When the EU’s new foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, assumes office on Sunday, he will have a lot on his plate, with some of the burden hopefully shared by President Ursula von der Leyen, who has promised to deliver a “geopolitical Commission”.
Officially, the European Union’s joint foreign and security policy is designed “to resolve conflicts and foster international understanding, based on diplomacy and respect for international rules,” with trade, humanitarian aid, and development cooperation also playing an important role in this equation.
To achieve this, the EU needs to preserve peace, strengthen international security and cooperation, develop and consolidate democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. So far, so good.
But how do you achieve these targets and implement these declarations?
The core of all problems in and surrounding the bloc is centred on the western-instigated conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, which the ‘civilised’ nations thought would help democratise the former dictatorships.
The experiment failed, and the EU is largely to blame for it, subsequently paying for the mistake of inactions and wrong choices.
This was evident by the EU’s former foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, preferring to take a back seat as the region flared, with her successor, Federica Mogherini taking on the role of a firefighter, trying to put out a blaze just as another erupted.
Two issues will help bring some sense of order back to the ravished communities in the Middle East and Africa, and this is probably the only way to start dealing with the issue, let alone resolving it – prosperity and energy security.
Instead of fearing Turkey’s threats of ‘opening the floodgates’ of refugees and pouring them all into continental Europe, aid should be redirected to the heart of the conflict areas, in the form of funding for health, food and education.
This will help rebuild societies and reinstate democracy, but as the locals believe it should be, and not imposed by ‘wiser’ western Europeans.
Through prosperity comes energy security, as natural resources will be better protected and utilised for the benefit of locals, and as a commodity, these sources of energy (whether fossil fuels, renewables or even the final product of electricity) can be better traded, ensuring the EU has a steady supply and not relying on the whims of bully-states that can threaten to shut down pipelines.
On the contrary, some progressive states in the Middle East, such as Egypt, are constantly building up their energy infrastructures, deploying solar parks the size of the average European city, producing a new commodity that can remain on tap 365 days a year – electricity.
As Europe strives to use cheaper and cleaner forms of energy, electricity transmission should be freely available from the surplus of ‘poorer’ nations, earning them a steady source of income, in turn, re-invested in improving the quality of life and rebuilding society.
Josep Borrell must place energy security and supply high on his agenda if he wants to resolve conflicts, and not once their repercussions are already out of control and crossed inside the EU’s borders when it’s too late.