European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2012

Justin Vaïsse and Hans Kundnani

The European Foreign Policy Scorecard is an annual evaluation—led by Justin Vaïsse and Hans Kundnani and published by the European Council on Foreign Relations—of Europe’s performance in pursuing its interests and promoting its values in the world. The objectives and basic structure of the Scorecard have not changed from the first edition on the year 2010. Once again, the assessment is of the collective performance of all European Union actors rather than the action of any particular institution or member state. The focus is on policies and results rather than institutional processes – in other words, we are interested above all in how effective Europe was in the world. In particular, we assign two scores (“unity” and “resources,” each graded out of 5) for European policies themselves and a third score (“outcome,” graded out of 10) for results. The sum of these scores translates into letter grades (A full description of the methodology for the Scorecard can be found here).

However, although we are retaining the same methodology to allow comparisons with last year’s performance, we have made two innovations for the second edition of the Scorecard. First, we have added an assessment of European performance in the Middle East and North Africa to the other regional issues in last year’s Scorecard and merged the assessments of crisis management and European policy in multilateral institutions. Second, we have added an exploration of the role played by individual member states on 30 of the 80 components of European foreign policy where they played a particularly significant role. In order to do this, we have, with the help of 27 researchers around the EU, categorized member states in each case as a “leader,” a “slacker” or just a “supporter” of common and constructive policies.

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2011 may come to be seen as a turning point for the European Union. As its leaders failed to reassure the rest of the world about the sustainability of their common currency and the future of the European project, the continent seemed to be losing its agency: where it was once seen as a critical part of the solution to international problems, it has now become a problem to be dealt with by others. In spite of some foreign-policy successes such as Libya and the deal on climate change in Durban, the euro crisis seriously constrained Europe’s ability to react to the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa – arguably the most important geopolitical event in its neighborhood since the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the introduction to last year’s Scorecard, we wrote that Europe was distracted by the crisis. This year, Europe was diminished by it. It remains to be seen whether 2011 will turn out to be a decisive moment in the long-term decline of the EU or the beginning of a fight back.

From Solution to Problem

In 2011, the euro crisis began to threaten not only Europe itself but also the entire global economy. European leaders repeatedly failed to take the decisive action necessary to reassure the markets that it was committed to the single currency. While it became clear that Germany – the largest and most important member state in the euro zone – wanted to prevent a collapse of the euro, it remained opposed to what it perceived as a “transfer union” and, fearing moral hazard, opposed the idea of Eurobonds and that of the ECB as a lender of last resort. As contagion moved from the periphery to the centre, economists around the world began to discuss not just whether the euro would survive but how to limit the turmoil its collapse would cause.

As a result of this role reversal from solution to problem, Europe’s relationships with great powers around the world changed. In economic terms, it went from being a subject to an object. In 2010, Europe struggled to have an impact, particularly in its neighborhood. But in 2011, Europe was forced to seek the help of other powers. It was the object of IMF intervention and went cap in hand to China and Russia to ask them to contribute to the bailout of euro zone economies. At the board of the IMF, where Europeans already had to make room for emerging powers in 2010, Europeans were no longer in a position to lecture other countries. For the US – the EU’s closest ally – Europe went from being an underperforming partner in solving global challenges to being one of those challenges itself.

Against this background, there was little progress in developing the much-vaunted “strategic partnerships” with the world’s new powers. Last year, we wrote that the EU was beginning to develop a new approach to China based on reciprocity, but this risked being undermined by member states’ bilateral tendencies. The cancellation of the EU–China summit in November looked like a symbol of a strengthening of these tendencies in 2011. Cash-strapped member states sought investment rather than a share of the Chinese market and even the big three prioritized their own business deals with China and left the difficult job of developing a joint approach to China to the EU institutions. Europeans had some successes with China – for example, its acquiescence to military action against Libya and to action on climate change – but these pale in comparison to the significance of the shift in the balance of power that took place in 2011.

