Introduction

2011 may come to be seen as a turning point for the European Union. As its leaders failed to reassure the rest of the world about the sustainability of their common currency and the future of the European project, the continent seemed to be losing its agency: where it was once seen as a critical part of the solution to international problems, it has now become a problem to be dealt with by others. In spite of some foreign-policy successes such as Libya and the deal on climate change in Durban, the euro crisis seriously constrained Europe’s ability to react to the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa – arguably the most important geopolitical event in its neighbourhood since the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the introduction to last year’s Scorecard, we wrote that Europe was distracted by the crisis. This year, Europe was diminished by it. It remains to be seen whether 2011 will turn out to be a decisive moment in the long-term decline of the EU or the beginning of a fight back.

From solution to problem

In 2011, the euro crisis began to threaten not only Europe itself but also the entire global economy. European leaders repeatedly failed to take the decisive action necessary to reassure the markets that it was committed to the single currency. While it became clear that Germany – the largest and most important member state in the eurozone – wanted to prevent a collapse of the euro, it remained opposed to what it perceived as a “transfer union” and, fearing moral hazard, opposed the idea of Eurobonds and that of the ECB as a lender of last resort. As contagion moved from the periphery to the centre, economists around the world began to discuss not just whether the euro would survive but how to limit the turmoil its collapse would cause.

As a result of this role reversal from solution to problem, Europe’s relationships with great powers around the world changed. In economic terms, it went from being a subject to an object. In 2010, Europe struggled to have an impact, particularly in its neighbourhood. But in 2011, Europe was forced to seek the help of other powers. It was the object of IMF intervention and went cap in hand to China and Russia to ask them to contribute to the bailout of eurozone economies. At the board of the IMF, where Europeans already had to make room for emerging powers in 2010, Europeans were no longer in a position to lecture other countries. For the US – the EU’s closest ally – Europe went from being an underperforming partner in solving global challenges to being one of those challenges itself.

Against this background, there was little progress in developing the much-vaunted “strategic partnerships” with the world’s new powers. Last year, we wrote that the EU was beginning to develop a new approach to China based on reciprocity, but this risked being undermined by member states’ bilateral tendencies. The cancellation of the EU–China summit in November looked like a symbol of a strengthening of these tendencies in 2011. Cash-strapped member states sought investment rather than a share of the Chinese market and even the big three prioritised their own business deals with China and left the difficult job of developing a joint approach to China to the EU institutions. Europeans had some successes with China – for example, its acquiescence to military action against Libya and to action on climate change – but these pale in comparison to the significance of the shift in the balance of power that took place in 2011.

European performance on the six issues in 2011
Issue in 2011 Score Grade   in 2010
Multilateral Issues and
Crisis Management
13/20 B   14  B+ (Multilateral Issues)
11  B- (Crisis Management)
Relations with the United States 11/20 B-   11  B-
Relations with the Middle East and North Africa 10/20 C+   -
Relations with Russia 10/20 C+   9.5  C+
Relations with the Wider Europe 9.5/20 C+   9.5  C+
Relations with China 8.5/20 C   9  C+

While it is impossible to quantify the decrease of Europe’s soft power that accompanied this loss of standing in international relations, there is little doubt that, by the end of 2011, it had become significantly less attractive as a model of governance for the rest of the world than it was even a year before. The long-term evolution towards shared sovereignty in the form of “ever greater union” that began with the European project in the 1950s seemed to have stalled – and perhaps even reversed – as member states pursued their own narrowly defined national interests. As a continent that once stood for prosperity and generous social compacts now looked to be heading towards a decade of austerity – hardly appealing for emerging powers whose rates of growth far surpass those of Europe – tensions between member states re-emerged and are likely to increase unless and until the euro crisis is solved. An additional blow to Europe’s image in the world came from the erosion of democracy that took place under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Hungary. The EU’s weak response hardly inspires confidence in its transformative power and is an ominous sign for the future evolution of other member states.

