Prominent Europeans call for change in approach to EU foreign policy

Now that Ursula von der Leyen has been appointed European Commission President, European governments must turn their focus on how Europe can stand up for itself and its citizens

As the world descends into geopolitical competition, Europeans are in danger of becoming hapless playthings in a tussle for pre-eminence between China, Russia, and the United States. But this can be avoided if Europeans take their destiny into their own hands. The EU member states collectively retain the biggest single market in the world, more defence spending than any power other than the US, the world’s largest diplomatic corps, and highest levels of development spending.

We therefore call on the new EU leadership team, who will take over in late 2019, to understand the challenge that confronts them and receive the tools they need from EU governments to change Europe’s approach to foreign policy. Together with Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, the EU Council President elect, and Josep Borrell, candidate for HRVP, must move quickly to find ways of getting EU institutions to empower and channel the resources of foreign ministers and member states behind a common European foreign policy. They must:

  1. Set out on a quest for strategic sovereignty for Europe. This should have economic and financial elements (coping with secondary sanctions, the role of the dollar, payments systems, investment screening, technology regulation), security and defence elements (promoting greater European responsibility and resistance to conventional and hybrid threats including cyber) and political diplomatic ones (exploring how Europeans organise and reach out to others on multilateral issues).  The HRVP must not run away from the most controversial issues in Europe’s foreign policy – China, Near- and Middle East, Russia, migration, the Balkans, Climate Change –  but rather try to craft ways to go beyond the lowest common denominator by engaging groups of member states in a new grand bargain.
  2. Re-operationalise European security and defence. Europeans should take more responsibility for their security and become a better partner for the United States by strengthening the European pillar in NATO and taking over responsibility for missions in the Balkans and Africa. They must also consider innovations such as a European Security Council in order to – among others – engage the UK after Brexit.
  3. Build a stronger link between EU institutions in Brussels and national governments on foreign policy. If EU foreign policy is to be effective, it cannot just rely on a single HRVP to carry the political burden. The HRVP should be backed by deputies from the Commission covering key regional issues and task core groups of national foreign ministers to support him.

These steps help renew the EU and show its citizens that Europe can be the first line of defence in an increasingly uncertain world.  


