It is standard practice to bash Catherine Ashton and how the External Action Service turned out. The story is of an inward looking institution, without having a grand narrative or strategic vision, and little credibility in either EU member states or EU’s external partners. It is hard to argue that EU foreign policy is doing well. But that is first and foremost because of structural factors – the economic crisis that drastically reduces EU’s foreign policy appetite and resources, as well as soft power appeal (see the Scorecard 2012 for a similar assessment).
It is perhaps time to reconsider at least some of the standard, off the cuff, assessments of the EEAS. If one looks at some specific foreign policy dossiers, the reality is that of a gradually emerging political animal that can show its teeth if and when necessary (were the Soviet Union alive, its propaganda department would
Europe’s relation with Jordan and prospects for reform in China were among the key ECFR themes during the past two weeks, here is a quick ECFR round-up:
Jordan is experiencing a slow-burning awakening and despite a promise of rapid reform in early 2011, King Abdullah has resisted meaningful change that would loosen his absolute hold on power. In a new ECFR policy brief Julien Barnes-Dacey argues that Europe should use its considerable leverage to press the King to introduce meaningful reform before it is too late.
After years of political stability and enviable economic growth, China has been facing a stark choice about how the country should move forward. In a new ECFR essay, ‘China at the crossroads’, François Godement argues that the Chinese government may be choosing the path of legal and political reform.
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Helsinki, the capital of Finland has been ranked as one of the cleanest cities in the world. Europe is reputed for clear air and is fighting for it to stay that way. Yet its latest initiative in fighting climate change; a tax on carbon emissions of airplanes flying into the EU, has led to a backlash from a large group of countries including China. In a rare instance, it has even united China and the US against Europe.
EU Climate Change Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, and carbon emissions crusader par excellence, has been pushing the climate agenda forcefully inside and outside of the EU. Some Europeans never fully recovered after the shellshock of being sidelined at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, but Hedegaard has stayed persistent.
Her insistent diplomatic footwork leading up to the Durban conference at the end of last year, was a vital component in securing a deal.
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A year or so ago, while doing research for the post-BRIC Russia report, I spoke to a US diplomat dealing with Russia about the ‘reset’. He sounded (naturally) very positive about its effectiveness. Among its two key achievements he mentioned cooperation on transit to Afghanistan and halt of anti-US propaganda on the Kremlin-controlled media and a subsequent decrease in anti-Americanism in Russia society.
With Putin’s return, protests in Russia and the US elections all talk is now about the end of the reset. In the last few months anti-American propaganda made forceful comeback in the Russian media. Many thought it was just electioneering in the run-up to the March presidential elections. But that was too optimistic, it seems. In the last few weeks things became even more heated. NTV, a Russian TV channel owned by Gazprom Media, has been following US ambassador Michael McFaul
Spanish development aid is to be cut by 1.580 billion euros, which is a 70-percent reduction. This is in sharp contrast with the cutbacks in other areas of state expenditure, which average 17 percent. International cooperation, which represented 0.4 percent of GDP, will now fall to 0.26 percent, levels last seen in 2002. Needless to say, the development community has been horrified by this move, which will set back our compliance with the UN objective of devoting 0.7 percent of GDP to development by a decade.
The government is cutting back cooperation expenditure for the simple reason that it can. In a democracy, votes are the bottom line. Politics is, after all, a marketplace where the politicians seek to maximize their profits, or minimize the adverse costs of their decisions. In the case of aid, apart from a small minority of professionals, who are lifers in the development
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