As a conflicted and divided Europe drifted towards economic stagnation and political gridlock, so the model for which the EU stands – that of an expanding and ever more effective multilateralism as a solution to the problems of a globalised world – was also discredited in the eyes of others. Emerging powers such as Brazil and China understandably wondered why they should pay to help rescue a continent which is proving unable to get its act together even though it has the resources to do so – let alone why they should listen to its lectures about regionalism and good governance. Elsewhere in the world, for example in Latin America and South-East Asia, advocates of regional integration projects are now less likely to look to Europe for inspiration. Thus, the euro crisis has had collateral damage for the concept of regional integration in general. In short, the idea of Europe is less powerful than it was 12 months ago.

The Arab Awakening

Perhaps partly as a result of this decline in the image of Europe, few of the post-revolutionary political forces in Egypt and Tunisia seemed focused on getting its help. The Arab Awakening expressed a desire for emancipation from outside and, in particular, Western influence. But this may have also reflected the degraded perception of Europe in the region – perhaps exacerbated by the cosy relationships many of Europe’s leaders had with autocratic rulers in the region: French Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie offered Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben AliFrench police know-how on riot control, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made statements supportive of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi until the second half of February, and British Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech on democracy in the Kuwaiti parliament accompanied by a business delegation that included arms dealers.

Member states and the EU institutions managed to recover to some extent and avoided making major mistakes in a fast-moving revolutionary situation that took everyone by surprise. In particular, after adapting cautiously and pragmatically to the fall of regimes they had long supported, European leaders did their best to support political transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, help the revolutionaries in Libya and put pressure on Syria. The EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton persuaded northern, southern and eastern member states to sign up to a common strategy in May based on greater incentives (“money, markets, mobility”); the principle of “more for more”; and a determination to engage with civil society and to build “deep democracy” – that is, building respect for the rule of law, freedom of speech, an independent judiciary and an impartial bureaucracy. The EU also prepared to work with the new Islamist parties that have emerged as electorally victorious across the region, in the hope of avoiding repeating mistakes such as the refusal to talk to Hamas following its election victory in 2006.

However, largely because of the euro crisis, member states have so far failed to deliver much of the “money, markets, mobility” they promised. In terms of money, the EU came up with €5.8 billion of direct funding, and although extra resources were found in creative ways, the bulk of it was in the form of loans through the EIB and the EBRD rather than rapid budget relief, direct aid or debt cancellation. (The British government offered £110 million from an overall development budget of £7.8 billion and many other member states offered even less.) Because of fears of public opinion and the risks of a populist backlash, mobility was reduced to visa facilitation for more students rather than a more broadly targeted opening of Europe’s borders to the south. Although the EU began negotiating deep free trade areas with Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan, the prospect of more open markets also remained distant as southern member states fearing competition continue to oppose liberalisation of the agricultural sector.

Supporters of the current approach can claim that many politicians and officials have apologised to people in the region and that the new focus on civil society and conditionality is important to turn away from the previous focus on ruling families.But European leaders have failed to rise to the difficult conceptual challenge of inventing a new long-term relationship with their southern neighbours.For understandable reasons, the EU’s approach to North Africa has to a large extent been shaped by its experiences in Central and Eastern Europe, where it promoted reforms in exchange for market and institutional access to the EU after the revolutions in 1989. Although few people see a direct parallel between 1989 and 2011, the European Commission’s strategy for responding to post-revolutionary North Africa is partly based on a similar approach of exchanging reform for association with the EU – a form of “enlargement-lite”, as accession is clearly not on the cards.

The approach that was enshrined in the ENP – in which the EU signs action plans for reform with the countries on its periphery, monitors their performance and rewards their success with extra money, markets or mobility – could struggle to have an impact in post-revolutionary North Africa. In Central and Eastern Europe, the EU was able to have a dramatic impact for three reasons: first, it was the main economic and political power in the region; second, most of the countries were desperate to adopt EU norms and values as an affirmation of their European identity; and third, the EU’s promise of membership, when it was made, provided them an extra incentive to go through the painful process of transition.

