Towards a European Global Strategy

On November 18, 2013, the Transatlantic Relations Program hosted the Washington launch event for the report, Towards a European Global Strategy: Securing European Influence in a Changing World (PDF), published as part of the European Global Strategy projectThe presentation was followed by a roundtable on the future of the transatlantic security partnership.

Thirty participants representing a diverse group of sectors, including the international think tank community, policy professionals, and business experts, were welcomed by Atlantic Council Vice President and Director of Transatlantic Relations Fran Burwell

20131118 TR Europe2Anna Jardfelt, director of the Swedish Institute for International Affairs; Björn Fägersten, researcher at the Institute; and Alessandro Marrone of the Istituto Affari Internazionali all spoke on their significant involvement in the European Global Strategy report.  Rick Holtzapple, director for European Regional Security, Political, and Military Affairs at the State Department, and Mathew Burrows, director of the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Foresight Initiative broadened the discussion by highlighting the issue of the wider transatlantic security partnership.

The report underlined the difficulty in defining and applying an EU global strategy, due to the convoluted nature of day-to-day decision making in the European Union. However, a comprehensive dialogue about strategy is increasingly necessary in order to respond to today’s global challenges.

A central focus of Monday’s dialogue was the idea that at its heart the EU is a community of shared values, and any long-term strategic vision needs to take this factor into account. The EU’s common interests and cultures hearken back to the foundational narrative of Europe. However, these shared values alone do not guarantee a secure future. Success will require a strong political commitment from member states to support strategic goals as articulated in the report.

The roundtable also featured lively debate on the US relationship with Europe. Despite the perceived lack of US engagement with Europe, participants argued that the reality is far more nuanced than the current rhetoric would suggest. Rather than withdrawing from the relationship, the US-EU partnership is simply evolving. The United States no longer works in Europe; it works with Europe on challenges in other areas of the world.

In a corollary to this characterization of the US-EU security partnership, participants questioned the role of NATO in a new European global strategy.  There was a consensus that close cooperation with NATO will remain important going forward, with some attendees advising that it would be in the EU’s interests to become a much larger actor within the organization.

The roundtable concluded with an acknowledgement that the world in which we live and operate is a post-Westphalian one, where states alone are not necessarily the most important or influential actors. If we proceed according to this assumption, then the prognosis for the EU over the long-term is a positive one. The EU is a non-state actor itself, and is thus well-positioned to handle the strategic challenges of the future.