28
Jan

A New Franco-German Foreign Policy?

Written on January 28, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Foreign Policy, Op Ed

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, may have had some diplomatic successes recently. But the implementation of the EU’s new foreign policy structure can hardly be called a triumph. The main culprits are the big member states, which are too hesitant to use the new service and breathe life into it. When it comes to major issues, France, Germany, and the UK still prefer to act on their own instead of working with their peers and the EU institutions to develop a joint approach.

That’s why a recent initiative by the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to work more closely with France on foreign policy is most welcome. It has the potential to raiseEurope’s foreign policy game.

In a joint declaration on January 21, Steinmeier and his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, agreed to consult each other before EU summits, to travel together to “regions of particular interest to both countries and the EU,” and to cooperate on early crisis identification and prevention.

For their first joint trip, Steinmeier and Fabius intend to visit Moldova and Georgia, the two countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership that are most interested in strengthening ties with the EU. A trip to West Africa is planned as well.

Good intentions are welcome but not enough; the Steinmeier-Fabius initiative needs to be backed up by substantial political will. There are incentives for closer Franco-German cooperation on foreign policy.

France feels overburdened with its military engagements in Africa, and Paris is eager to play a bigger role in the Arab world. That is becoming more urgent in an era in which the United States is trying to retreat from its regional leadership role. To sustain its engagement in sub-Saharan Africa and fill some of the vacuum that a disengaging United States leaves in North Africa and the Middle East, France needs the support of its European partners. Berlin is central for that support, because of Germany’s own resources and because it holds the key to turning French foreign policy ambition into a common European policy.

However, the challenge for France is to overcome its traditional unilateralism in foreign policy making and to Europeanize its approach. That means including European partners and the EU institutions at an early stage of policy planning and developing joint policies instead of going it alone first and pushing for support later. Read more…

Posted by: ULRICH SPECK FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2014 in http://www.carnegieeurope.eu

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