However, none of these conditions apply in the Southern Neighbourhood. Firstly, the Middle East and North Africa is now increasingly multipolar and Europe must compete with other players such as China, the GCC and Turkey. These other players may not offer the funds the EU does, and may not care whether the North African states build their democracies or not, but that hardly matters. Secondly, there is little desire from southern Mediterranean countries to adopt European standards. Many of the countries in the region, especially Egypt and Algeria, are fiercely protective of their independence and want to emancipate themselves from foreign and, in particular, Western influence rather than sign up to European norms – which in any case look less appealing since the euro crisis.

Thirdly, and most importantly, against the background of the euro crisis, Europe does not believe it can afford the more generous approach it took in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989. The argument that engagement with North Africa will, in fact, also benefit Europe by giving the EU an economic edge – just as Spain, Portugal and Greece did in the 1980s and Eastern Europe did in the 1990s – has fallen on deaf ears. The focus on “conditionality” could work if the EU were willing to offer big carrots. But making the relatively modest amounts of money offered to North African states dependent on lengthy and sometimes unprioritised action plans – whilst understandable in terms of re-assuring European taxpayers that their money will not be wasted – seems unlikely to change the political calculus of actors in the south. It may therefore be time to review the EU’s approach and develop a foreign policy towards these countries based on achieving a smaller number of political goals rather than placing so much emphasis on regulatory convergence.

“Following from the front”

Despite the euro crisis, Europeans did have some foreign-policy successes in 2011. Perhaps most remarkable of all was the military intervention in Libya, which – although it was undertaken by some member states in an ad hoc coalition and then placed under NATO command – was perceived around the world as a European-led war. After all, it was Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron who convinced the Obama administration to undertake the military intervention, which supported Libyan insurgents and effectively enabled them to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power. Some elsewhere in the world were surprised – and impressed – that a continent struggling with a financial crisis was able to respond quickly enough and to maintain an operation that lasted six months. Against the background of what US Defence Secretary Robert Gates called the “demilitarization” of Europe, many doubted that the political will existed any more to mount such a humanitarian intervention.

The split within Europe on Libya – Germany sided with the BRICS countries rather than its Western allies by abstaining on UNSC Resolution 1973, which authorised military action to protect civilians – ruled out the possibility of a CSDP mission (a EUFOR–Libya mission was approved but never activated). In this sense, this episode was a setback for the EU as a foreign-policy actor. However, after the operation was placed under NATO command in early April, no fewer than 11 European countries took an active part, with Belgium, Denmark and Norway making particular contributions. But, in order to wage the war within the constraints of the UN mandate to protect civilians, Europeans still had to rely on US military assets such as refuelling, targeting and jamming capabilities. Given the dramatic cuts in defence budgets announced for the next few years, this capability deficit is unlikely to improve and may even get worse.

Thus, although the Libya operation earned the respect of some emerging powers as much as it irritated them, it also highlighted Europe’s limitations. It has been suggested that, by letting Paris and London front the operation, the US “led from behind” in Libya, although the Obama administration rejected the expression. Conversely, it might be said that, because of its divisions and inadequate military capabilities, Europe “followed from the front” – that is, although it committed resources and was on the frontline, it still found itself dependent on the US in a larger geopolitical context in which Washington is trying to shift its focus away from the Middle East and towards the Pacific. Europe’s lack of real strength and influence in the region was highlighted by the inability of Europeans to make a difference on the Middle East peace process – despite having exceptional leverage in 2011 since their vote at the UN was potentially pivotal and Washington was both discredited and boxed in.

Meanwhile, the EU had some surprising successes in the Eastern Neighbourhood – above all, Russian accession to the WTO and progress on trade and energy talks with Eastern Partnership countries. But much of the improvement in relations with Russia during the past few years is a result of the US “reset”, of which Europe has been a collateral beneficiary. Despite greater unity than in the past, the EU failed to make progress in other areas – for example, the “partnerships for modernisation”, the rule of law, democracy and human rights in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, and the conflict in Transnistria. With the return of Vladimir Putin to the presidency in 2012, Russia may become more of a problem for Europeans. This may also make it more difficult to make progress in the Eastern Neighbourhood.

