European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2013

Justin Vaïsse, Susi Dennison, and Hans Kundnani

europe foreign policy 2013 report cover imageThe European Foreign Policy Scorecard is an in-depth annual assessment of the performance of EU member states and EU institutions in meeting foreign policy challenges and promoting European interests, ideas and ideals abroad. Published by the European Council of Foreign Relations and led by Brookings Senior Fellow Justin Vaisse and ECFR fellows Susi Dennison and Hans Kundnani, the Scorecard is the result of the collective work of more than 35 researchers. It is divided in six chapters: relations with China, Russia, the US, Wider Europe, Middle East/North Africa, and performance in multilateral issues and crisis management. Within these geographic and functional areas, European performance is evaluated on 79 specific foreign policy issues. The authors ask three basic questions to assign a grade. Two are about policies (Were Europeans united around clear objectives, and did they devote adequate resources to meeting these objectives?) and one is about results (Did the outcome conform to the objectives?).

The 2013 edition of the Scorecard examines the implications of issues such as:

• The continuing euro crisis and efforts to contain it;

• The sustained leadership of the UK in many policy fields, despite emergence of strong eurosceptic sentiments in Britain and the distinct possibility of a “Brexit”;

• The less dynamic Franco-German motor;

• And the increasing efforts by smaller member states to contribute to the common efforts.

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In the introduction to the first edition of the Scorecard, we wrote that in 2010 Europe had been distracted by the euro crisis. In the introduction to the second edition, we wrote that in 2011 Europe had been diminished by the crisis. By the end of 2012, the crisis had become less acute but still not been solved – far from it. In fact, for the third year in a row, European leaders continued to devote more time to worrying about Europe’s financial health than its geopolitical role. Europe’s image and soft power continued to fade around the world (though this is difficult to quantify), while its resources for defence and international affairs kept eroding. But European foreign policy did not unravel in 2012. In fact, the EU managed to preserve the essence of its acquis diplomatique as the EEAS, which did not even exist two years earlier, continued to develop and consolidate its role.

The Scorecard’s granular assessment of European foreign-policy performance in 2012 shows timid signs of stabilisation and resilience. Across the range of issues that the Scorecard assesses, Europeans generally performed better than the previous year (see Figure 1). Europe improved its score in relation to Russia (from C+ to B-) and to China (from C to C+), and continued to perform solidly in other areas (United States (B-) and Multilateral issues (B), and adequately in the Wider Europe (C+) and the Middle East and North Africa (C+). Thus, although the EU had no high-profile successes comparable to the military intervention in Libya in 2011, it put in a respectable performance in its external relations – especially given the deep crisis with which it continued to struggle. In particular, it seemed to perform better when it continued to implement policies for which the foundations had been laid in previous years.

Figure 1: European Performance on the six issues in 2012



Hans Kundnani

Editorial Director, European Council on Foreign Relations

Relations with China 9.7 C+ 8.5 C 9 C+
Relations with Russia 11 B- 10 C+ 9.5 C+
Relations with the US 11.7 B- 11 B- 11 B-
Relations with Wider Europe 10.3 C+ 9.5 C+ 9.5 C+
Relations with the Middle East and North Africa 10.3 C+ 10 C+
Multilateral issues and crisis management 12.6 B 13 B 14/11 B+ (Multilateral issues) /B- (crisis management)

Clearly, whether the EU can turn a positive year against the odds into an upward trend in foreign-policy performance will depend to a large extent on whether it can overcome the crisis and restore growth and therefore increase its economic power. In that sense, European leaders are right to focus on solving the crisis even at the expense of a focus on foreign-policy issues. But it will also depend on whether Europeans can overcome their internal divisions and improve coordination and coherence in foreign policy. In particular, it will depend on whether Europe can turn the EEAS into an effective diplomatic service as envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty that is able to convert the EU’s huge resources into power.

