It was not long time ago when Federica Mogherini took office in Rome as the Foreign Affairs minister, and soon after she found herself to be the “chosen one” to cover a role as tricky as scorching in Mr Juncker’s “team” – as the incoming resident of the Berlaymont building rather calls the Junker Commission. Her former “chief” moved fast from being mayor of Florence in to take over the role of Italian Prime Minister, as well her career has markedly speeded up when she has been appointed to lead the EU external relations system, not only Italian foreign affairs.
She has been picked out of a bunch of overqualified names to make the difference. And indeed she differs from the old-fashioned attitude to appoint to the role of Commissioners “dinos politicians” on the edge of the retirement after a long honoured national career. The EP has loaded on her shoulder huge weights, made of great expectation and big tasks. Although this time, from great responsibility does not subsequently come great powers. Overcoming national interests in the management of foreign affairs may be her mandate’s first snag. One of her main claim during the EP hearing on Monday 8th October was to bear in mind that EU interests shall match national interests. It is the time to think big, and to act subsequently, as she answered to the question arisen by ECR group EPM, Tannock.
Mogherini’s recent past in the national politics has endowed her with the classical taste for mediation and prevention of crisis stemming from the Italian systemic political instability.
It is vital to coordinate and act coherently so to react and counterweight properly threats against EU’s peace and security. In the previous five years, the disconnected actions undertook by 27 actors -then 28 with the Croatian accession- made of the EEAS a second fiddle playing a background melody in the general orchestra. Due to a dangerous mix of national interests and limited legal basis grounding its competences, the EU external service action’s scope has been bordered on a minor set of possible actions.
“Because size DOES matter…”
Accordingly to this geopolitical assumption, as the time passed by and the EU actual shape outlined, its role has been fixed into a picture showing an economic giant with a weak political punch. Globally speaking indeed, this fragmentation has leaded the EU to be considered a significant actor within regional striking distance. Maybe, the day has come for the UE to counterbalance other global powers and gain the political shine that deserves at international level.
Shared goals and team-working shall involve not only the 28 Member States, but also the EU as a whole, getting rid of the dualistic dialectic of “us and them”, that apparently has been separating the work of the EU institutions for too long. As her sentence “there is no us and them” proves this assumption as well as gave the ground to the claim that all EU’s policies and Commissioners’ portfolio are somehow interconnected having at certain extend an external impact—such policies related to energy, migration, trade, respect of human dignity, recognition of the rule of law. Nonetheless, from a legal point of view, this holistic approach looking at the external and internal security related policy as a unicum, may find the opposition of the art.40 TUE (1).
Miss Mogherini mentioned several times during the hearings that the EU plants its roots in a set of shared values and founds itself on the respect of the international law principles.
Actually, she sounded to experts and to part of the MEP hawkish when she had to answer the questions addressing her on the Russian territorial aggression against Ukraine (2).
Some analysts argued that her position was more direct and the message easily intelligible this time to openly get rid of the alleged label of “fellow of Moscow” stuck on her brow due to her early reactions to the break of violence in Ukraine. Nevertheless her smooth reaction at that time was respondent to the Italian strategy, cautious to maintain good diplomatic relations with Moscow in the name of political realism and economic interests. Additionally, the Russian Federation is an essential interlocutor from the wider perspective of the enlarged Middle-Eastern chessboard, particularly for the relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria.
At this time, no holds barred if the counterpart begs to differ from the European undisputable principle of respect of the rule of law, as pointed out by Lady PESC, the “Signora” forced to recklessly dance at a winter ball with the Russian Bear (3).