Europeans also had some genuine successes in multilateral institutions of which it can be proud. Europeans and Americans managed to rally majorities of UN member states to censure Libya and Syria, and the G8 was turned into a forum of support for the Arab Awakening, even though announced budgets were not as large as many had hoped. They also supported an assertive UN mandate in Côte d’Ivoire, enforced by French troops, to install the democratically elected president, Alassane Ouattara. The EU took an even clearer leadership role on climate change at the Durban conference in December. While the agreement certainly fell short of EU objectives and disappointed those who wanted more decisive action, the universal commitment to a legally binding deal on climate change by 2015, to take effect starting in 2020, was a victory for EU diplomacy. But declining budgets in development aid and support for multilateral agencies in the near future will weaken both the European reach in the multilateral system and harm the system itself.

Most successful EU policies in 2011
Category Unity Resources Outcome Total Grade
13 – Trade liberalisation with Russia 5/5 3/5 8/10 16/20 A-
37 – Relations with the US on Iran and proliferation 4/5 5/5 7/10 16/20 A-
73 – Climate change 5/5 4/5 7/10 16/20 B+
12 – Relations with China on climate change 4/5 4/5 7/10 15/20 B+
38 – Relations with the US on climate 4/5 4/5 7/10 15/20 B+
40 – Rule of law, democracy and human rights in the Western Balkans 4/5 4/5 7/10 15/20 B+
41 – Kosovo 3/5 4/5 8/10 15/20 B+
48 – Relations with the Eastern Neighbourhood on trade and energy 5/5 4/5 6/10 15/20 B+
57 – The Libyan uprising 3/5 5/5 7/10 15/20 B+
71 – European policy on human rights at the UN  3/5 5/5 7/10 15/20 B+
72 – European policy on the ICC and ad hoc tribunals 4/5 4/5 7/10 15/20 B+
78 – West Africa 4/5 4/5 7/10 15/20 B+

 

Least successful EU policies in 2011
Category Unity Resources Outcome Total Grade
06 – Rule of law and human rights in China 2/5 1/5 2/10 5/20 D+
07 – Relations with China and the Dalai Lama on Tibet 2/5 1/5 2/10 5/20 D+
43 – Bilateral relations with Turkey 2/5 2/5 1/10 5/20 D+
45 – Relations with Turkey on the Cyprus question 3/5 1/5 1/10 5/20 D+
16 – Media freedom in Russia 3/5 2/5 1/10 6/20 C-
17 – Stability and human rights in the North Caucasus 4/5 1/5 1/10 6/20 C-
25 – Relations with Russia at the G20 1/5 3/5 2/10 6/20 C-
31 – Relations with the US on NATO, arms control and Russia 2/5 2/5 2/10 6/20 C-
35 – Relations with the US on the Middle East peace process 2/5 2/5 2/10 6/20 C-
52 – Resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute 2/5 2/5 2/10 6/20 C-

[COMPARE TO 2010]

Despite individual successes for EU, however, the overall trend in 2011 was towards a renationalisation of European foreign policy on the model of the developments that occurred throughout the year around the eurozone crisis. This is particularly problematic because, as many (but not all) member states cut their defence, foreign affairs or development aid budgets, there is a greater need than ever for co-operation. In last year’s Scorecard we described how, instead of the expected shift of power to Brussels following the Lisbon Treaty, there was a shift to the capitals of member states. In 2011, this trend intensified. European foreign policy tends to be most effective when there is an alliance between big countries and small ones. But in 2011 the big member states often went their own way and did little for EU policy.