The eurozone, the EU, and the neighbourhood

In 2012, the eurozone was stabilised. In June, following an inconclusive election a month earlier, the Greek people elected Antonis Samaras as prime minister. Mario Draghi showed bold leadership after he succeeded Jean-Claude Trichet as ECB president at the end of 2011. The new Long-Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO) programme he launched as soon as he took over – in effect, an injection of liquidity to European banks – went a long way to reassuring markets about their solvency. The Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme he initiated in the summer – a promise by the ECB to step in and buy unlimited quantities of certain bonds on the secondary market – turned the ECB into the kind of lender of last resort for which many in Europe and beyond had been calling. In late June, European leaders also agreed on the creation of a banking union, which they confirmed in December – a further positive step in guaranteeing European banks. Thus the crisis became less acute in the second half of 2012 than it was in 2011.

However, while positive, these steps taken in 2012 do not yet go far enough to solve the crisis. As the crisis became less acute, European leaders – including German Chancellor Angela Merkel – seemed to become less determined to create a genuine economic and political union and even watered down proposals for a banking union. Moreover, it is not clear that even the limited steps that the eurozone has taken are sustainable. In particular, while OMT was seen as a breakthrough by many in Europe and elsewhere in the world, it was seen as a defeat in Germany. Since the June summit, there has been a backlash, expressed most powerfully by Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, who even implicitly compared Draghi to the devil in a remarkable speech in Frankfurt in September. Germany may now have reached the limits of debt mutualisation under its existing constitution. In order to move further towards economic and political union, as the eurozone must, a referendum may be needed in Germany as well as in other member states. The steps taken in 2012 to stabilise the euro crisis may therefore have produced a temporary respite, with further turmoil to come, rather than a lasting solution to the crisis.

Furthermore, in the process of stabilising the eurozone in 2012, the EU itself now faces difficult questions. A three-tier Europe consisting of the inner core of the eurozone, pre-ins such as Poland, and outs such as the UK is emerging from the crisis. This raises huge institutional questions for the EU, which may take years and require treaty change to resolve, though European leaders are understandably reluctant to create the further uncertainty that would involve. In addition, a British withdrawal from the EU looks increasingly possible. If 2011 was the year of the “German question” – that is, the debate about Germany’s role in and commitment to the EU – 2012 was the year that the “British question” emerged. Whether or not the UK decides to leave the EU – a step that we think would be disastrous for both Britain itself and for the EU as a whole – the emergence of a three-tier Europe will have huge consequences for the single market and for European foreign policy.

Meanwhile, as Europe struggled with these complex problems, its neighbourhood also remained challenging in 2012. Though an Israeli military strike against Iran did not materialise ahead of the US presidential election in November, there remains the possibility of such a strike in 2013. The conflict in Syria became the focal point of a broader regional struggle for influence along a sectarian Shia–Sunni faultline. In November, as tensions with Gaza increased, Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defence. Meanwhile, the transitions in post-revolutionary North Africa remained fragile and renewed protests late in the year in Egypt forced President Mohammed Morsi to annul a decree granting himself new powers ahead of a constitutional vote. Although enlargement continued as Croatia was set to become the twenty-eighth member of the EU and Serbia became a candidate, the environment in Europe’s eastern neighbourhood was difficult, especially in the Western Balkans.

A surprisingly good year

However, against this background of a challenging internal and external environment, Europe performed surprisingly well in its foreign policy in 2012. Russia was a case in point. Relations with Moscow deteriorated, but Europe’s unity and the coherence of its policies towards Russia improved. The EU did not depart from its cooperative attitude, having been instrumental in getting Russia into the WTO, which it formally joined in August. But it was more attentive to protecting its interests and norms, and more assertive – threatening, for example, to use the WTO dispute-settlement system when Moscow announced new protectionist measures in late 2012. The European Commission launched an antitrust probe against Gazprom, while continuing to orchestrate efforts at enhancing gas interconnections so as to decrease Europe’s energy dependency on Moscow. Europeans did not shy away from criticising human-rights abuses during the crackdown on demonstrations that accompanied the election season and the re-election of Vladimir Putin as president in March.

