Europe’s Futures Colloquium III

Seminars and Colloquia

The EU’s strategic sovereignty in times of contestation

Ten years ago, the Lisbon Treaty promised a stronger, more coherent and more effective EU foreign and security policy. This anniversary comes at a time when the Union is confronted with rising internal and external obstacles as well as expectations.

The EU’s neighbourhood is characterised by conflict and instability. The rules-based international order is heavily contested and the transatlantic relationship is under constant pressure. The EU is facing internal contestation as illustrated by Brexit as well as more populist and nationalist foreign policies. Meanwhile, its citizens are calling for a ‘Europe that protects’ and are clearly in favour of closer foreign and defence cooperation. In parallel, external expectations on the EU to counteract the erosion of multilateralism are rising.

Although the EU promises more strategic sovereignty and autonomy, it has too often failed to speak with one voice and influence international developments. The new institutional cycle offers an opportunity for a fresh start for EU foreign and security policy. Using it will imply addressing some key questions: How can the member states attain a more common understanding of the practical implications of EU strategic sovereignty? How can the EU live up to the promise of Lisbon and bridge the divide between the supranational and intergovernmental spheres of its external action? How can it bundle resources and instruments to effectively influence a select number of joint priorities?

Nicole Koenig is deputy director of the Jacques Delors Institute in Berlin.

What future role for principles and values in EU peacebuilding?

The post-Cold War period – and the general optimism associated with it – has come to an end. Many of the certainties that most people in the Western world took for granted are questioned or even undermined. A new era of great power competition is unfolding between the United States, Europe, China, and Russia, accompanied by a certain leadership vacuum in what has become known as the liberal international order. In parallel, perceptions of dangerous spill-over of violent extremism coming from outside Europe coupled with the perceived massive arrival of migrants and refugees and the mismanagement of these flows, have compromised multilateralism. While it is unclear what kind of new order will emerge, whether core principles of the old one can be preserved, whether we will see a world with competing orders, and whether the transition period will be peaceful, it seems clear that the European Union (EU) will need to adapt to a new reality, potentially in an increasingly non-Western-driven world. Against the backdrop, the EU – as other global players – is at an important crossroads, where the status quo ante is not an option. In this world of uncertainty, what should and could be the role of the EU in the field of peacebuilding? How can it remain a relevant actor on the global scene and retain its added value in peacebuilding? In a world of competing orders, how can the EU ensure that its normative project of pushing for democracy still has resonance? This project focuses on the EU efforts to build peace in the Western Balkans, where the EU admittedly has particular vested interests both due to the geography of the region and to the ambition of the EU project there, where the ultimate goal is EU enlargement.

Isabelle Ioannides is senior associate researcher at the  Institute for European Studies and a scholar at the Department of Political Sciences at Vrije University Brussels.

Europe’s Futures – Ideas for Action
A strategic partnership initiative of IWM and ERSTE Foundation