Throughout the year, the UK led a diplomatic guerrilla campaign to block the EEAS, the EU’s new diplomatic service, from speaking on behalf of the EU at the UN or the OSCE, even where precedents existed. France launched a unilateral diplomatic offensive against Turkey on the question of the Armenian genocide, thus further poisoning its relations with Ankara and making EU–Turkey co-operation more difficult. Germany blocked a larger use of the EIB funds for financial aid to the MENA region, thus reducing Europe’s capacity to support the Arab Awakening. Italy under Silvio Berlusconi supported an exemption of the Russian South Stream project from the EU’s Third Energy Package, thereby undermining the Nabucco pipeline designed to increase the diversification of European energy sources.

More generally, European foreign policymaking was dominated by the European Council and what Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has called “ selective diplomacy” – that is, informal meetings where the host decides who is included and who isn’t. This approach, which sidelines other EU institutions such as the High Representative and the European Commission and reduces the influence of the smaller member states, is not good for European cohesion or for building a coherent foreign policy. It leads, as in the case of Libya, to action by European “coalitions of the willing” – in other words, an approach whereby member states “opt in” rather than “opt out” after a serious debate in the relevant EU institutions.

The findings of this year’s Scorecard illustrate this renationalisation of European foreign policy. First, in our exploration of the position of member states on 30 of the 80 components, we found many “slackers” in each case – an average of three per component (see full tables at the end of the Scorecard). “Slackers” are countries that fail to pull their weight in support of European policies, impede or even try to block the development of these policies. While it is not possible to compare this result to 2010, the number of “slackers” seems surprisingly high. Second, the average score for unity in 2011 was low, and here it is possible to compare results to 2010. The table below shows that whereas Europeans scored 5 out of 5 on ten components in 2010, they did so on only seven components in 2011.

Most united EU responses in 2011
Issue in 2011 Unity 2010 policies Unity
8 – Relations with China on proliferation 5/20 9 – Relations with China on Iran and proliferation 5/20
13 – Trade liberalisation with Russia 5/20 5 – Agreement with China on standards and norms, consumer protection 5/20
22 – Relations with Russia on Iran and proliferation 5/20 76 – European policy on Iran and proliferation in the multilateral context 5/20
34 – Relations with the US on the Arab Awakening 5/20 28 – Relations with the US on terrorism, information sharing and data protection 5/20
48 – Relations with the Eastern Neighbourhood on trade and energy 5/20 49 – Relations with the Eastern Neighbourhood on trade and energy 5/20
70 – European policy on the World Trade Organization 5/20 80 – European policy in the World Trade Organization 5/20
73 – Climate change 5/20 38 – Relations with the US on climate change 5/20
    37 – Relations with the US on Iran and proliferation 5/20
    60 – Stabilisation of the Georgian border 5/20
    64 – Stabilisation and state building in Iraq 5/20

 

Partly as a result of this renationalisation, 2011 was not a good year for the CSDP either: for the third successive year, no new crisis-management operation was launched. Catherine Ashton was criticised for showing less interest in security and defence policy than her predecessor, Javier Solana. But Brussels cannot be blamed for the diminishing readiness of member states to support evenongoing operations, with Bosnia and anti-piracy patrols notably under-strength – or indeed for the policy divisions that ensured that the EU was almost entirely absent from the Libya crisis. During its EU presidency, Poland made efforts to advance CSDP agendas but became mired in a worthy but ill-judged attempt to force the creation of an EU operational headquarters that ran into the predictable British veto. Meanwhile, member states discussed “pooling and sharing” but in practice cut their defence budgets and capabilities without any co-operation or consultation with partners (or, for that matter, with allies in NATO).

The performance of Ashton and the EEAS – in the second full year of their existence since the Lisbon Treaty, following a first year during which much time was spent fighting turf wars with the European Commission – should be seen in this context. Further progress was made in recruiting staff for the new diplomatic service’s 140 delegations around the world, but there is still a long way to go in order to bring it up to full strength (the EEAS is particularly badly under-represented in the BRICS countries and the Gulf). In a non-paper in December, the foreign ministers of 12 member states implicitly criticised Ashton for her chairing of monthly meetings with them as well as her neglect of security policy. Others criticised her for failing to provide strategic direction. Ashton acknowledged in a report to the EU institutions at the end of December that there had been problems in setting up the EEAS but said its success “depends on the sustained political support and collective commitment from Member States and the EU institutions”.

