Report

A Scorecard for European Foreign Policy

Justin Vaïsse and Hans Kundnani

On March 30, 2011, the European Council on Foreign Relations published an innovative study of Europe’s external relations entitled The European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2010. It was led by Justin Vaïsse and Hans Kundnani, and rested on the work of the an ECFR team of experts as well as 27 researchers in the EU member states. The text below includes the preface and the introduction.

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PREFACE

The European Foreign Policy Scorecard is an annual evaluation of Europe’s performance in pursuing its interests and promoting its values in the world. At a time when new powers are emerging and the international system is undergoing profound changes, the scorecard is intended to raise awareness of the existence of a European foreign policy – even if it sometimes exists by default – and to encourage a debate about the best policies to be pursued in defense of our values and interests. Although it is the work of experts, it is intended to be accessible to any citizen who is interested in Europe’s role in the world.

The scorecard considers “Europe” in the same way that great powers from Brazil to China do: with no distinction between EU institutions, including the ones which were created by the Lisbon Treaty and came into existence in 2010, and the 27 member states. The assessment is of the collective performance of all EU actors rather than the action of any particular institution or country – whether the High Representative, the European Council, the European Commission, a group of states like the EU3 (France, Germany and the UK), or an individual member state. Where one of those actors has played a particular role in a positive or negative sense, we attempt to highlight it. However, we do not advocate a single or centralized foreign policy but rather a common and at the very least a coordinated one.

In 2010, we have evaluated this collective performance on six major issues: relations with China, Russia, the United States and “Wider Europe” (i.e. the countries of the Eastern Partnership, Turkey and the Western Balkans); as well as European performance in crisis management and in multilateral institutions. While we consider these six issues to be particularly important for any assessment of European foreign policy, they are not meant to be exhaustive. Although limited resources forced us to restrict our assessment to these six issues in the first year of the project, the scorecard has been designed so that it will be possible to add other issues in the future without compromising comparability with the 2010 findings. In particular, we hope to expand the scorecard to include the Middle East and the Southern neighborhood – for which, given recent events, there will obviously be a particularly strong case in 2011.

We ask three straightforward questions for each aspect of European foreign policy: Were Europeans united? Did they try hard? Did they get what they wanted? These three questions translated into three criteria that we use to assess European performance: “unity”, “resources” and “outcome”. The first two (graded out of 5) evaluate the intrinsic qualities of European policies and the third (graded out of 10) evaluates whether these policies succeeded or failed. This means that the overall grade out of 20 reflects an equal balance of judgment between input and outcome.

However, although the scorecard is based on a rigorous and transparent methodology (see methodology section for a more detailed explanation), it is intended to be an exercise in political judgment rather than a quasi-scientific index. We have chosen the scorecard form precisely because everyone can relate to both the seriousness and the versatility of grading and report cards. In most school or university environments, grades are codified but nevertheless reflect the subjective assessment of the teacher doing the grading. This is also the case here: our methodology set explicit and precise parameters, but the research team made the ultimate decision on scores and grades. Because we may have missed some developments or have overlooked countervailing tendencies to the ones we described, we don’t consider the scorecard to be a definitive judgment on European foreign policy for 2010.

INTRODUCTION

European leaders were caught completely unaware by the unfolding of history in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in 2011 because, for the past year, their focus has been elsewhere. These dramatic events – and Europe’s slow and halting response to them – illustrate once again the importance of the Lisbon Treaty, which for the first time created tools for the EU to develop a coherent, effective foreign policy. But in 2010 – and so far in 2011 – we have seen that the success of the Brussels institutions depends on the focused support and resources of national capitals to make a difference. When this is absent, Europe flounders.

2010 was supposed to be the year of European foreign policy, but it ended up being the year in which foreign policy was marginalized. A year that had started with the hope of a new beginning for the European Union on the world stage after the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty was soon dominated by the euro crisis, which became an existential crisis for the EU and left little room for foreign policy on the front pages of newspapers or in the inboxes of Europe’s leaders. In 2010, the efforts of European leaders were focused almost exclusively on the rescue of Greece and Ireland in order to save the euro and the EU itself. As a result, the bandwidth available to them for foreign policy immediately shrank. It was not a great year for European foreign policy. However, the performance of member states, and EU institutions was not uniformly mediocre. Out of the 80 “components” of European foreign policy assessed in the scorecard, Europe got eight As, 29 Bs, 39 Cs and four Ds. Of the six “issues” examined in the scorecard, Europeans performed best on multilateral issues (where they scored an average of B+). They also performed reasonably well in crisis management (B-) and in relations with the United States (B-). But on relations with China, Russia and with the Wider Europe the EU’s performance was insufficient. The EU got a C+ for all three but got the lowest score for China.

