Global Insights: Gaza Crisis Exposes Flaws in EU Foreign Policy Machinery

Global Insights: Gaza Crisis Exposes Flaws in EU Foreign Policy Machinery

Taken as a whole, the European Union disposes of enormous foreign policy resources. Its population is larger than that of the United States or Russia. Its members have approximately 2,000 diplomatic missions. It provides more foreign aid than any individual country. Indeed, since its formation in 1993, the EU has striven to bolster its collective foreign policy capabilities, based on the underlying assumption that even the most powerful EU members will have more international influence when they unite around a common position and speak with a single voice than when they act alone.

Yet, the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) has not realized the potential its founders had hoped to achieve. A major impediment to coherent collective action is that, except under a few strictly circumscribed circumstances, the EU requires the unanimous consent of all member states to adopt a policy regarding most important foreign and security issues. Absent a formal consensus, member states are also largely free to decide whether they want to use the EU machinery at all for pursuing certain policies in the area of CFSP, or whether they prefer to go ahead alone or in case-specific coalitions.

The rotating, six-month EU presidency is another problem. It promotes discontinuity in external representation, despite the "troika policy" of including representatives of the immediate predecessor and successor presidencies in the sitting president's major foreign policy missions. The resulting lack of strategic thinking, proactive decision-making, and coherent action has left the EU punching below its potential economic and political weight in the foreign policy arena.

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