All eyes focus on language about Russia in EU Global Strategy

Federica Mogherini at the meeting of the Commissioners' Group on External Action (CGEA). Brussels,18 May. [Commission]

The language on Russia is the most discussed element of the EU Global Strategy, the guide for the European Union’s global actions in the future, which is being prepared by the Union’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, diplomats said today (19 May).

The most important agenda item of the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday (23 May) will be discussed over lunch, when Mogherini will brief the ministers on her draft. Diplomats said they had only seen the 25-page document, but were not given a copy, due to confidentiality concerns.

More than a decade after the 2003 European Security Strategy prepared by Javier Solana, EU leaders tasked Mogherini to prepare an EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy to guide the Union’s global actions in the future. The Global Strategy will be presented to EU leaders at the 28-29 June summit, days after the 23 June referendum of Europe in the UK.

Reportedly, there have been extensive consultations with member states, with parliaments, with think tanks as to what should be in the EU Global strategy. The text to be presented by Mogherini is not a negotiated text. Rather, it is a text drafted by the Commissioner, and her staff.

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However, member states have been given the chance to see the draft as it evolved, in a series of private reading room exercises over the last three weeks.

‘Like in college’

“We have been able like in college or in school to take away some elements,” a diplomat said.

He explained that member states have had the chance to submit observations and comments, but there is no obligation for Mogherini to take those on board. It is unlikely that ministers will see a final draft until the period between the UK referendum on 23 June, and the 28-29 June summit, he added.

The next stage would be for the Council to acknowledge the presentation of the draft and come back to it at some later point. It is still unclear how the further decision-making would take place, and diplomats prefer that the text to be finally adopted via the regular Council formats, including the foreign affairs and the defence ministers.

Unsurprisingly, the draft includes a clear restatement of the importance of mainstreaming human rights, on the UN and the multilateral system and the EU’s role in upholding the rules-based system, disarmament, issues of priority in the Middle East peace process, etc.

“Some of the more sensitive areas for member states include the language on Russia,” a diplomat said. For his country, which is a small Western nation, the text doesn’t pose problems, but he explained that some countries saw the resolutions on Russia as being weak, while others wanted them softened.

“All of us have interest in [the text on Russia], but for some, it is particularly sensitive,” the diplomat said. He added that for his country, the present text represented a good balance between being clear on principles, while also recognising that engagement with Russia is important in areas are important for the EU.

The aim of the EU Global Strategy is that the Union be better equipped with a follow-up mechanism, particularly on the security and defence aspects.

“It will help prevent roll-back in areas where we have agreed positions,” the diplomat said.

It is expected that on Monday, everything will become clearer. The assumption is that Mogherini’s final text will be published during the 28-29 June summit, but not before that.

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