Two years ago, the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy anticipated that the years ahead would be a time of “predictable unpredictability.” Indeed, the global system has become more uncertain and less stable since then.
In this challenging context, the European Union has continued to be a leading force for diplomacy, cooperation and compromise, guided by the EU Global Strategy. We still believe that international rules are not a constraint, but a guarantee for everyone.
Implementing the EU Global Strategy over the past year, the Union has taken unprecedented steps to increase internal cooperation in the field of security and defence; worked to preserve an international agreement on Iran's nuclear programme; re-energised the European perspective of the Western Balkans; engaged with partners to strengthen global governance and seek mutually beneficial solutions to common issues, from fighting the impact of climate change to governing migration. Some highlights from the report are outlined below.
Security and Defence
Over the last year, the EU has made major progress in the field of defence, based on the understanding that it is essential for Europe to take greater responsibility for its own security. New mechanisms for coordination of planning, spending and operations were created to allow Member States and the EU to work together to ensure we are fit to face the threats and challenges of tomorrow. We will be able to research defence together, to build and buy the capabilities we need, to carry out defence projects through Permanent Structured Cooperation together to keep our citizens safe and contribute to global peace and security. European cooperation, in close coordination also with our partners – notably NATO, serves to make national defence spending more efficient, avoid duplications and exploit economies of scale.
Resilience and the Integrated Approach
The EU Global Strategy was however built around the understanding that building sustainable peace today goes beyond the defence and military dimensions and requires an integrated approach to conflicts and crises.
In Afghanistan, in the Sahel or in Iraq, we have invested in the development of effective and professional police, judges, doctors and school administration, as well as in a reliable and democratically controlled army. In the Sahel, the EU is the first donor with more than EUR 3.9 billon of development cooperation and is active with three distinct CSDP missions - an example of the EU's holistic approach to security. In countries suffering the repercussions of the Syria crisis like Lebanon and Jordan, action on political and economic reform has helped to stabilise local and refugee populations alike. Investments in reforms in countries like Libya, Tunisia and Morocco are investments in stability and Europe's security. In Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya and the Central African Republic, we are engaged in mediation. In Colombia, we are contributing to post-conflict economic development and the reintegration of former rebel fighter into civilian life, with a particular focus on child-soldiers.
A particular focus of our work has been to promote a political solution to the Syrian conflict. A second Brussels Conference took place in April 2018 to mobilise humanitarian aid from international donors as well as support to the host countries to boost their own resilience and that of refugee communities.
The EU is also contributing to the stabilisation of Iraq, supporting the Iraqi federal government in its stabilisation, reconciliation and reconstruction efforts. A mission in support of Security Sector Reform was set up in November 2017 and in February 2018 the EU co-chaired the international donors' Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait.
Cooperative Regional Orders
Another key aspect of the EU Global Strategy is commitment to supporting cooperative regional orders as a way to ensure greater global stability and security.
This the EU continues to intensify its engagement in the Western Balkans to support the region’s political, economic and social transformation, including through increased assistance, based on tangible progress on the rule of law, respect for human rights and socio-economic reforms. The EU has strongly supported bilateral dialogue, including between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (resulting in the historic agreement on the name of the latter) as well as between Serbia and Kosovo . Regarding the enlargement process, the European Commission recommended on 17 April opening accession negotiations with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and acknowledged that Serbia and Montenegro have continued to advance in their membership negotiations.
In November 2017 the Summit of the Eastern Partnership countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine – took place, providing momentum to advance in twenty practical fields of cooperation to achieve tangible results for the citizens of that region (20 Deliverables for 2020), from improving energy security to supporting economic development, to strengthening the media environment against disinformation, from support to public sector reform and security sector reform, fight against corruption, support to the decentralisation process, building or rebuilding critical infrastructure to widening the space for civil society.
Another example is our deepening partnership with Africa – and its regional organisations. In November 2017, at the 5th African Union-European Union Summit in Abidjan, we set up a joint task force of our two organisations with the United Nations, to help migrants held in detention centres in Libya go back home in a safe and dignified way. Our support to the G5 Sahel Joint Force is another key example of the importance of investing in global-regional security partnerships. The European External Investment Plan, with an input of EUR 4.1 billion, aims to leverage EUR 44 billion of total investments to promote jobs and growth.
Shaping a multilateral order for the 21st century
At a time when many voices are calling it into question, the European Union stands up for a rules-based international order. The EU is playing a lead role in driving forward and upholding global agreements, as shown by the EU work on climate diplomacy through the Paris agreement on climate change, as well as the EU's strong commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. The EU has also invested in targeted partnerships. Examples include the joint trilateral African Union-EU-United Nations cooperation, which has paved the way for enhanced cooperation not only on migration, but on the wider peace and security agenda; and the launch of the Spotlight Initiative, a new partnership of the EU and UN to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
Strengthening the link between internal and external policies
The EU Global Strategy promotes a more joined up way of working between external and internal policies to ensure that the EU can more effectively tackle today's complex and cross cutting challenges, such as climate change, migration, terrorism. Main areas of progress over the past year have been to link up the internal and external dimensions in our work on migration, cyber and counter-terrorism.
In the field of migration, over 25.000 migrants have been safely returning home from detention centres in Libya, arrivals on the Central Mediterranean route have gone down 77 % and an evacuation mechanism for those in need of protection has been established in Niger.
In the field of Cybersecurity, a comprehensive cybersecurity package was presented in September 2017 to improve resilience, detection and response to threats. The EU has also adopted the "cyber diplomacy toolbox", organised and contributed to several cyber exercises such as PACE17, and strengthened its cyber dialogues with the US, Japan, India, South Korea, Brazil and China and works closely with international organisations, such as NATO, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe. More broadly, the EU is taking concrete measures to tackle hybrid threats, for example through the Helsinki Hybrid Centre of Excellence and with a dedicated cyber platform.
When it comes to counterterrorism and preventing/countering violent extremism the EU has strengthened cooperation between CSDP missions and operations and Justice and Home Affairs agencies, namely Europol and Frontex, in priority partner countries. We have also mainstreamed Counterterrorism and preventing/countering violent extremism in external policies, and put in place or strengthened dedicated counter-terrorism dialogues with the Western Balkans, Turkey and Middle East and North Africa.
Promoting Public Diplomacy & Strategic Communications
The EU is stepping up the fight against deliberate disinformation, also through international cooperation. The EU's Strategic Communication has focused on the Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods as well as the Western Balkans, establishing specific task forces to promote effective strategic communication and public diplomacy.