European Performance on the Six Issues in 2011

Issue in 2011 Score Grade in 2010
Multilateral Issues and Crisis management 13/20 B 14 B+ (Multilateral Issues)
11 B- (Crisis Management)
Relations with the United States 11/20 B- 11 B-
Relations with the Middle East and North Africa 10/20 C+
Relations with Russia 10/20 C+ 9.5 C+
Relations with the Wider Europe 9.5/20 C+ 9.5 C+
Relations with China 8.5/20 C 9 C+

While it is impossible to quantify the decrease of Europe’s soft power that accompanied this loss of standing in international relations, there is little doubt that, by the end of 2011, it had become significantly less attractive as a model of governance for the rest of the world than it was even a year before. The long-term evolution towards shared sovereignty in the form of “ever greater union” that began with the European project in the 1950s seemed to have stalled – and perhaps even reversed – as member states pursued their own narrowly defined national interests. As a continent that once stood for prosperity and generous social compacts now looked to be heading towards a decade of austerity – hardly appealing for emerging powers whose rates of growth far surpass those of Europe – tensions between member states re-emerged and are likely to increase unless and until the euro crisis is solved. An additional blow to Europe’s image in the world came from the erosion of democracy that took place under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Hungary. The EU’s weak response hardly inspires confidence in its transformative power and is an ominous sign for the future evolution of other member states.

As a conflicted and divided Europe drifted towards economic stagnation and political gridlock, so the model for which the EU stands – that of an expanding and ever more effective multilateralism as a solution to the problems of a globalised world – was also discredited in the eyes of others. Emerging powers such as Brazil and China understandably wondered why they should pay to help rescue a continent which is proving unable to get its act together even though it has the resources to do so – let alone why they should listen to its lectures about regionalism and good governance. Elsewhere in the world, for example in Latin America and South-East Asia, advocates of regional integration projects are now less likely to look to Europe for inspiration. Thus, the euro crisis has had collateral damage for the concept of regional integration in general. In short, the idea of Europe is less powerful than it was 12 months ago.

The Arab Awakening

Perhaps partly as a result of this decline in the image of Europe, few of the post-revolutionary political forces in Egypt and Tunisia seemed focused on getting its help. The Arab Awakening expressed a desire for emancipation from outside and, in particular, Western influence. But this may have also reflected the degraded perception of Europe in the region – perhaps exacerbated by the cozy relationships many of Europe’s leaders had with autocratic rulers in the region: French Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie offered Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali French police know-how on riot control, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made statements supportive of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi until the second half of February, and British Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech on democracy in the Kuwaiti parliament accompanied by a business delegation that included arms dealers.

Member states and the EU institutions managed to recover to some extent and avoided making major mistakes in a fast-moving revolutionary situation that took everyone by surprise. In particular, after adapting cautiously and pragmatically to the fall of regimes they had long supported, European leaders did their best to support political transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, help the revolutionaries in Libya and put pressure on Syria. The EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton persuaded northern, southern and eastern member states to sign up to a common strategy in May based on greater incentives (“money, markets, mobility”); the principle of “more for more”; and a determination to engage with civil society and to build “deep democracy” – that is, building respect for the rule of law, freedom of speech, an independent judiciary and an impartial bureaucracy. The EU also prepared to work with the new Islamist parties that have emerged as electorally victorious across the region, in the hope of avoiding repeating mistakes such as the refusal to talk to Hamas following its election victory in 2006.

However, largely because of the euro crisis, member states have so far failed to deliver much of the “money, markets, mobility” they promised. In terms of money, the EU came up with €5.8 billion of direct funding, and although extra resources were found in creative ways, the bulk of it was in the form of loans through the EIB and the EBRD rather than rapid budget relief, direct aid or debt cancellation. (The British government offered £110 million from an overall development budget of £7.8 billion and many other member states offered even less.) Because of fears of public opinion and the risks of a populist backlash, mobility was reduced to visa facilitation for more students rather than a more broadly targeted opening of Europe’s borders to the south. Although the EU began negotiating deep free trade areas with Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan, the prospect of more open markets also remained distant as southern member states fearing competition continue to oppose liberalization of the agricultural sector.

Supporters of the current approach can claim that many politicians and officials have apologized to people in the region and that the new focus on civil society and conditionality is important to turn away from the previous focus on ruling families. But European leaders have failed to rise to the difficult conceptual challenge of inventing a new long-term relationship with their southern neighbors. For understandable reasons, the EU’s approach to North Africa has to a large extent been shaped by its experiences in Central and Eastern Europe, where it promoted reforms in exchange for market and institutional access to the EU after the revolutions in 1989. Although few people see a direct parallel between 1989 and 2011, the European Commission’s strategy for responding to post-revolutionary North Africa is partly based on a similar approach of exchanging reform for association with the EU – a form of “enlargement-lite”, as accession is clearly not on the cards.