There were, of course, even greater variations in performance on individual “components”, which ranged from A (e.g. component 37 – relations with the United States on Iran and proliferation; component 43 – visa liberalization with the Western Balkans) to D+ (e.g. component 6 — rule of law and human rights in China; component 46 – relations with Turkey on the Cyprus question). There were also more meaningful variations within “sub-issues” of each of these six large issues.

For example, while in 2010 Europeans did poorly on the “Wider Europe” issue in general, there were strong contrasts among the three “sub-issues” that comprise it: performance was good on the Western Balkans (B), mediocre on the eastern neighborhood countries (C+) and poor on Turkey (C-). Similarly, for relations with both Russia and China, the “Human Rights and Governance” “sub-issue” got very bad grades, which markedly lowered the average for these issues.

Most successful EU policies in 2010

Category

Unity  

Resources  

Impact  

Total  

Grade  

28 – Relations with the United States on terrorism, information sharing and data protection

Authors

H

Hans Kundnani

Editorial Director, European Council on Foreign Relations

5

5

8

18

A

37 – Relations with the United States on Iran and proliferation

5

5

8

18

A

43 – Visa liberalization with the Western Balkans

4

5

9

18

A

80 – European policy in the World Trade Organization

5

4

8

17

A-

76 – European policy on Iran and proliferation in the multilateral context

5

5

7

17

A-

5 – Agreement with China on standards and norms, consumer protection

5

4

7

16

A-

23 – Relations with Russia on Iran and proliferation

4

4

8

16

A-

57 – Response to the earthquake in Haiti

4

4

8

16

A-

 

Least successful EU policies in 2010

Category

Unity

Resources

Impact

Total

Grade

6 – Rule of law and human rights in China

2

2

1

5

D+

7 – Relations with China and the Dalai Lama on Tibet

2

1

2

5

D+

44 – Bilateral relations with Turkey

2

2

>1

5

D+

46 – Relations with Turkey on the Cyprus question

3

1

1

5

D+

17 – Media freedom in Russia

4

2

1

6

C-

18 – Stability and human rights in the North Caucasus

4

1

1

6

C-

26 – Relations with Russia at the G20

2

2

2

6

C-

61 – Crisis management in Kyrgyzstan

4

1

1

6

C-

 

Most united EU responses in 2010

Category

Unity

64 – Stabilization and state building in Iraq

5

38 – Relations with the United States on climate change

5

49 – Relations with the Eastern Neighborhood on trade and energy

5

9 – Relations with China on Iran and proliferation

5

60 – Stabilization of the Georgian border

5

5 – Agreement with intro on standards and norms, consumer protection

5

80 – European policy in the World Trade Organization

5

76 – European policy on Iran and proliferation in the multilateral context

5

28 – Relations with the United States on terrorism, information sharing and data protection

5

37 – Relations with the United States on Iran and proliferation

5

 

Most divisive issues in 2010

Category

Unity

7 – Relations with China and the Dalai Lama on Tibet

2

6 – Rule of law and human rights in China

2

44 – Bilateral relations with Turkey

2

26 – Relations with Russia at the G20

2

12 – Relations with China on currency exchange rates

2

32 – Relations with the United States on NATO and NATO reform

2

33 – Relations with the United States on arms control and Russia

2

39 – Relations with the United States on global economic and financial reform

2

1 – Formats of the Europe-China dialogue

2

8 – General openness of China on civil society exchanges

2

47 – Relations with Turkey on regional issues

2

68 – European policy in the G20 and G8

2

79 – European policy on the Millennium Development Goals

2

54 – Crisis management in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

2

63 – Stabilization and state building in Afghanistan

2

22 – Diversification of gas supply routes to Europe

2

74 – European policy in the international humanitarian system

2

The birth of the crisis generation

Where previous cohorts of European leaders were defined by geopolitical events such as 1989, Kosovo, 9/11 or Iraq, the formative event for many of the leaders who were in power in Europe in 2010 was the Great Recession. They have been more focused on geo-economics and the global shift of economic power than geopolitics and the balance of military power. They are less wedded to traditional geopolitical alliances (for example, with the United States) or enmities (for example, against Russia) than their predecessors. They have taken the world as it is rather than as they hoped it would be. They are willing to “reset” relations with authoritarian governments in countries such as China and Russia and are suspicious of humanitarian intervention and democracy promotion. They want to scale down their involvement in missions in far-off places such as Afghanistan and return the problem of order to local leaders. This shrinking ambition for foreign adventures was manifested in the declining budgets for aid and defense in Europe’s austerity-obsessed capitals.