Like all 27 member states, Ashton and the EEAS were initially wrong-footed by the revolution in Tunisia but quickly learned from the failure and led European condemnation of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. She also played a key part, together with the E3, in negotiations with Iran, and began the first direct talks between Serbia and Kosovo – an issue that divides member states. But the failure of Ashton to meet her critics’ perhaps unrealistically inflated expectations for European foreign policy illustrates both the precariousness of the EU against the background of the euro crisis and the difficulties she faces under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty. In order to make a difference, she must be proactive. But when member states are divided (as they were on Libya and the Palestinian statehood bid) or fail to commit resources (as they did in response to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia), her scope for action is severely limited.

A German Europe?

There has been much discussion of how the Europe that is emerging from the euro crisis is a German one. In 2011, against the background of the crisis, there seemed to be not just a shift of power towards national capitals in general but towards one national capital in particular: Berlin. At times, as Germany was forced to concede to French proposals to solve the euro crisis, it seemed that the Franco-German tandem that drove European integration before enlargement had re-emerged. But, in the last few years, the economic inequality between France and Germany has grown. Even before Standard & Poor’s downgraded France’s AAA rating in January 2012, Germany was perceived as the new dominant power within the eurozone.

However, the picture of European foreign policy that emerges from this second edition of the Scorecard is more complicated. There has certainly been a change in Germany’s role. While in the past Germany often deferred to France and the UK on foreign-policy issues, we identified it as a “leader” in more cases than any other member state in 2011. However, while Germany certainly amassed power because of its centrality to the euro crisis, the answer to the famous Kissinger question is not necessarily: “Call the Chancellor”. Sometimes, Germany did exert decisive leadership on foreign affairs. For example, together with Poland, it led the EU’s attempt to develop a co-ordinated approach to Russia and flexed its muscles on Serbia. But on other issues – for example, Libya – Germany did not so much lead as use its newfound margin of manoeuvre to follow its own preferences in the face of others in the EU.

Specifically, Germany seems to be emerging as a “geo-economic power” – that is, one that uses economic means to pursue its foreign-policy goals, which are themselves often economic rather than political. In particular, German foreign policy is increasingly driven by the needs of its export industry, which provides half of German GDP. In 2011, it imposed its economic preferences on others in the eurozone but was not prepared to use military force as a foreign-policy tool – even where this meant breaking with its Western allies. Germany’s response to the Arab Awakening illustrated this contrast between economic assertiveness and military abstinence: shortly after declining to take part in the military intervention to support the revolution in Libya, it agreed to sell 200 main battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, which had only a few weeks earlier sent troops to Bahrain to put down pro-democracy protests there.

Top 'leaders' and 'slackers' among EU member states
Top “leaders”   Top “slackers”
Germany (on 19 components)   Cyprus (on 7 components)
France (18)   Greece (7)
United Kingdom (17)   Italy (6)
Sweden (11)   Netherlands (6)
Poland (8)   France (5)
Italy (7)   Poland (5)
Netherlands (7)   Romania (5)
Czech Republic (6)   Spain (5)
Denmark (6)   Germany (4)
Finland (5)   Belgium (4)
    Latvia (4)

Meanwhile, even as France experienced a loss of power relative to Germany on economic issues, it continued to play a decisive role in European foreign policy in 2011. Paris made up for its initial faux pas on the Arab Awakening by leading the Libya operation and by turning against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. It also provided support for the UN in Côte d’Ivoire, led attempts to impose stronger sanctions against Iran, steered the G20 towards support for the eurozone and retained European directorship of the IMF. But France’s unilateral approach often antagonised its European partners. For example, Nicolas Sarkozy pre-empted a common European position on the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in September. Paris also squabbled with Italy over refugees from Tunisia, which led to the renegotiation of the Schengen agreement to give member states greater control over their borders. In other words, even when Paris led, it did not always do so in a constructive way.

