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Securing Post-Brexit Europe

MADRID – It is said that good things come to those who wait. If so, then the European Union’s new Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, more than a decade overdue, must be a very good thing. Actually, it is exactly what Europe needs. But the timing of its release – in the immediate aftermath of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the EU – could relegate it to irrelevance. How the EU moves forward with the strategy will be a bellwether for the future of the European project.

The strategy, developed by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, does precisely what it should: it provides a coherent guiding vision and a flexible framework for adopting concrete policies. It strikes the ideal balance between realism and ambition, recognizing the EU’s limitations and pinpointing the improvements that are needed.

The strategy’s grounded perspective is apparent from the first sentence: “We need a stronger Europe.” This signals a major shift from the previous, outdated strategy, issued in 2003, whose much-maligned opening sentence declared, “Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure, nor so free.”

Specifically, the strategy emphasizes the importance of the EU’s enduring soft power, in which prospective enlargement plays an important role, while acknowledging that soft power alone is not enough to ensure security. Moreover, it implicitly establishes the right sequence for the development of the EU’s approach to the world, by offering a far more specific vision for addressing regional challenges than it does for global challenges. The message is clear: the EU needs to get its act together within its neighborhood before it can grasp a broader role.