In front of a 600-person audience, leading ECFR council members conducted a lively discussion on the future of a common EU foreign policy. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave a keynote address.
In front of a 600-person audience of European policy cognoscenti, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for a stronger and more united European Union foreign policy while a panel of Joschka Fischer, Maarti Ahtisaari, Emma Bonino, Mart Laar, Mabel Van Oranje, Ivan Krastev and Timothy Garton Ash conducted a lively and interactive discussion of how to transform such a policy into reality.
British historian Timothy Garton Ash reminded the audience that US President John F. Kennedy had two in-trays placed on his desk. One was marked "Urgent"; the other "Important". This, Garton Ash suggested, was a useful way to see the EU's foreign policy challenges.
In one tray lie a number of strategic issues, the resolution of which will impact the shape of the block itself. Premier among these is whether to expand the EU further into the Balkans and Turkey, how to deal with a resurgent Russia and how to secure the Union's energy needs.
In the other tray lie two key issues: how to resolve the status of Kosovo, the Serbian province that has been governed by the UN since the 1999 NATO campaign, and how to deal with the US-Iranian crisis. In what will prove a "hot" winter for EU policy-makers, the two issues come to a head in the next few months: the troika negotiating Kosovo's status will meet in early December and Iran's enrichment programme comes before the UN Security Council following the IAEA's report at the end of November.
But as shown by Mark Leonard and Nicu Popescu in ECFR's first "power audit" on the EU's relationship with Russia, Moscow plays a key role in dealing with issues in both trays.
"The world is undergoing a period of fundamental change. Many of these developments, from the Internet to solar energy, offer unique opportunities in human history, while others pose serious risks and threats," Minister Steinmeier said in his speech.
"We have a duty to shape these processes in the interests and to the benefit of our country's people. And as Germany's foreign minister and as a European politician I want to clearly state that we Europeans can only shoulder this burden together."
"Even today no European country alone is able to play a leading role in the global concert, not even the larger ones. Moreover, the relative weight and influence of individual states is further decreasing. In spite of the often difficult nature of European day-to-day politics, it becomes increasingly clear that there is no alternative to the joint pursuit of our interests in and through Europe."
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The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.