  1. Douglas Alexander – Chair, Unicef UK; former UK Secretary of State for International Development
  2. Joaquín Almunia – former Vice President of the European Commission & Commissioner for Competition
  3. Timothy Garton Ash – Professor of European Studies, University of Oxford
  4. Marek Belka – Member of the European Parliament; former Polish Prime Minister and Head of the Polish National Bank
  5. Carl Bildt – Co-chair of the Board of ECFR; former Prime Minister; former Foreign Minister
  6. Emma Bonino – former Minister of Foreign Affairs
  7. Han ten Broeke  Director of Political Affairs, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS); former Member of Parliament
  8. John Bruton – former Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach); President, IFSC Ireland
  9. Harald Braun – ECFR Council Member
  10. Ditmir Bushati – Albanian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs
  11. Gunilla Carlsson – ECFR Council Member
  12. Maria Livanos Cattaui – former Secretary General, International Chamber of Commerce
  13. Lucinda Creighton – former Irish European Affairs Minister
  14. Srdjan Darmanovic – Montenegrin Minister of Foreign Affairs
  15. Milica Delević – ECFR Council Member
  16. Ilinca von Derenthall – Head of Audit and Risk Committee, Chimcomplex Borzesti S.A.
  17. Anna Diamantopoulou – President, DIKTIO – Network for Reform in Greece and Europe
  18. Vaira Vike-Freiberga – former President of Latvia
  19. Sigmar Gabriel – Member of German Parliament, former Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Germany
  20. Carlos Gaspar – Member of the Board of Directors, Portuguese Institute of International Relations (IPRI)
  21. Mihai Gotiu – Senator in the Romanian Parliament; former Vice-President of the Romanian Senate; former journalist
  22. Teresa Gouveia – Member of the Board of Trustees, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation; former Foreign Minister of Portugal
  23. Jean-Marie Guéhenno – Senior Adviser, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue; former President and CEO, International Crisis Group; former Under-Secretary-General, Peacekeeping Operations, UN Geneva
  24. Istvan Gyarmati – President and CEO, International Centre for Democratic Transition
  25. Fabienne Hara – Special adviser to donor government relations, Europe, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Adjunct Professor, Sciences Po
  26. Ivailo Kalfin – former Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs
  27. Sandra Kalniete – Member of the European Parliament; former Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs
  28. Piia-Noora Kauppi – Managing Director, Federation of Finnish Financial Services
  29. Bert Koenders – Special Envoy, Worldbank; Professor International Politics, University of Leiden; former Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs
  30. Miroslav Lajčák – Slovakian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs
  31. Pascal Lamy – Honorary President, Notre Europe; Chairman, Paris Peace Forum; former Director-General of the WTO; former EU Commissioner
  32. Remzi Lani –  Director, Albanian Media Institute, Tirana
  33. Mark Leonard –  Director, European Council on Foreign Relations
  34. Leiv Lunde –  Senior Asia Advisor, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  35. Cristina Manzano –  Editor-in-chief, Esglobal
  36. Dario Mihelin –  Ambassador of Croatia to the People's Republic of China
  37. Nils Muiznieks –  former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
  38. Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz – Head, ideaForum, Stefan Batory Foundation
  39. Delphine O – Ambassador, Secretary General of the UN Woman Gloab Forum, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; former Member of French Parliament
  40. Christine Ockrent –  Commentator and writer; Presenter of 'Affaires Etrangères', France Culture Radio
  41. Hanna Ojanen –  Adjunct Professor (Docent), University of Helsinki
  42. Andrzej Olechowski –  former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs
  43. Dick Oosting –  former CEO, European Council on Foreign Relations; former Europe Director, Amnesty International
  44. Andrés Ortega – Writer and journalist from Spain
  45. Coen van Oostrom – CEO and Founder, OVG Real Estate
  46. Zaneta Ozolina – Professor, University of Latvia; former Director, Latvian Centre for Human Rights
  47. Ana Palacio – Former Minister of Foreign Affairs; former Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the World Bank Group
  48. Nicolò Russo Perez – ECFR Council Member
  49. Rosen Plevneliev – former President of Bulgaria
  50. Charles Powell – Director, Real Instituto Elcano
  51. Lia Quartapelle – Member of the Italian Parliament
  52. Adam Daniel Rotfeld – former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs
  53. Norbert Röttgen – Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Bundestag
  54. Janet Royall – Principal, Somerville College, University of Oxford; former leader of the opposition in the House of Lords
  55. Marietje Schaake – former Member of the European Parliament
  56. Giuseppe Scognamiglio – Chairman, eastwest Institute; Editor, EastWest
  57. Javier Solana – former EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy & Secretary-General of the Council of the EU; former Secretary General of NATO
  58. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer – former NATO Secretary General; former Dutch Foreign Minister
  59. Christoph Steck – ECFR Council Member
  60. Jonas Gahr Støre – Leader of the Norwegian Labour Party; former Minister of Foreign Affairs
  61. Andris Strazds – ECFR Council Member
  62. Ion Sturza – Founder & Chairman, Fribourg Capital; former Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova
  63. Hannes Swoboda – former President, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, European Parliament
  64. Henrik Thune – Director, Norwegian Center for Conflict Resolution (NOREF)
  65. Nathalie Tocci – Director, Istituto Affari Internazionali
  66. Vygaudas Ušackas – Former Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs
  67. Romana Vlahutin – EEAS Ambassador at Large for Connectivity
  68. Andre Wilkens – Director, European Cultural Foundation; Co-Founder; Die Offene Gesellschaft
  69. Samuel Žbogar – Head of the Delegation of the EU to Macedonia; former Slovenian Foreign Minister

Signatories are all Council Members of the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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