The approach that was enshrined in the ENP – in which the EU signs action plans for reform with the countries on its periphery, monitors their performance and rewards their success with extra money, markets or mobility – could struggle to have an impact in post-revolutionary North Africa. In Central and Eastern Europe, the EU was able to have a dramatic impact for three reasons: first, it was the main economic and political power in the region; second, most of the countries were desperate to adopt EU norms and values as an affirmation of their European identity; and third, the EU’s promise of membership, when it was made, provided them an extra incentive to go through the painful process of transition.

However, none of these conditions apply in the Southern Neighborhood. Firstly, the Middle East and North Africa is now increasingly multipolar and Europe must compete with other players such as China, the GCC and Turkey. These other players may not offer the funds the EU does, and may not care whether the North African states build their democracies or not, but that hardly matters. Secondly, there is little desire from southern Mediterranean countries to adopt European standards. Many of the countries in the region, especially Egypt and Algeria, are fiercely protective of their independence and want to emancipate themselves from foreign and, in particular, Western influence rather than sign up to European norms – which in any case look less appealing since the euro crisis.

Thirdly, and most importantly, against the background of the euro crisis, Europe does not believe it can afford the more generous approach it took in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989. The argument that engagement with North Africa will, in fact, also benefit Europe by giving the EU an economic edge – just as Spain, Portugal and Greece did in the 1980s and Eastern Europe did in the 1990s – has fallen on deaf ears. The focus on “conditionality” could work if the EU were willing to offer big carrots. But making the relatively modest amounts of money offered to North African states dependent on lengthy and sometimes unprioritized action plans – whilst understandable in terms of re-assuring European taxpayers that their money will not be wasted – seems unlikely to change the political calculus of actors in the south. It may therefore be time to review the EU’s approach and develop a foreign policy towards these countries based on achieving a smaller number of political goals rather than placing so much emphasis on regulatory convergence.

“Following from the Front”



Hans Kundnani

Editorial Director, European Council on Foreign Relations

Despite the euro crisis, Europeans did have some foreign-policy successes in 2011. Perhaps most remarkable of all was the military intervention in Libya, which – although it was undertaken by some member states in an ad hoc coalition and then placed under NATO command – was perceived around the world as a European-led war. After all, it was Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron who convinced the Obama administration to undertake the military intervention, which supported Libyan insurgents and effectively enabled them to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power. Some elsewhere in the world were surprised – and impressed – that a continent struggling with a financial crisis was able to respond quickly enough and to maintain an operation that lasted six months. Against the background of what US Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the “demilitarization” of Europe, many doubted that the political will existed any more to mount such a humanitarian intervention.

The split within Europe on Libya – Germany sided with the BRICS countries rather than its Western allies by abstaining on UNSC Resolution 1973, which authorized military action to protect civilians – ruled out the possibility of a CSDP mission (a EUFOR–Libya mission was approved but never activated). In this sense, this episode was a setback for the EU as a foreign-policy actor. However, after the operation was placed under NATO command in early April, no fewer than 11 European countries took an active part, with Belgium, Denmark and Norway making particular contributions. But, in order to wage the war within the constraints of the UN mandate to protect civilians, Europeans still had to rely on US military assets such as refueling, targeting and jamming capabilities. Given the dramatic cuts in defense budgets announced for the next few years, this capability deficit is unlikely to improve and may even get worse.

Thus, although the Libya operation earned the respect of some emerging powers as much as it irritated them, it also highlighted Europe’s limitations. It has been suggested that, by letting Paris and London front the operation, the US “led from behind” in Libya, although the Obama administration rejected the expression. Conversely, it might be said that, because of its divisions and inadequate military capabilities, Europe “followed from the front” – that is, although it committed resources and was on the frontline, it still found itself dependent on the US in a larger geopolitical context in which Washington is trying to shift its focus away from the Middle East and towards the Pacific. Europe’s lack of real strength and influence in the region was highlighted by the inability of Europeans to make a difference on the Middle East peace process – despite having exceptional leverage in 2011 since their vote at the UN was potentially pivotal and Washington was both discredited and boxed in.

