Project: Europe Programme

Academy Associate

The EU’s crisis of intergovernmental governance has complicated the calculations of national interest that have always played the prime role in European foreign policy.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on board the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, in Italy on 22 August 2016. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/Staff/Getty Images.Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on board the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, 22 August 2016. Photo: Getty Images.

Summary

  • The three major crises the EU has faced since 2009 – concerning the euro, migration and Brexit – reflect a broader crisis of its intergovernmental governance. Governance limitations, along with fast-changing international and regional conditions, have complicated the conduct of EU foreign policy and made it largely ineffective in responding to external challenges and engaging effectively in its neighbourhood.
  • There are a number of negative spillover effects of this crisis of governance: a disproportionate focus in the European Council and among political elites on internal EU matters to the detriment of political attention to external foreign policy issues; a more challenging political and public opinion environment that opposes greater involvement abroad; constrained resources for international engagement; and commercialization of national foreign policies.
  • These difficulties are compounded by a stronger focus on immediate respective national goals and a decrease of trust between states. Member states still value the EU as an amplifier of national capabilities, but more on a case-by-case or ad hoc basis.
  • As a response to these developments, the EU must adapt its foreign policymaking processes. It must find ways to integrate long-term strategic debates into European Council deliberations and build on the expertise that its expanded and variegated membership has to offer.
  • It should also clarify the division of labour between the European External Action Service and the European Council, with the former acting as its main diplomatic operator and the latter as the prime locus of political authority.
  • Following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, new ways must also be considered to keep the country engaged on foreign policy issues.