In today’s rapidly-changing world, the European Union needs to position itself so that we can quickly respond to new challenges. Multilateralism and collective action have naturally been the first responses in the quest for mutual benefit and stability. Universal rules and values are either being called into question or taken advantage of. At the same time, new political forces try to realise their own global and regional ambitions. The full scale of the strategic implications and geopolitical consequences remains hard to predict.
Many foreign affairs issues that will be discussed over the coming years are yet to be known. Geographically, I have identified nine foreign policy priorities for our Foreign Affairs Committee: the Western Balkans, the Eastern Partnership, Transatlantic relations, China, Russia, the Middle East, Africa, the Arctic and, last but not least, the relations with the United Kingdom after Brexit.
The Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) will continue to promote multilateralism and a global rules-based order founded on international law. Three challenges are therefore crucial. First, the Committee will remain an important pillar in making our Common Foreign and Security Policy more effective. The EU’s capacity to act autonomously in areas of security and defence has to be strengthened.
Second, fostering the European Parliament’s diplomacy role. For years, MEPs have played a prominent role in parliamentary diplomacy, including in mediation, conflict prevention and dialogue processes.
Third, the AFET Committee has been a fully-fledged co-legislator on the EU’s external financing instruments. It is also playing an increasing role in their oversight and scrutiny.
"For years, MEPs have played a prominent role in parliamentary diplomacy, including in mediation, conflict prevention and dialogue processes"
The new term will be a decisive moment for Parliament to reinforce this role. The Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) will provide a new set of tools for foreign affairs that will determine how EU assistance to third countries will be shaped. According to the latest Eurobarometer analysis, more than three-quarters of Europeans support a common defence and security policy among Member States.
In this area, the European Union has made major progress in recent years. Even though security and defence matters remain largely in the hands of Member States, the EU has been playing an increasingly important role in streamlining national efforts and coordinating defence policies with our partners and NATO.
The borderless nature of security threats, the current fragmentation of defence markets, the lack of interoperability and deficient cost-effectiveness are some of the key elements pushing Europe towards a more efficient use of resources and greater coordination of national efforts. I call for a genuine Defence Union to be established by 2025.
"The EU has been playing an increasingly important role in streamlining national efforts and coordinating defence policies with our partners and NATO"
As far as EU-US relations are concerned, I believe this is a partnership based on strong political, cultural, economic and historic links, as well as the promotion of shared values and common goals. However, this partnership has been facing a number of challenges and disruptions lately, including the Middle East, climate change, and the disengagement of the US in multilateral agreements and trade issues.
The European Parliament has stressed the importance for the EU and the US to continue jointly addressing global challenges and regional conflicts based on the principles of international law. We have also highlighted the importance of fostering links across the Atlantic to promote the merits and importance of the transatlantic partnership at different levels.
In the years to come, both sides should work closely together to strengthen the transatlantic alliance. The European Union is a global payer, but not yet a global player. The EU’s foreign policy has to become stronger, united, effective, proactive and more strategic. The EU can only deliver its full potential when speaking and acting with one voice.
Therefore, qualified majority voting in the Council would make our foreign and security policy more effective and speed up the decision-making process. In my opinion, new formats such as an EU Security Council and new alliances with like-minded partners would be a way to strengthen Europe’s role in the world.