However, apart from the decisive role it played in Libya alongside the French, the UK has become increasingly passive on foreign-policy issues. Even before it vetoed a plan by eurozone countries to create a “fiscal union” within the European treaties at the European summit in December, it was playing less of a leadership role than it traditionally has on key European foreign-policy issues. It continued to support enlargement, ask for closer links with Turkey and support development in Africa, but it did not launch any creative initiatives to bring other member states along with it or change the terms of the debate within the EU. On other issues such as engaging “strategic partners” such as China and Russia, the UK was often a follower rather than a leader. The difficulties of implementing the defence co-operation agreement signed in 2010 and the collapse in relations following the crucial European summit in December showed how brittle the coalition between France and the UK is. If the eurozone’s plan for a “fiscal compact” outside the European treaties succeeds and the UK fails to develop a more creative diplomatic strategy to lead in other areas, London could end up marginalising itself within EU foreign policymaking.

At the same time, other new foreign-policy leaders are also emerging. We identified Sweden as a “leader” on 11 components of European foreign policy – more times than Italy and Spain combined. This suggests that Sweden – the 14th largest member state in terms of population and the eighth in terms of GDP – punches considerably above its weight. This was in part to do with its activist foreign minister (described in a leaked US State Department cable as being “a medium-sized dog with a big dog attitude”) and development minister. In response to the Arab Awakening, it increased annual aid to North Africa by SEK 100 million (€11.1 million), proposed an EU democracy support mission to Tunisia a week after the revolution there and was an early and strong supporter of UN resolutions in support of the uprising in Libya. It played a particularly constructive role on multilateral issues: as well as making disproportionately large aid contributions, including to Japan after the tsunami, it was a forceful voice on human rights.

Poland also emerged as a “leader” on eight components of European foreign policy.It played a particularly constructive role on Russia, where it has largely overcome its differences with Germany and is now at the forefront of efforts to develop a genuinely strategic approach, and on European defence (though it declined to take part in the military intervention in Libya). Admittedly, its leadership role in 2011 was partly a function of the EU presidency that it held in the second half of the year. Like Sweden, it was also in part a consequence of the activism of its prime minister and foreign minister. But it also reflected the strength of the Polish economy, which was expected to grow at over 3 percent in 2012 – better than almost anywhere else in the EU. This, together with its commitment to European action, enabled it to leapfrog larger and older member states to become one of the key leaders of EU foreign policymaking.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cyprus and Greece topped the listed of “slackers” in European foreign policy. Cyprus was particularly unhelpful in the Eastern Neighbourhood: as well as still not recognising the independence of Kosovo, its close relationship with Russia acted as a drag (for example, like Italy, it supported an exemption of the Russian South Stream project from the Third Energy Package). Even as it desperately sought a second bailout from other eurozone countries, Greece was also unhelpful in the Wider Europe: it does not recognise Kosovo and blocked membership talks with Macedonia and co-operation with Turkey on regional issues. It also opposed sanctions against Syria and attempted to slow down the planned oil embargo against Iran.

From 2010 to 2012: The erosion of the acquis diplomatique

Last year, we highlighted the existence of an acquis diplomatique– a collection of areas in which Europeans collectively and successfully pursue their foreign-policy interests. The second edition of the Scorecard shows that the acquis still exists: in multilateral institutions, in transatlantic relations, on climate change, on issues of “low politics” (trade, in particular) and in the Balkans, Europeans tended to join forces and performed reasonably well. Iran was also once again an issue on which Europeans were (with some exceptions, such as Greece) united around a clear policy and collectively devoted resources – even though they may not have reached their ultimate objective – that is, to stop Iran enriching uranium – in the short or medium term. Given the context of the financial crisis, their performance on the Arab Awakening was not as dismal as might have been feared.

European performance on cross-cutting themes in 2011

The following table illustrates cross-cutting themes (in other words, themes that are dealt with in various different “components” within different “issues”) on which the EU did well and badly in 2011. An explanation of each theme is given below.

