Europe, which has seen itself at the vanguard of adapting to the limits of state power in a globalized world, now faces concurrent threats to its security from the East and the South. How can and should it respond?



Carl Bildt

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden (2006-14); Prime Minister of Sweden (1991 – 94)


Carl Bildt has served as both Prime Minister (1991–94) and Foreign Minister (2006–14) of Sweden, initiating major liberal economic reforms and negotiating membership of the European Union. He has subsequently held international offices at the EU and UN, primarily related to the conflict in the Balkans. He was Co-Chairman of the Dayton peace talks on Bosnia and became the first High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and later UN Special Envoy to the region. Carl Bildt was an early advocate of the new ICT technologies. His email exchange with President Bill Clinton in 1994 was the first between heads of state. After stepping down as leader of the Moderate Party in 1999 he served on corporate boards in Sweden and the US and several international think-tanks. Returning as Foreign Minister in 2006, he was one of the initiators of the EU’s Eastern Partnership.

Heather Grabbe

Director, Open Society European Policy Institute


Dr Heather Grabbe is Director of the Open Society European Policy Institute, the EU policy arm of the Open Society Foundations established by George Soros. She was previously Senior Adviser to the then European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn (2004–09), covering the Balkans and Turkey, and Deputy Director of the think-tank the Centre for European Reform. She has taught at the London School of Economics. Her publications include Can the EU Survive Populism? (with Stefan Lehne, 2016) and The EU's Transformative Power: Europeanization through Conditionality in Central and Eastern Europe (2006).

Video highlight


‘We have three major issues that we’re dealing with in Europe at the moment: we have Putinism in the east, we have jihadism in the south, and we have populism at home.’

Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister, Sweden (2006-14); Prime Minister of Sweden (1991 – 94)

Key discussion points

The contribution of the European Union to stability is now challenged by an ‘arc of instability’. This comes as a result of two external crises - Russia’s involvement in Ukraine to the east, and the flow of migrants from North Africa to the south - and populist opposition at home. All three are threats to Europe’s normative power.

The EU missed its chance to develop a strategy to stabilize the Mediterranean. Partly due to ongoing internal crises, the EU failed to develop a strategic response to the Arab Spring, and exacerbated the situation by failing to plan for the long term following the NATO intervention in Libya. As internal issues further divide the EU, it is now in no position to establish consensus on dealing with the refugee crisis. Thus North Africa is now looking to develop security partnerships with other regions, including South America.

The EU can harness differences between member states to respond to crises. In the absence of a grand consensus, different groupings and individual member states can tackle portions of the problem on a case-by-case basis, such as helping North Africa to address the root causes of the refugee crisis – security, weak economies and unemployment.

Extremism is both an internal and external threat. While weak states and poverty are helping to fuel extremism in North Africa, social policies in Europe that lead to exclusion and marginalization are just as much a factor. Many of those radicalized in Europe are descendants of migrants that European countries failed to integrate.

Session video