European Council on Foreign Relations

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Yesterday, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the first Pan-European think-tank, released details of its European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2012.  It offers an overview of how EU member states dealt with Foreign Policy issues in 2011, and tells us who the leaders and slackers were on each issue. As a Blogger/Journalist, I was offered an advance copy, but under embargo. But the embargo is now lifted, and I can release my analysis of the Scorecard.

Bearing a British passport, I’m interested in how the UK fares under scrutiny…

By the way, this post was featured on Liberal Democrat Voice’s Top of the Blogs: The Golden Dozen! My first, and thanks very much to Helen Duffett for including it, and Alisdair Calder McGregor for recommending me.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

The answer…

Not the best. We come third in the league table of “Leaders” but that’s embarrassingly low, frankly. Britain is, naturally, below France, the greatest proponent of a joint EU foreign policy, but it also comes below Germany, which has traditionally deferred to Britain and France on foreign policy issues.

While in the past Germany often deferred to France and the UK on foreign-policy issues, we identified it as a “leader” in more cases than any other member state in 2011. However, while Germany certainly amassed power because of its centrality to the euro crisis, the answer to the famous Kissinger question is not necessarily: “Call the Chancellor”. Sometimes, Germany did exert decisive leadership on foreign affairs. For example, together with Poland, it led the EU’s attempt to develop a coordinated approach to Russia and flexed its muscles on Serbia. But on other issues – for example, Libya – Germany did not so much lead as use its newfound margin of manoeuvre to follow its own preferences in the face of others in the EU. (p.21)

Apart from on Libya, the UK has become “increasingly passive” on foreign policy (p.22). We followed in more ways than usual, and led less initiatives (apart from generally supporting enlargement, promoting closer links with turkey and supporting African development).

The France-British cooperative axis on foreign policy has proven to be fragile – the “difficulties of implementing the defence co-operation agreement signed in 2010 and the collapse in relations following the crucial European summit in December showed how brittle the coalition between France and the UK is” (p.22).

In addition, we must consider the nature of a Eurosceptic government in Britain – Prime Minister Cameron is increasingly enslaved to his backbench Thatcherite MPs, prompting him to wield his so-called “vetoat a crucial Summit meeting. In addition “[t]hroughout the year, the UK led a diplomatic guerrilla campaign to block the EEAS, the EU’s new diplomatic service, from speaking on behalf of the EU at the UN or the OSCE, even where precedents existed” (p.18). As Cameron panders to Eurosceptic (or Euro-phobic) sentiments within his own party, his hands are tied in cooperating with other great powers through the European Union.

Now, let us look at specific issues.


Leader :-

Relations with China on the Arab Awakening (9)
Relations with China on Climate Change (12)

Slacker :-

Formats of the Europe-China dialogue (1)
Reciprocity in access to public procurement in Europe and China (3)

Beaten by?

France – leader in  3; 9; 12


Leader :-

Rule of Law and human rights in Russia (15)

No comment :-

Relations with Russia on protracted conflicts (19)
Relations with Russia on energy issues (20)
Diversification of gas supply routes to Europe (21)

Beaten by?

Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland and Romania all Leaders on 19; 20 and 21.

Sweden Leader on 15 and 19.

France and Germany leaders on 19 but slackers on most others

 United States

Leader :-

Relations with the US on the Libya operation (33)
Relations with the US on climate change (38)

No comment :-

Reciprocity on visa procedures with the US (26)
Relations with the US on the euro crisis (30)

Beaten by?

France – Leader in 30; 33 and 38.

 Wider Europe

Leader :-

Relations with Turkey on regional issues (46)
Rule of law, democracy and human rights in the Eastern Neighbourhood (47)

No Comment :-

Overall progress of enlargement in the Western Balkans (39)
Kosovo (41)
Relations with Turkey on the Cyprus question (45)

Beaten by?

Germany, leader on all five, and Sweden, leader on 39; 46 and 47.

 Middle East and North Africa

Leader :-

The Egyptian Revolution (56)
The Libyan uprising (57)
The Syrian uprising (59)
Middle East Peace PRocess and Palestinian statehood (61)

No Comment :-

The Tunisian revolution (55)

Beaten by?

