Europe’s Foreign-Policy Resilience

Despite the gravity of the euro crisis, the EU foreign-policymaking machine (such as it is) continued to function in 2012, with moderately successful results. Just getting by, however, is unlikely to be enough to address the challenges that Europe is likely to face this year.

RIGA – For decades, people have bemoaned the waning of Europe’s global political power. To add some precision to the debate, in 2010 we helped to write the European Council on Foreign Relations’ first Foreign Policy Scorecard. Back then, we wrote – rather mildly – that Europe had been “distracted” by the euro crisis. By the end of 2012, the crisis could be considered less acute. Nevertheless, European leaders have continued to devote more time and effort to financial and institutional questions than to geopolitical issues.

Europe’s image and soft power have undoubtedly continued to fade around the world (thought such a trend is difficult to quantify), while member states continue to cut defense and development budgets. The good news, however, is that European foreign policy has not unraveled in the crisis. Indeed, it has even shown some signs of progress.

The European Union managed to preserve the essence of its acquis diplomatique. In fact, the Scorecard’s assessment of European foreign-policy performance in 2012 shows modest signs of stabilization and resilience. Although the EU had no high-profile successes comparable to the military intervention in Libya in 2011, it performed surprisingly well in its external relations – especially given the deep crisis with which it continued to struggle.