Meanwhile, the EU had some surprising successes in the Eastern Neighborhood – above all, Russian accession to the WTO and progress on trade and energy talks with Eastern Partnership countries. But much of the improvement in relations with Russia during the past few years is a result of the US “reset”, of which Europe has been a collateral beneficiary. Despite greater unity than in the past, the EU failed to make progress in other areas – for example, the “partnerships for modernization”, the rule of law, democracy and human rights in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, and the conflict in Transnistria. With the return of Vladimir Putin to the presidency in 2012, Russia may become more of a problem for Europeans. This may also make it more difficult to make progress in the Eastern Neighborhood.

Europeans also had some genuine successes in multilateral institutions of which it can be proud. Europeans and Americans managed to rally majorities of UN member states to censure Libya and Syria, and the G8 was turned into a forum of support for the Arab Awakening, even though announced budgets were not as large as many had hoped. They also supported an assertive UN mandate in Côte d’Ivoire, enforced by French troops, to install the democratically elected president, Alassane Ouattara. The EU took an even clearer leadership role on climate change at the Durban conference in December. While the agreement certainly fell short of EU objectives and disappointed those who wanted more decisive action, the universal commitment to a legally binding deal on climate change by 2015, to take effect starting in 2020, was a victory for EU diplomacy. But declining budgets in development aid and support for multilateral agencies in the near future will weaken both the European reach in the multilateral system and harm the system itself.

Most Successful EU Policies in 2011

Category Unity Resources Outcome Total Grade
13 – Trade liberalisation with Russia 5/5 3/5 8/10 16/20 A-
37 – Relations with the US on Iran and proliferation 4/5 5/5 7/10 16/20 A-
73 – Climate change 5/5 4/5 7/10 16/20 B+
12 – Relations with China on climate change 4/5 4/5 7/10 15/20 B+
38 – Relations with the US on climate 4/5 4/5 7/10 15/20 B+
40 – Rule of law, democracy and human rights in the Western Balkans 4/5 4/5 7/10 15/20 B+
41 – Kosovo 3/5 4/5 8/10 15/20 B+
48 – Relations with the Eastern Neighbourhood on trade and energy 5/5 4/5 6/10 15/20 B+
57 – The Libyan uprising 3/5 5/5 7/10 15/20 B+
71 – European policy on human rights at the UN 3/5 5/5 7/10 15/20 B+
72 – European policy on the ICC and ad hoc tribunals 4/5 4/5 7/10 15/20 B+
78 – West Africa 4/5 4/5 7/10 15/20 B+

Least Successful EU Policies in 2011

Category Unity Resources Outcome Total Grade
06 – Rule of law and human rights in China 2/5 1/5 2/10 5/20 D+
07 – Relations with China and the Dalai Lama on Tibet 2/5 1/5 2/10 5/20 D+
43 – Bilateral relations with Turkey 2/5 2/5 1/10 5/20 D+
45 – Relations with Turkey on the Cyprus question 3/5 1/5 1/10 5/20 D+
16 – Media freedom in Russia 3/5 2/5 1/10 6/20 C-
17 – Stability and human rights in the North Caucasus 4/5 1/5 1/10 6/20 C-
25 – Relations with Russia at the G20 1/5 3/5 2/10 6/20 C-
31 – Relations with the US on NATO, arms control and Russia 2/5 2/5 2/10 6/20 C-
35 – Relations with the US on the Middle East peace process 2/5 2/5 2/10 6/20 C-
52 – Resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute 2/5 2/5 2/10 6/20 C-

Despite individual successes for EU, however, the overall trend in 2011 was towards a renationalization of European foreign policy on the model of the developments that occurred throughout the year around the euro zone crisis. This is particularly problematic because, as many (but not all) member states cut their defense, foreign affairs or development aid budgets, there is a greater need than ever for co-operation. In last year’s Scorecard we described how, instead of the expected shift of power to Brussels following the Lisbon Treaty, there was a shift to the capitals of member states. In 2011, this trend intensified. European foreign policy tends to be most effective when there is an alliance between big countries and small ones. But in 2011 the big member states often went their own way and did little for EU policy.

Throughout 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. France launched a unilateral diplomatic offensive against Turkey on the question of the Armenian genocide, thus further poisoning its relations with Ankara and making EU–Turkey co-operation more difficult. Germany blocked a larger use of the EIB funds for financial aid to the MENA region, thus reducing Europe’s capacity to support the Arab Awakening. Italy under Silvio Berlusconi supported an exemption of the Russian South Stream project from the EU’s Third Energy Package, thereby undermining the Nabucco pipeline designed to increase the diversification of European energy sources.

More generally, European foreign policymaking was dominated by the European Council and what Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has call