Her answered to the number of questions raised by the MEPs last Monday drawing up her receipt to the lack of prompt solutions and ability to act in the event of a crisis. Particularly, the question asked by the British S&D MEP Howitt, addressed the designated HR on which attitude she deemed valuable to face the Russian Federation, and how it would differ from the line drown by her predecessor, the Baroness Ashton. “Europe needs a mix of assertiveness and diplomacy […] the balance would also depend on the reaction of the Russian bear” as she thoughtfully answered, we may expect a steady shift in the EU-Russian Federation relations, or at least until Russian change of groove or, maybe, until the next big international crisis blows off. Mogherini underlined that at the moment the UE cannot consider the Russian Federation as a partner any longer or at least, till they keep up with the violence and territorial occupation in Ukraine. But answering to the question of the Romanian MEP of the EPP group Preda, she clarified that it is not simply all about finding a definition to describe partners, allies and whatsoever, but the concern is embedded on the third States’ behaviour and interest to “get along” with the EU establishment.
Because crisis are not so kind to queue in front of your door and ask “may I burst into?”:
Additionally to this diplomatic crisis involving the area of the Eastern partnership, the Mediterranean region has continued to boil during the summer. Besides the breeding grounds of violence already burning in Libya, Syria, Gaza, the self-proclaimed Caliphate leaded by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi started its compelling march launched to conquer territories and minds of the Muslims. Threatening with acts of pure violence and declarations against the “Imperialists”, the self-proclaimed ISIS Caliphate has been the other main geopolitical concern during the consultations. Indeed, this gave the floor to Mogherini to make clear that the EU must develop a marked sensibility to prevent crisis, to be ready to cope with the upcoming situation or, at least, sit the table of talks with a single coherent political view. The comprehensive strategy she claims must turn around a series of remarks she clarified during her audition, namely to activate a multitasking attitude towards the global scenario as a whole.
Working simultaneously on the dossiers East and South shall be European priority at the present time, because crisis are not so kind to queue before knocking at your doors, they may erupt in the blink of an eye, everywhere, concurrently. By giving a hint of what the “Mogherini’s doctrine” will be, she sketched a series of instruments that the EU, as big payer in Middle East, may use as leverage to become, eventually, a big political player as well.
Then, in concomitance with the International Gaza donors’ conference in Cairo of October the 12th, her plead has been not to focus merely on the economy and the material re-construction of Gaza, as case study valuable for many other post-war scenarios. What the EU should do, and actually is enabled to do, is to work together with regional actors so to build up political and social frameworks, which the stability and prosperity of the post-crisis scenarios can thrive through.
The designed keystone is the engagement of civil society and political structure towards a fruitful outcome of stability, notwithstanding the role of transnational and regional actors which may enter and alter these structures. From this perspective, it may be easier to appreciate Mogherini’s call to empower and set up solid region-to-region frameworks of debate, so to engage also those Countries of modest international impact. The logical conclusion of her rational political exercise is to fix solutions on the short-term but planning the long-term strategy to settle problems, so to work on their roots. As she underlined in the written answer to questions submitted by MPEs’ in early September, EU policy together with the agreements it has with third parts may positively affect the roots causes of humanitarian disasters, on the top the root causes of displacement.
Unfortunately, those tools are only symbolic and so they will remain till the day will come and the Global Approach of Migration and all the mobility partnerships affecting the life of migrants and the whole institute of free mobility become effective (4). In addition, the insurgent issue related to the Jihadists return to their Countries of origin shook the EU policy-makers. Especially true for the conservative groups, as the Italian Northern League EMP Borghezio, he urged to search a new pattern to tackle the problems related to this menace. Mogherini’s remarks following the question underlined the need to find solutions to the uprising issue, although stressing that these set of interventions must not upturn the basic and fundamental EU rules on the free movement. In this sense, the need for an integrate approach and inter-bodies enhanced dialogue become a pressing issue. The interconnection of national orders in the European area of freedom, security and justice grants of course the freedom of movement and the common management and respect of individual freedoms and public security. Seen the return on the stage of security as key element of the contemporary States and consequently of the European democracy, to preserve the right balance between freedom and security turns to be a significant challenge to the European policy makers.
