Looking back on 2017, we see a world in confusion: long-held beliefs and carefully crafted compromises are challenged, the very idea of a rules-based international order is questioned.
But against this difficult international background, the European Union has emerged as a reliable force for diplomacy, dialogue and multilateralism.
Over the past year, we Europeans have left the talk of crisis behind. Internally, the process of European integration has restarted after years of stalemate; and externally, we have become a global point of reference – for international cooperation, sustainable development, free and fair trade, but also as a global security provider. We have demonstrated that cooperation is not just possible: it is the only path to preserve our interests and values.
This is the spirit of the EU Global Strategy for foreign and security policy. Two years after its launch, it remains our compass guiding us through uncertain and often chaotic times. Its main messages are even more important today than before: to turn the Global Strategy from vision to action, investing in a stronger European Union and at the same engaging even more with our partners around the world.
There is no better example than our work on security and defence. Today, security challenges always transcend borders; no single country can address them alone. And this year, we have finally managed to take fundamental steps towards a European Union of security and defence, after decades of failures.
We started by setting up a single command centre for our military training missions in Brussels. It has been operational for one year now, coordinating our military training missions in Mali, Somalia and the Central African Republic. In June 2017, the European Commission also launched a European Defence Fund to incentivise joint research on research and to support the European defence industry. Most importantly, in December 2017 the Council formally established the Permanent Structured Cooperation on defence (PESCO), finally fulfilling the potential of the Lisbon Treaty. Member States can now join forces to develop new defence capabilities and bring together existing military assets in view of their coordinated deployment.
In parallel with this internal work, we also invested heavily in cooperation with our partners – first and foremost with NATO and the United Nations, but also with regional organisations such as the G5 Sahel.
But the Global Strategy is not only about defence. Our approach to crises as the European Union has always been a comprehensive one. We are increasingly focused on conflict prevention, early warning and reconciliation. We are investing more in resilience of states and societies around us, as an investment in our own security and prosperity. We have engaged with our partners to govern migration together: at the end of 2017 we established the first ever trilateral task force of the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations, to take care in particular of thousands of people stranded in Libya’s detention centres. The results we have achieved in just a few months are impressive – and this is thanks to an attitude based on partnership and the constant search for win-win solutions.
We have made a clear choice: we have chosen cooperation over confrontation, and responsible engagement with the world instead of an impossible isolation from the world. We still believe that international rules are not a constraint, but a guarantee for everyone. We still believe that only multilateral diplomacy can lead to solutions that will stand the test of time.
So we will continue to engage jointly to shape the rules by which we can peacefully live together with others – by promoting cooperation instead of confrontation and by standing together to find common solutions for common problems.
The world today is more complex than ever. Power is more diffuse than it has ever been in living memory. There is a greater number of powers, and a greater number of issues that powers cannot control directly. Everything is connected, and there are no quick fixes to the great issues of our times. We are therefore grateful for the indispensable work of the EUISS in providing us with contextual knowledge, analytical insights, as well as forward-looking perspectives that help us anticipate emerging trends and make well-informed, evidence-based decisions.
The EUISS is taking up our political priorities in products like the Yearbook, and addressing knowledge gaps through innovative formats such as foresight and scenarios: in this way, the EUISS contributes to our thinking and our decision-making, helping us get the problems right – and helping us find answers.
High Representative for the Union’s Foreign and Security Policy
Vice-President of the European Commission