Two cheers for Gordon Brown’s speech

Gordon Brown has laid out his foreign policy vision, including on Europe. But he missed two key elements: a strong, positive case for enlargement and arguments for the Lisbon Treaty

While wearing White Tails at the Lord Mayors' banquet this week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown still managed to show a little leg on his European policy. He called for a “Global Europe”, a continent that is “outward looking, open, internationalist.”

Based on a pamphlet issued by the Foreign Office in the run-up to last month's Lisbon Summit, the Prime Minister called for a union that could act on the “economic, security and environmental imperatives of globalisation.”

Gone should be the days of institutional navel-gazing. In their place should be an EU as a foreign policy actor, able to “focus on the real issues that matter to people”. What are these? In the words of the Foreign Office pamphlet “Global Europe”: competitiveness, jobs, the environment, security.

The Prime Minister's rhetoric marks a not-so-subtle shift from his days at the Treasury, when newspaper headlines like “Brown tells EU to face reality” were more common. Always against what he once called “a doctrinaire isolationist stance”, the Prime Minister then preferred to look at the EU's motor – calling for “changes to be competitive, job creating. . . .focused on growth” – rather than where the car was actually going.

Two cheers, then, for the Prime Minister's conversion: one because he is making a positive case for how the EU can amplify Member State policies and two because he is rightly focusing the debate on what should be the next stage of the Union's experiment – an outward-looking attempt at addressing the world's challenges, be their economic or security-based.

There is no occasion to give three cheers. For many of the obstacles to “Global Europe” remain and the Prime Minister's speech suggests that these have yet to be resolved. Two issues are key for the EU to become more outward-looking: a fine-tuned institutional set-up, including greater cooperation between the various EU bodies and a new EU Foreign Minister (albeit not in name), and continued enlargement eastwards and into the Balkans. Gordon Brown has yet to make an explicit and positive case for the Lisbon Treaty's new bureaucratic arrangements.

Perhaps most worryingly, nowhere in his speech does Prime Minister Brown mention the most successful EU policy to date and one that Britain can be proud of having championed: enlargement.

Enlargement remains the EU's most effective tool to engender political and economic change in candidate countries (Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey) and in the pre-candidate countries of the Western Balkans, while the eventual membership of these countries will make the Union's more open and competitive. The absence of enlargement in the Prime Minister's vision of “Global Europe” is worrying.

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


ECFR Alumni · Former Senior Policy Fellow

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