MADRID – At the end of June, Greece was hurtling toward implosion and the European Union was consumed by an increasingly vicious internal debate over migration. That might not sound like the most auspicious time for the European Council to give final approval for the preparation of a long-awaited new “global foreign and security strategy” for the EU. But that is what happened, with the endorsement – complete with deliver-by date – buried in the conclusions of the Council’s June 25-26 meeting. The initiative has the potential to revolutionize how Europe addresses the many challenges it now faces and, perhaps more important, to give the EU the sense of purpose that it so badly needs.
That the EU needs a new security strategy is clear. The current one, created in 2003, is deeply outmoded, as epitomized by its opening line: “Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure, nor so free.” This is clearly no longer the case today.
The constant state of turmoil in which Europe has found itself is a result of the increasing complexity and intertwining of its internal and external realities – shaped, most notably, by four overlapping existential threats. First, Russia has revived a traditional security challenge that Europe had, it was thought, solved long ago. Second, transnational terrorism poses a multifaceted and fundamental danger. Third, a burgeoning migration crisis is raising questions about European values and identity. And finally, a general lack of vision for the future of the European project has led to disaffection throughout the continent, undermining cohesion and, in turn, the EU’s capacity to address the trials it faces.
These menaces exacerbate and intensify one another. The activities of terrorist groups contribute to violence and instability in neighboring regions, driving an increasing number of migrants to the EU. The difficulty of integrating immigrant communities into European societies has sometimes led to radicalization, providing ammunition to nationalist politicians and further fracturing Europe. Russia’s leaders, too, have worked insidiously to break down solidarity, without which the EU is powerless to respond to the threats it faces. All of this raises serious questions about the EU’s global role, while diminishing the viability of the European project itself.