Cross-cutting themes in 2011
Cross-cutting theme Score Grade 2010
Climate Change 14/20 B+ 12 B-
Iran and proliferation 13/20 B 16 A-
Trade liberalisation, standards and norms – “low politics” 13/20 B 12 B-
Balkans 12.5/20 B 13 B
Arab Awakening 12/20 B- -
Energy policy 12/20 B- 10 C+
Issues of war and peace – “high politics” 11/20 B- 11 B-
Visa policy 10/20 C+ 12 B-
Afghanistan 10/20 C+ 10 C+
Human rights 9/20 C+ 8 C
Eurozone crisis 8.5/20 C -
Israel/Palestine 8.5/20 C 9 C+
Protracted conflicts 8/20 C 10 C+
Turkey 6.5/20 C- 6 C-

* The cross-cutting themes in 2011 are the following:

"Climate Change" amalgates components 12, 24, 38, 73.

"Iran and non-proliferation" amalgates components 8, 22, 37, 62, 69.

"Trade liberalisation, standards and norms" amalgates components 4, 13, 28, 29, 70.

"Balkans" amalgates 32, 39, 40, 41, 42. 

"Arab Awakening" amalgates 9, 23, 33, 34, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 63, 64.

"Energy policy" amalgates 20, 21, 46, 48.     

"Issues of war and peace" amalgates 8, 9, 19, 22, 23, 31, 32 , 33,  34, 35, 36, 37, 41, 42, 50, 51, 52, 57, 59, 61, 62, 65, 69, 77, 78, 79, 80.

 "Visa policy" amalgates 14, 26, 49.

"Afghanistan" amalgates 23, 36, 80.

"Human rights" amalgates 6, 7, 15, 16, 17, 40, 44, 47, 53, 71, 72.

"Euro Crisis" amalgates 5, 25, 30, 66, 67.

"Israel/Palestine" amalgates 23, 35, 60, 61.           

"Protracted conflicts" amalgates 19, 50, 51, 52.

“Turkey” amalgates 43, 44, 45, 46.

However, the collective performance of Europeans remained mediocre on issues such as human rights, the Eastern Neighbourhood and protracted conflicts – and it was still dismal on Turkey, which continued to drift away from the EU. The combined effect of the financial crisis and the renationalisation of politics in Europe has also started to slowly erode the acquis diplomatique where it existed. Relations with China, moving from a C+ to a C, are the most symbolic and worrying illustration of this trend. Worse may be yet to come in 2012. Defence and development aid budget cuts as well as the effects of the centrifugal forces unleashed by the euro crisis will most probably take a further toll on Europe’s standing in the world. In order to reverse this trend and regain the ground they have lost, European leaders should re-prioritise foreign policy in order to pursue their collective and long-term interests. A coherent and effective foreign policy is not a luxury or an afterthought of the European project; it is central to its prosperity and future. Hopefully, 2011 will be remembered not as the decisive year in the EU’s dissolution and decline but as the year when it began its recovery.


The Scorecard in the Press

World Huanqiu
03 Apr 14

ECFR's Scorecard is used in an analysis of Polish foreign policy

Estudios de Política Exterior
12 Mar 14

José I. Torreblanca and Borja Lasheras analize the Spanish foreign policy in the Scorecard…

Money.pl
10 Feb 14

Money.pl presents the latest ECFR Scorecard publication.

Money.pl
10 Feb 14

Money.pl presents the latest ECFR Scorecard publication.

RTVE
10 Feb 14

Borja Lasheras comments on the European Foreign Policy Scorecard on Spanish National Radio

Affari Italiani
10 Feb 14

The Scorecard 2014 on Affari Italiani 

Il Velino
10 Feb 14

The Italian press agency Il Velin on Scorecard 2014 

Il Foglio
07 Feb 14

Europe and Scorecard on Il Foglio

Tribuna Politica
06 Feb 14

The 2014 Scorecard on Tribuna Politica

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