France, leader in all five, and Germany leader in four (except, obviously, Libya).

 Multilateral Issues and Crisis Management

Leader :-

European policy on the ICC and international tribunals (72)
Climate Change (73)
Development aid and global health (74)
Famine in the Horn of Africa (75)
Sudan and the DRC (77)
Afghanistan (80)

No Comment :-

European policy on UN Reform (68)

Beaten by?

Germany, leader in all except Sudan.
Notably, Denmark is a leader in 73; 74; 75 and 80. Sweden is a leader in 72; 73 ; 74; 75 and 77.

What does this mean?

Britain has clearly shown where her preferences lie. Cooperation with China over the Arab Spring and Climate Change shows that these two issues were of the greatest concern to Britain this year, along with Aid and Development. However, what is interesting is that, despite the supposed rhetoric amongst the Conservative led foreign-policy circuit in Britain to engage with the BRICs as new trading partners, as Europe continues to wane, Britain has not been active enough with the BRICS – the UK loses out to France in relations with China, and to many nations (Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Sweden… all neighbours, near-neighbours or ex-satellites) on relations with Russia. Though, to be fair, tense relations with Russia over the last decade (Litvinenko, spying, ‘Bear‘ flyovers…) could be more of a rationale for this than a lack of concern with the BRICs.

Our relations with China are predominately bilateral, as each nation seems to compete against each other, even despite certain issues such as intellectual property rights, coming predominately under the remit of the European Commission. Until we cooperate as one bloc in relations with others (particularly the BRICs), we undermine the great advantages gained by being the world’s largest free-trade zone.

The lack of coordination of the policy of UN Reform is possibly down to the UK wishing to remain an independent power at the UN, with its seat on the Security Council. Britain still wishes to consider herself a strong independent power in the world, unable, on some deep psychological level, to remove the “Great” from our name. A wonderful quote from Paul Henri Spaak “Europe consists only of small countries—some of which know it and some of which don’t yet know” should be brought to mind – independently, all European countries are still small fry, and though the likes of France, Germany and Britain punch above their weight, they do exactly this. Punch above their weight. If other nations refuse to accept this artificial weight, problems will ensue – only the EU can provide the weight we need.

Considering  the US and the UK are supposed to have a “special relationship”, no such cooperation is forthcoming. Terrifyingly, the ECFR notes the French as Leaders in more fields than the British! Britain only Leads with reference to Libya and Climate Change, and lacks on the Euro crisis and visa procedures. This is tragic as Britain is perfectly placed to act as mediator between the continental powers and the anglophone world. The ECFR references the UK-US relationship in a negative context at one point, on Afghanistan policy where “US pressure on some countries such as the UK” (p.73) existed, perhaps not the best relationship. However, the reverse is also true e.g. Libya.

Being beaten by Germany in engagement on Wider Europe, the Middle East and North Africa shows, perhaps, more about Germany than it does about Britain. Germany’s “Normalisation“, as a country with its own foreign policy objectives, since the advent of the Eurozone crisis, naturally means it will act more this year than last. In the meantime, Britain has turned both increasingly unwilling to cooperate with Europe, and increasingly inward-looking in its politics, as domestic and economic matters have caused the government the most problems.
The Anglo-Iranian crisis does show a good example of unity, scoring 4/5 from ECFR. “All the main players (including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands) showed solidarity with the UK through various diplomatic demarches” (p.107). Solidarity was also excellent at Durban where the “masterclass in diplomacy” from Hedegaard and Huhne is a shining example for future events.
Britain is still showing itself as a leader in Multilateral issues, but I fear that future drift away from Europe will see Britain increasingly marginalised. Britain as “Great” is a fait accompli no longer, and we must fight for our place on the world stage – the European Union offers us the best opportunity to hold on to our waning power. But this can only be done by a willingness, not to totally subsume our foreign policy to Europe, but to cooperate on crucial issues and common platforms. Ultimately, foreign policy is the primary area where European integration will help, not hinder, Britain’s own national interest. But with domestic concerns and coalition politics, perhaps we can be glad that Britain has even held on to third place?