European Foreign Policy after Libya

The creation of an international coalition to protect Libyan civilians shows that Europe still counts for something on the world stage. Given the need for Europe’s leadership and commitment to multilateralism in a post-American world – now catalyzed by the crises to its south – European foreign policy must grow up fast.

LISBON/RIGA – If an encouraging message is to be found in the creation of an international coalition to protect Libya’s civilian population, it is that Europe still counts for something on the world stage. The galvanizing leadership of France and the United Kingdom was vital in assembling an alliance of support that included the Arab League and the United States, and in overcoming the divisions that often plague Europe’s attempts to punch its weight on the world stage (Germany, we are looking at you).

The intervention in Libya also represents a confluence of several longer-term trends. The first annual European Foreign Policy Scorecard, just published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), identifies these trends in its analysis of 80 foreign-policy issues. Taken together, these trends suggest that, despite an inward-looking stance in 2010, Europe is finding what it takes to count as a foreign-policy actor.

First, the Franco-British push for intervention is the latest example of European foreign policy by a small number of very active member states. Getting agreement over anything is difficult for a European Union of 27 members. Getting a workable agreement once leadership has been shown is a lot easier.

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