The economic crisis has accelerated a triple transition that is changing the balance of power in the world, the European neighborhood and finally the EU itself. In 2010, the EU started repositioning itself for this world by developing positive new approaches to the United States, and China and Russia. It also fought back on multilateral issues with a more muscular approach after the debacle of Copenhagen in 2009. However, because European leaders were preoccupied with local economic difficulties and focused on global challenges, they tended to neglect their own region: enlargement stagnated, bilateral relations with Turkey worsened and the EU struggled to find a response to authoritarian retrenchment in the eastern neighborhood. Meanwhile, the EU launched no new crisis management missions and shifted its attention to geo-economic priorities such as piracy rather than humanitarian interventions. The findings of the European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2010 can best be understood in the context of the EU’s responses to these three power shifts: Europe’s response to the change in the global balance of power, its response to the changes in the regional balance of power and its response to the radical changes within the EU.

Europe as a global power

At a global level, European leaders finally woke up to the fact that they inhabit a “post-American world”. The relationship with the United States is still the densest one that the EU enjoys, but it no longer has the powerful emotional significance it had over the last few decades. This “normalization” reflects the fact that the United States is no longer such an obvious provider of public goods to the EU in the security realm or the economic sphere: for example, whereas in the 1990s Europe needed American help to save the Balkans, much of Europe now blames the United States for the financial crisis. As a result, Europeans have shown themselves more willing to stand up to the United States on key issues and in some cases have been remarkably successful in getting U.S. cooperation. In the past, the leaders of member states tended to coordinate policy with the United States before they did so with each other and often acted in order to preserve their bilateral “special relationships” with the United States rather than their own collective interests – for example, on Afghanistan.

In 2010, on the other hand, the EU had significant successes when it identified its common interests and pursued them with the United States in a single-minded way. For example, the EU managed to get the United States to commit to a multilateral route on Iran and to accept a renegotiated deal on the availability of SWIFT financial data that better preserves the rights and privacy of Europeans. In this new approach with the United States, the surprise heroes were the European Parliament, which blocked the SWIFT deal, and High Representative Catherine Ashton, who managed to use her burgeoning relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to steer the Iran process through the UN. The EU scored a B- for its performance in relations with the United States. Worryingly, however, this new success in securing American cooperation had less impact on the wider world – for example, although the EU was successful in securing U.S. cooperation, this was not yet enough to deter Iran from continuing to develop nuclear weapons.

The change in relations with China was more dramatic. For years, western powers had a “faith-based approach” to China: they believed that as China and other emerging economies became richer and more developed they would become “responsible stakeholders” that would play their part in maintaining the global multilateral system. However, this assumption was challenged by China’s willingness to free ride and by its increasingly assertive approach to international relations in the last few years. In 2010, European leaders seemed to face up to this new reality and reassessed its “strategic partnership” with China. High Representative Catherine Ashton organized the first debate among foreign ministers on the topic since 2005; European Council President Herman Van Rompuy convened a Council meeting on the same topic. Germany published a promising paper on EU policy towards China and, in December, the Council signed up to a strategy based on reciprocity, leverage and trade-offs. But although there has been a change in approach – particularly in trade policy – it risks being undermined by ongoing tendencies of member states, particularly ones that were vulnerable to Chinese “bond diplomacy” such as Spain, to pursue their own bilateral relationships with China that undermined the embryonic European coherence. As a result, despite its positive new approach, the EU scored only a C+ on China.

