Dr David Garcia Cantalapiedra
22 Aug 2013
CIT Auditorium, NUS
What is the EU’s role in the world? What needs to be done? In his lecture, Dr David Garcia-Cantalapiedra (Associate Professor, Faculty of Political Sciences. Universidad Complutense de Madrid) examined the report of the European Global Strategy project, produced by a consortium of European think tanks from Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden, and resulted from an initiative by the foreign ministers of those countries, to prepare for the European Council meeting in December this year that would discuss EU defence issues for the first time in five years.
Entitled “Towards a European Global Stratregy: Securing European Influence in a Changing World”, the report examines how the EU could increase its effectiveness, particularly on the issue of how it should frame its future defense and security policy on the world stage.
For Dr Garcia-Cantalapiedra, he believed that the purpose should not be just to produce a common policy for the EU, but should be more ambitious and create a “common strategic culture”. He also noted the change in tone and language of the report moving away from a more normative language commonly associated with the EU, emphasizing soft power, effective multilateralism to one that is more realist.
The use of a more realist tone in itself was not wrong, but it was the inherent contradictions in the European Global Strategy report that Dr Garcia was critical of, and with it, the seeming paucity of ideas for the EU to move forward in a coherent way. The report said that the EU should seek to fulfill all its treaty obligations, yet the report is framed in a realist framework rather than a liberal institutionalist one.
Dr Garcia-Cantalapiedra was also critical of the report for being short in mentioning the tools and instruments needed to address new threats and challenges, such as on cyber security. There was also no mention of civil or military intelligence collection in meeting the challenges of terrorism. The EU’s military expenditure as a whole is still much lower than the US’s – only its number of military personnel trumps the US. On standardization, there are still 16 different frigate types in the EU, but only one in US. Fragmentation in European defense industry is threatening its competitiveness vis-à-vis the US’s.
More fundamentally, Dr Garcia-Cantalapiedra found that the report rested on the assumption that the redistribution of global power leading to the US’s decline, but yet glosses over the fact that the EU is also in “relative decline” and hence the EU should seek to reinforce alliances and partnerships with what Dr Garcia-Cantalapiedra calls the “Unipolarity Club” of US allies around the world.
For him, the best outcome of such a report on the EU’s global strategy is to articulate a strategic geopolitical, geo-economic vision. The articulation of a “strategic neighbourhood of democracy, human rights and the rule of law” for the EU is a “good idea”. Some of these are already being achieved through the EU’s eastern neighbourhood policy, but it could go further.
In the question and answer segment, Dr Garcia fielded questions from the audience on the alternative solutions for the EU’s global strategy. The divide between the EU and its citizens was noted – the people may not be interested in the EU developing a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), but the EU kept pushing on it as a given to further European integration. Nonetheless, he said, the EU has “no choice but to change” – there is currently a lack of a coherent European voice, and hence EU foreign policy is “not working”. In conclusion, Dr Garcia said he believes that the EU does have the capabilities – military and civil – but not the right framework or strategy currently to better harness them.