Although the focus was obviously on the two on-going crises emerging from the direct European’s neighbourhood, some MPEs’ questions addressed the designed High Representative on other geo-regions such as Asia, Gulf Cooperation Council, MERCOSUR as to launch a new foreign policy mantra that it may read “neighbours of our neighbours, are also our neighbours”.
The MEP Lunacek of the Group of the Green, enlarged the scope of the interrogation by adding the EU’s prerogative to establish partnership within a legal frame and being assure of the third part respect of the so-called low politics, such as freedom of speech, respect of the human dignity and human rights. Besides, being of extreme importance for the Greens is, of course, the dossier related to the green energy; her question targeted the Azerbaijan, deemed to be the backbone of the energy supply diversification for the EU. Keeping an eye on the upcoming winter, Mogherini stressed once again the necessity to diversify the suppliers States group. Seen the potent leverage owned by the Russian Federation as huge energetic supplier, as well as acquainted with the Mediterranean instability, especially true for Libyan difficulties in producing and exporting gas, our neighbour partners in the South Caucasus may counterbalance the supply part in the energetic value-chain towards Europe (5).
Additionally, she mentioned at least once the next big issue affecting the EU institutions and public opinion debate, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), referred as “trade is not only an economic but also a strategic instrument”. But it has still to be widely discussed, as the TTIP turned out to be a thorny point in the already extremely knotty point of the EU’s external projection network, as she answer to the legal issue brought up by the Italian MEP Castaldo, EFDD Group. The Transatlantic partnership, as well as the EU partnership with Israel and EU relations with its challenger, the People Republic of China, revealed how complex will be the forthcoming 5 years of work at the Barlaymont building, for the whole Junker Commission.
A mix of human rights-related issues and protectionist concerns flavoured the atmosphere when the audition touched the themes associated to the EU strategy towards Asian Continent. EU’s task should be to convince Asians that Europe is strategically important for them and not vice-versa, as Mogherini said.
The quiz is over and Mogherini brings home the Jackpot
Mostly, the committee’s questions addressed very specific geopolitical and strategic issues, covering pretty much every region in the world requiring foreign policy attention, in the present or prospectively in the next future, the Arctic included.
She remarked that none asked of her intentions on how to manage in particular the EEAS-EP relations. Standing article 218 TFUE (6), the EP should be “immediately and fully informed at all stages of the procedure”. Notwithstanding the clear legal base, it never happened since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. Hence, she expressed her availability and interest to take part at any committee meeting and to keep the EP constantly posted on the evolution and affairs going on in the EEAS. She appeared calm, charmed the audience and sounded thoughtful without contributing too much in terms of concreteness and substantive policy. Although, an EP hearing is never the place to have an in-depth discussion on policy and where to hear well-structured action plans. Eventually, it was common perception of a person fitted for the role. She set the priorities and prepared the path to be trotted to frame forthcoming five years of actions and decisions.
(1) Treaty of Lisbon, art.40 www.eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:12012M/TXT&from=EN (2) Mogherini more hawkish on Russia in EP hearing www.euobserver.com/institutional/125933;
- (3) Federica Mogherini questioned over EU-Russia relations
(4) Some questions to the candidate High Representative for external relations (Federica Mogherini) www.free-group.eu/2014/10/05/some-questions-to-the-candidate-high-representative-for-external-relations-federica-mogherini/
- (5) East Med Not a Solution for European Energy Security, Says Expert naturalgaseurope.com/east-med-european-energy-sohbet-security-karbuz
- (6) Treaty on the functioning of the European Union, eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:12012E/TXT
- – [en] Welcome to the bubble, Mrs. Mogherini carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/
– [en] Exchange of Views on the situation in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Gaza www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/afet/home.html
– [en] Six things we like about Federica Mogherini, the EU’s candidate HRVP www.concordeurope.org/blogs/seamus-jeffreson-s-blog/180-six-things-we-like-about-federica-mogherini-the-eu-s-candidate-hrvp
– [en] Priorities for the Next Legislature: EU external action www.ceps.be/book/priorities-next-legislature-eu-external-action