since January, particularly on the Middle East.
But the bloc was still divided on how to react to Trump’s peace proposal for the Palestinians and Israel. Efforts to revive a maritime mission off Libya to uphold a UN arms embargo have run into difficulties, diplomats say.
“When there is no unanimity (in the EU), the remaining majority have to act,” Borrell said.
Meanwhile, the head of Nato dismissed President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a European “strategic dialogue” about the role of France’s nuclear weapons, saying a “tried and tested” deterrent was already in place.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that thanks to the US and Britain’s atomic weapons, Europe was already protected by a longstanding and effective nuclear umbrella.
While a Nato member, France does not make its atomic weapons available to the alliance, but in a major speech last week Macron called for dialogue among EU countries about what role the French nuclear deterrent could play.
Stoltenberg, who last year clashed with Macron over the French leader’s claims Nato was suffering “brain death” in its geopolitical thinking, gave his latest suggestion a frosty reception.
“We have to remember that we have a European nuclear deterrent today — 28 allies deliver that every day and it’s not only a promise, but it’s something that has been there for decades,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the Munich Security Conference.
“It’s tried and tested, we exercise it, and it’s institutionalised, and it is the ultimate security guarantee for Europe.” France is the EU’s only nuclear power after Brexit and Macron has championed the idea of European “strategic autonomy” — the ability to defend itself without relying on the US — though he insists on his commitment to Nato.
Stoltenberg said France was a “highly valued ally” whose nuclear capabilities contributed to Nato’s overall security.
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer welcomed the French suggestion while insisting it did not mean undermining US nuclear protection.