Lamy: Declustering policies will alleviate tensions with the EU’s neighbours

Changing geopolitics in Europe’s neighbourhood, to the east and in the south, call for a further declustering of a number of policies, going beyond bilateral trade agreements and security measures, Pascal Lamy, former Commissioner and WTO chief told

A first step would be to fully hand over the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy to Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,  said Lamy.

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), in fact, has to deal with a number of pitfalls of an international institutional system, which, unlike the EU, is not rule-based. It is therefore questionable if the European Commission can successfully handle the dossier as the competences for foreign affairs are shared with member states. According to Lamy, neighbourhood policy is part of foreign policy.

Pascal Lamy is former Commissioner for Trade, and former chief of the World Trade Organization. He is currently president emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institute.

Lamy spoke to EURACTIV’s Editor-in-Chief, Daniela Vincenti, at the Bertelsmann Foundation’s 2016 Trilogue Salzburg.

Europe is under pressure—internally with Brexit, and externally, with migration, and now Turkey. Some US media point to the end of Europe. Should we worry?

I don’t think we should be worried about the end of Europe. We should be worried that the European Union construction has slowed in the last 10 years and will keep slowing if public opinion support remains as low as it is today.

Notre Europe Jacques Delors Institute recently published a very interesting study on European public opinion in face of the crisis between 2005‐2015. What came out is interesting. If the question was: Do you think belonging to the Union is good: the answer was ‘Yes’ at 60% throughout the full period. If the question is: (Do) you trust the Union to cope with the problems in the future, the support dropped from 60 to 30%.

The main reason for the drop is the notion that the EU is incapable of providing security at its borders. That relates to immigration, Syria, Russia, terrorism. However you look at it, the number one objective of EU foreign policy, which is to ensure stability and security at our borders, has not been fulfilled.

Whether we like it or not, this is what public perception tells us. Redressing this will have  huge importance for whether or not the European construction process recuperates what it has lost during those years.

As long as Europe will not be fit to properly manage its neighbourhood, support for European construction will remain low, because people are expecting from Europe prosperity, stability and security.

For the last ten years, prosperity  has been very low because of the economic crisis. For stability and security, if you are looking both east and south, Europe has not delivered.

When you say properly managing its neighbourhood, what are you thinking?

I am thinking of Europe as a group of countries providing the necessary stability and security at its borders.

Are you hinting at the fact that the deal with Turkey did not deliver? Wasn’t there a mistake there in assuming that burden sharing could be reached without setting a framework for power sharing?

I don’t dispute that. Everyone knows that in foreign policy, burden sharing and power sharing have a lot to do with one another. I can understand why Turkey, which is a growing middle-sized power, wants to be recognised as such, in the same way that Iran (used its) nuclear (capability)  for one very purpose –  to be recognised as a regional power.

Iran is a major regional power, Turkey is a major regional power and Saudi Arabia remains a major regional power. As long as these powers do not enter into a new understanding in their region, the situation will not improve.

Entering a new understanding means there is a case to reform international governance and institutions?

International institutions depend on agreements between states. The EU is a totally different concept. It is not about cooperation. It is about integration. Political union and an integrated economic area is totally different from a free‐trade area or a system like the UN or WTO or WHO, or the ILO. The fundamental question for the future is whether creating an integrated EU remains a valid option both for Europeans, and for the rest of the world.

My answer to that is yes, because I keep traveling all over this planet and I keep observing that people still have a positive view of what Europe represents in terms of values.

The big challenge for the Europeans in the future is, knowing that our economic weight will decline like the United States and Japan, whether our ideological market share can be maintained. That is the core issue.

It is a question of values.

Precisely, but it seems that the review of the neighbourhood policy has signalled a departure from the initial ‘more for more’ principle – granting closer economic cooperation in return for democratic reform – and is now going for security cooperation. That’s much less idealistic and values­-oriented, isn’t it?

Of course, because we have to. Of course, it is creating tension, but it is unavoidable. If we leave European public opinion with the view that there is nothing to do, the extreme right will keep climbing in polls, which is what happened during the last 10 years.

Not that they are right. They don’t have a better solution than the one we have to our problems. If we don’t cope with those problems, if we keep a large part of public opinion with the belief that there is nothing we can do except building walls, then these people will keep gaining political power and driving the political agenda.

Experts mentioned a variety of tools that could be used to strengthen neighbourhood policies. One that seems to be coming back is to stop working in silos – ­education, development, trade or security – but have a more integrated policy towards neighbours. Do you think the Commission is keen to move in that direction when it comes to ENP?

We are still probably working too much in silos. But it is not only a question of the European Commission. It is also a question for business and civil society.

One of the most encouraging things we have heard in the Trilogue discussion this year is what some businesses are doing both domestically and externally. Civil society also needs to be engaged.

In the organisation of the European Commission, we probably need more declustering. Less silos, and a stronger partnership with the private sector and civil society.

The suggestion of a Commission cohesive task force on neighbourhood makes sense.

The Juncker Commission set up was to create task forces and clusters. Is that not working?

There are people who believe that these are not strong enough. In the paper [Bertelsmann Foundation Trilogue Salzburg recommendations] there is the notion that it should be on the side of Mogherini.

Giving the coordination of the neighbourhood declustering to Mogherini is no silver bullet, but certainly an option to consider. Neighbourhood policy is part of foreign policy.

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