The EU also mounted an impressive fight-back in multilateral issues after a disastrous year in 2009, and performed remarkably well, scoring a B+ – its best grade in any of the six issues assessed in the scorecard. The Copenhagen summit on climate change in December 2009 was a major defeat for the EU and had left serious doubts about international efforts to address global warming – a key EU objective. The failure of the international community to stop Iran’s nuclear program had also eroded faith in multilateral efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Emerging powers such as China and India also created increasing pressure to reform the governance structure of bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Although the EU did not achieve its ultimate objectives on issues such as climate change and Iran, it did score some defensive successes in 2010 – for example, at the Cancun conference, which restored confidence in UN-led negotiations on climate change. The UK, Germany and Denmark played important roles in these negotiations. By the end of the year, the outlook for the multilateral system – and for the EU’s role in it – had significantly improved. The danger for the EU is the increasing importance of the G20, in which the EU, for various reasons, performs badly: it scored an average of only C in the six components in the scorecard involving the G20. The most obvious villains were European finance ministers, who failed to cohere on IMF reform until the US forced them to do so.

However, as a result of the economic crisis and the focus on global challenges, there was little enthusiasm within the EU for crisis management. As a result, the EU got a B- in an area that was an EU priority in the past. Moreover, there were indications that this grade may drop in the future. Member states continued to be involved in a range of crisis management missions around the world under the auspices of the EU itself, NATO and other agencies such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Successes included the monitoring mission in Georgia and the response to the earthquake in Haiti. But as they announced big defense cuts, cash-strapped European governments launched no new EU-flagged missions and are increasingly looking towards indirect engagement in future crises. Although some MEPs focused on “branding” rather than effectiveness, the EU deployed quickly in response to the earthquake in Haiti in January and made a major contribution to the UN operation. But the few other cases in which the EU expanded crisis management operations tended to be in geo-economic missions such as the naval patrols in the Indian Ocean to contain Somali pirates, rather than classic humanitarian ones.

Europe as a regional power

There was a big positive step in the EU’s role as a regional power: the European “reset” with Russia, which was made possible by a remarkable Polish-German rapprochement. The rapprochement illustrates the way that geopolitical enmities matter less for the crisis generation than they did for their predecessors. At the same time, the economic crisis – which affected Russia more than any other member of the G20 – means that Russia is seen as less of a threat than it used to be just a few years ago. In fact, some European leaders now fear a weak Russia as much as a strong Russia. In theory, this should make it easier to have a united policy on the east. However, because they were so preoccupied with economic difficulties and global challenges, European leaders were not yet able to build a confident new approach on this promising foundation and scored C+ on both Russia and the Wider Europe. Unfortunately, this inward-looking focus also took place at a time when other powers – above all Turkey and Russia – were recalibrating their own policies to have more of an impact in the region. This meant that, as the environment in the region worsened in 2010, the EU was in general unable to respond and so lost influence.

However, although this was a year in which the EU in general lost ground in the Wider Europe, there were strong variations in the performance of the EU in the three constituent parts of the region, as mentioned above. On the Western Balkans, there has been good progress, including a big step forward on visa liberalization and a modest step forward on Kosovo, although this was as much through inertia as through political leadership. But as public opinion on enlargement in many member states, including France and Germany, hardened, the accession process stagnated. In particular, accession negotiations with Turkey went nowhere. In fact, only one new chapter was opened (although Spain deserves some credit for opening it). The EU did particularly badly in bilateral relations with Turkey – which opposed new sanctions against Iran – and on relations with Turkey on the Cyprus question. Cyprus is the perpetual villain on Turkey: in 2010 it provided Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with a way to avoid implementing the 2004 Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement.

The EU also struggled to find a response to the authoritarian retrenchment in the eastern neighborhood that culminated in the crackdown after the election in Belarus in December. However, Germany showed leadership by probing ways for the EU to get involved in protracted conflicts (and using the summits at Meseberg and Deauville to test out Russian willingness for a move). Perhaps even more disastrous than the EU’s lack of interest in the eastern neighborhood, however, was its complete neglect of the southern neighborhood. Again, this was a symptom of a shift among European leaders from geopolitics to geo-economics. For example, the Union for the Mediterranean – the EU’s main tool for engaging the southern neighborhood as a whole – was launched with fanfare before the economic crisis began but has since stalled as a result of neglect by the EU and political differences between non-EU members. The revolutions in North Africa in 2011 – which left the EU scrambling to find an adequate response – illustrated the dangers of this approach.

The new EU

The expectation in many circles was that, with the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, there would be a major shift of power from national capitals to Brussels. What made the creation of th