The work of Europe’s foreign affairs chief is "crucial to making the EU a strong global player", Federica Mogherini tells the Parliament Magazine. Italy’s former foreign minister has arrived in one of the most desired, high level posts within the EU at a key moment for Europe and its neighbours and Mogherini knows it. "I am responsible for steering the EU’s common foreign and security policy," she says, adding that this entails "developing initiatives to tackle the most important global challenges before us."
For Mogherini, her work and the work of the European external action service (EAS) will be guided by three priorities over the coming years. "First" she says, "we are committed to working on tackling the crises in our immediate neighbourhood, to the east as well as the south. This is our responsibility as a good neighbour and as a union that is committed to upholding peace, human dignity, social equity and the rule of law.
The Italian official’s second priority "will be to work with partners around the world, both with individual countries that have a strategic importance for us, as well as with regional organisations". This is particularly important, stresses Mogherini, because, "The challenges we face today require a collective effort." "Based on its experience of building consensus out of its own internal diversity, the EU is ideally suited to manage the current complex challenges we face. In this effort we will also continue to work through the UN towards a global order based on effective multilateralism."
"Based on its experience of building consensus out of its own internal diversity, the EU is ideally suited to manage the current complex challenges we face"
"The final priority," she says, "is a new strategy for the EU’s foreign and security policy. In foreign policy the agenda is often set by unforeseen events and rapid crisis reaction. We have demonstrated that we can react rapidly and in a united manner to such events. At the same time we also need to take the time to look ahead and think strategically about the issues that will shape the global context for the coming decades." In June, Mogherini presents an "assessment of global security" to EU heads of state and government. "This will be an opportunity to have a new strategy for the EU’s foreign and security policy," she says.
Mogherini was also keen to emphasise her organisational role within the commission, saying, "As a vice president I am responsible for coordinating all elements of the EU’s external relations". She also adds that she has made it clear to MEPs in her parliamentary hearing that her "aim is to shape a real common policy for the EU", stressing that she chairs monthly meetings of all commissioners with an external portfolio, such as "trade, development, humanitarian aid, neighbourhood policy but also energy and climate, migration, to ensure the coherence of the EU as a global actor".
A former Italian parliamentarian, Mogherini also stresses the importance of interinstitutional cooperation, saying, "I consider my relationship with the European parliament an essential and integral part of my work. I am accountable to parliament and believe we need to work together in a spirit of partnership and cooperation.
The EAS is a 'service' and as such it serves the EU and its institutions. It is in our mutual interest, and most of all in the interest of our citizens, to build a strong and coherent European foreign and security policy. I pay special attention to the views of MEPs on some of the big challenges ahead, including the review of the security and foreign policy strategy, the upcoming June European council on defence, the future of the European neighbourhood policy as well as our negotiations on a post-2015 development package and on climate change. I expect that parliament will continue to push for a strong EU that delivers for its citizens. I hope I will find fresh ideas and good advice."
"We are not facing a fight between Islam and Europe, or the west. We are facing a terrorist threat against everyone, and that’s why we need to build an alliance of our societies to fight against it"
With questions over the EU’s potential response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks and concerns over Islamic extremism, Mogherini says, "The recent attacks in Paris have been a vivid reminder that developments around the world can affect our daily lives in the most violent way. We are committed to countering terrorism and extremism to keep our citizens safe. We share this commitment with partners around the globe. Terrorism and extremism affects us all, and we should not forget that Arab countries are the first victims of it."
The high representative, however, says she has repeatedly made it clear that "we are not facing a fight between Islam and Europe, or the west. We are facing a terrorist threat against everyone, and that’s why we need to build an alliance of our societies to fight against it. I strongly believe in cultural dialogue, which is why I also decided to reinforce our capacity to communicate with Arab speaking people and countries."
"Our work on counter terrorism and fighting extremism is an essential part of our cooperation with key strategic partners around the globe as well as with regional institutions such as the Arab League, the African Union, ASEAN and others. In today’s world, the distinction between internal and external policies has become increasingly blurred. So we work not just across geographical boundaries, we also work across policy areas, most notably with interior ministers on tackling terrorism and violent extremism of any kind.
Mogherini concludes with a rallying call and statement of intent. "My aim," she says, "is that at the end of my five years in office we will not speak about ‘us’ and ‘them’ in the different EU institutions, but only of ‘us, the European Union’."