There were also signs of modest improvement in relations with China, even though unity among member states continued to be in short supply, thereby undermining European leverage. Germany, which accounts for nearly half of European exports to China, seemed at times to speak for Europe in China. But even if Berlin does not want to replace the EU, its voice is naturally louder than others, and Beijing has become adept at cultivating it. In some respects, Germany was a leader on China in 2012, but Merkel also undermined the European Commission when it launched an anti-dumping case against Chinese solar-panel manufacturers. Still, Europeans in general became more assertive overall in their trade disputes with Beijing and in their criticism of human-rights violations. The panicked approach of 2011, when Europe was both hoping for and fearing massive Chinese investment in the continent to relieve the euro crisis, was replaced by a more restrained and balanced relationship.

Europeans also slightly improved their performance on the United States, especially in their cooperation with Washington on regional and global issues, which helped them further their own goals while having the US respect their red lines – for example, in sanctions on Iran. Finally, the only issue on which Europe performed worse in 2012 than in 2011 was multilateral issues and crisis management (the overall score out of 20 went down from 13 to 12.5, or a B). New CSDP missions were launched – something that had not happened in the last two years – and European policy towards Somalia grew more coherent. But the EU was rebuffed by Russia and China in the UNSC with two vetoes on Syria and by the United States on the arms-trade treaty; they failed to make an impact on the UN vote on Palestine; and the G20 was still dominated by the euro crisis as in 2011.

In the eastern neighbourhood, European performance was mixed. Europeans continued to struggle in the Western Balkans in 2012 (B, the same grade as in 2011), with political instability and economic difficulties from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Serbia and Montenegro, although the EEAS managed to make good progress on relations between Serbia and Kosovo. The EU also got mixed results in the Eastern Partnership countries (C+). Its results were good in Moldova, and to some extent in Georgia, and it had a firm, coherent approach towards Belarus, but Europeans struggled to pursue a united approach to Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Lastly, Europeans continued to struggle on Turkey (C), with a muddled situation on bilateral relations and frustrating developments on foreign policy.

Europe’s southern neighbourhood was dominated by the conflict in Syria. Europeans could not break the frustrating diplomatic gridlock or prevent the bloody tragedy that worsened as the year went on. Europe’s overall performance in the region remained fairly constant (the overall score was 10.1 last year and 10.3 this year, or a C+). Member states were generally united in their initiatives towards Iran and North Africa but, beset by the economic crisis, they couldn’t move beyond limited programmatic support to the transitions and struggled to make a positive political impact with governments and to construct collective relations with newly politically engaged parts of society in the region. They were still split on the Israeli–Palestinian issue, though to a lesser degree than in previous years, as demonstrated by the November UNGA vote on upgrading Palestinian membership.

We gave Europe four A grades – the same number as last year – for its performance on specific components of European foreign policy (see Figure 2). Overall, it appears that, where the EU made progress in 2012 – in particular, in regions such as China and Russia, on enlargement in its neighbourhood, and on the E3+3 process with Iran – it was where a policy had been developed in previous years and member states worked together with the EU institutions to implement it. In these cases, there was less need for innovation than in some other cases such as Syria, but a strong demand for member-state unity behind a pre-agreed strategy. On these types of areas, the euro crisis did not seem to undermine European performance.

