Andrey Kulikov
Editor at Europe Insight

“Our Union is under threat”

The EU presented its Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy

Imagine someone familiar to you is knocking at your door. This person may not be your best friend but is certainly no stranger. You unlock the bolts, swinging open the door, and he announces, standing at the threshold, that his life is in danger – that he is dying.

“Not surprising,” you have time to think, tensing. “Various troubles have been pursuing him as of late.” “Refugees, the economy, the Russians or the British,” you muse, trying to guess his peril. You remain under the impression of his initial utterance; you start thinking of how to help him.

But he is already hurriedly explaining that he has, in fact, come to help you, that he stands before you because he has values, democracy and prosperity in tow. “I know,” he says confidently and in a confidential tone, “that you have problems with economic growth, terrorism, violence and much more.” Then he continues on about how now these problems can be faced together.

You feel bewildered. You look at this person’s face radiating a broad, congenial smile. You are drawn towards it, and you agree that there are indeed problems … and that of course it would be better to tackle them together. But then you look into his eyes and see in them no confidence in the future, only fear. And his first words return again to your mind.

You mutter something in response. And your acquaintance accepts this joyfully, hugs you precipitously, and then rapidly moves away from the door. Within no time at all, you hear him knocking at the all neighbours’ doors, one after another, and uttering that strange phrase about how his life is in danger, though now it sounds to you like a warning.

When you read strategies, conceptions and doctrines, you always want to see in the words a new, main idea, to make out a new course. These types of documents “think” in broad categories. They are foundational and prosaic. In them the important thing is not specific steps but rather the form of the thought expressed – a structured and systemic analysis of the present accompanied by some contours imagined for the future.

These documents are usually devoid of emotion. Their force is in the hammered out phrases and methodicalness of resolute assertions. There should be a triumphant movement from point A (right now) to point B (the future) laid out on paper.

“Development”, “achievement”, “a guarantee”…

Such documents must not simply relieve the reader of any doubts. They must inspire him with confidence that the path set forth in it, the path from which there must be no deviation, a path just and correct, is bound to produce a positive outcome.

Thus a strategy, concept and doctrine is also a promise. It is a message addressed to an intended audience.

“A Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy”, published by the European Union in late June, by its very title claims the entire population of the world as its audience. Promotion of its interests, values, democracy and prosperity are seen by the EU as its foreign policy goal. And security is the most important theme running through the entire document.

This is predictable. The surprising thing is this: there are, at its very outset, all manner of repeated statements regarding the European Union being in a state of crisis: “our Union is under threat”, “the purpose, even existence, of our Union is being questioned”, “we live in a time of existential crisis”.

These are not new words. They have been uttered by politicians in various and diverse statements over the course of the past several months. Now, however, they have suddenly formed the whole basis of a strategic document. All of these epithets, taken from speeches, are in a strategy so more than a mere description of the contemporary situation. In principle, they are more than what such a document requires. They are the product of the self-reflection of the European bureaucracy, an impression of the world inadvertently ending up in the publication. Most importantly, they are emotions that set the tone for the perception of the multitudinous threats existing in various parts of the world and consequently described throughout the entire strategy.

And if the authors saw the analytic message of the document to be in calling for a unification of forces, then its emotional message is anything but the encapsulation of triumph and determination. It is fear.

Of course, justification can also be found for such an element. If it were an EU domestic security policy, it would be, most likely, a successful way to mobilise public opinion. However, the problem lies in the fact that such an emotional message is contained in a global strategy for foreign policy. In other words, the European Union will be guided into its future by fear for its existence while building relations with countries and regions. It is difficult to believe such an approach will be successful, and it is hard to imagine that everyone will accept it as a call for unification instead of a warning of impending doom.

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