In a three-hour hearing in the European Parliament, Italy’s Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative-designate in charge of Foreign affairs and Security Policy, seems to have convinced MEPs that the Union needs a mix of hard and soft power, to lead in world affairs.
“We are living in very difficult times,” Mogherini said, mentioning casualties not only in Ukraine, but also pointing to the Ebola crisis, and the huge influx of migrants from countries such as Syria and Iraq.
The 41-year old Italian Foreign Minister conceded that the EU cannot afford to choose between the East and South. “We have to pay to pay attention to both for the sake our people’s security,” she said.
“We are one community. If a threat is perceived in one member state, it is a threat for all the others,” she insisted, winking at those Eastern European countries that criticised her nomination last August because of her lack of experience, especially in dealing with Moscow.
The balancing act with the ‘bear’
Being tested on her ability to face the ‘Russian bear,’ as UK MEP Richard Howitt put it, Mogherini showed leadership, contending that Europe needed a mix of assertiveness and diplomacy.
“The balance would also depend on the reaction of the [Russian] bear,” she insisted, adding that even though Russia could not be seen as a strategic partner anymore, Moscow was nonetheless a strategic country and neighbor.
Mogherini said she believed the EU had to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. EU sanctions against Russia have been effective from an economic point of view, she added.
“So if the question is, have the choices we have made so far been effective on the Russian economy? [the answer is] yes (…). We could lift the sanctions if things get better.”
She also reiterated her view that there is no military solution to the Ukraine crisis.
100 days to assess and plan for the next 5 years
The EU has been criticized in recent months for not speaking with one voice, both on crises in Ukraine, and the Middle East. The European Parliament has called for a strong foreign policy chief able to give the EU a strong voice in the world, and some MEPs have not been shy about putting forward the question, noting that MEPs views have often fallen into a void with Ashton.
Showing determination, Mogherini reasserted her commitment to make a difference in leading the EU to a new era of cooperation, both with the Parliament and member states, knowing well she had to dance with both in order to move the EU forward in the global arena.
Asking for 100 days to assess the work of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Mogherini, who was an MP before joining Renzi’s government, said she fully supported the idea of better coordination between all EU institutions. “We need to streamline our work on foreign policy,” she said.
However, Mogherini added, coordination needs to be structured to make sure it is constructive.
Presenting her vision, the Italian High representative-designate mentioned three actions to reach a concrete and common EU external action: A shared vision from the very beginning, work together as there is no us and them, coordinate actions and policies that have external impact—such energy, migration, trade.
Mogherini promised to come up with a full-fledged proposal (White paper) by next year.
Not only neighbourhood
Even though she seemed to focus more Europe’s neighbourghood, Mogherini also mentioned at least one ASEAN country, South America, Africa, China and the United States. “We can count on key partners like the transatlantic partnership which now, more than ever, is strategic,” Mogherini added, mentioning the new NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, “a very good friend of mine”. With regards to the US, she referred also to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as “trade is not only an economic but also a strategic instrument”.