Figure 2: Most successful policies in 2012

37 – Relations with the US on Iran and weapons proliferation 4 5 8 17 A-
35 – Relations with the US on the Syrian conflict 4 4 8 16 A-
41 – Kosovo 4 4 8 16 A-
48 – Relations with the Eastern Neighbourhood on trade 4 5 7 16 A-
12 – Relations with China on climate change 4 5 6 15 B+
27 – Relations with the US on trade and investment 4 4 7 15 B+
55 – Tunisia 4 4 7 15 B+
69 – European policy on human rights at the UN 4 4 7 15 B+
74– Drought in the Sahel 4 4 7 15 B+
78 – Somalia 4 4 7 15 B+
13 – Trade liberalisation with Russia 5 4 5 14 B+
33 – Relations with the US on the Arab transitions 4 4 6 14 B+
39 – Overall progress of enlargement in the Western Balkans 4 4 6 14 B+
60 – Lebanon 4 3 7 14 B+
70 – European policy on the ICC and international tribunals 4 3 7 14 B+

Figure 3: Least successful policies in 2012

54 – Security sector reform 2 1 2 5 D+
11 – Relations with China on reforming global governance 2 2 2 6 C-
7 – Relations with China on the Dalai Lama and Tibet 2 3 2 7 C-
26– Reciprocity on visa procedures with the US 2 2 3 7 C-
34 – Relations with the US on the Middle East Peace Process 2 3 2 7 C-
43 – Bilateral relations with Turkey 3 2 2 7 C-
44 – Rule of law, democracy, and human rights in Turkey 3 2 2 7 C-
45 – Relations with Turkey on the Cyprus question 3 2 2 7 C-
58 – Algeria and Morocco 2 2 3 7 C-
66 – UN reform 2 2 3 7 C-

Figure 4: European performance on cross-cutting themes

Trade liberalisation, standards and norms – “low politics” 14 B+ 12.5 B 13 B
Iran and proliferation 13 B 13 B 16 A-
Energy policy 12.5 B 12 B- 10 C+
Relations with Asia 12.5 B N/A N/A
Climate change 12 B 14 B+ 12 B-
Balkans 12 B- 13 B 12 B-
Afghanistan 12 B- 10 C+ 10 C+
Issues of war and peace – “high politics” 12 B- 11 B- 11 B-
Arab transitions 11 B- 12 B- N/A
Visa policy 10 C+ 10 C+ 12 B-
Euro crisis 10 C+ 8.5 C N/A
Israel/Palestine 10 C+ 8.5 C 9 C+
Protracted conflicts 9.5 C+ 8 C 10 C+
Human rights 9 C+ 9 C+ 8 C
Relations with Turkey 8 C N/A N/A

An analysis of European performance on “cross-cutting themes” (see Figure 4) illustrates the type of issues on which Europeans did well in 2012 and those on which they did less well. It appears that Europeans tended to do well in those components of foreign policy in which the EEAS or the European Commission plays a strong coordinating role, for example on trade issues, in negotiations with Iran, and in the Balkans. However, this pattern should not be overstated: Europeans also performed relatively well in 2012 on components relating to the euro crisis and Afghanistan – issues on which member states are to a large extent in the lead.

The big three and “coalitions of the willing”

In the last edition of the Scorecard, we identified a trend towards the “renationalisation” of European foreign policy in 2011. Perhaps the most striking finding in our categorisation of member states in 2012 was the drop in the leadership by the big three: Germany, France, and the UK. In 2011, Germany led Europe in 19 components of European foreign policy, France in 18, and the UK in 17. In 2012, Germany led only 12 times, and France and the UK 11 times (see Figure 5). In 2011, Sweden also emerged as one of the most frequent leaders in European foreign policy, particularly on multilateral issues and crisis management. Although in 2012 it led on 10 components of European foreign policy compared to 11 in 2011, this time that made it almost as much of a leader as the big three. Like France and Germany, Sweden was categorised as a leader in at least one aspect of each of the chapters of the Scorecard, which indicates that it is engaged across the spectrum of European foreign policy and not simply in regions of specific interest. The Netherlands also punched above its weight.

Figure 5: “Leaders” and “slackers” among EU member states

Germany (on 12 components) Greece (on 5 components)
France (11) Latvia (5)
United Kingdom (11) Romania (5)
Sweden (10) Spain (5)
Netherlands (8) Lithuania (4)
Poland (5) Portugal (4)
Czech Republic (4) Cyprus (3)
Denmark (4) Slovenia (3)