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Economics or Politics as a vector of foreign policy?

(credit: Belgian presidency)

(BRUSSELS2) The debate on the partnership that the European Union could have with Pakistan is symptomatic of a certain vision of foreign relations policy. An identical debate took place a year ago between the "27" leading to an AfPak action plan targeting both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was ambitious, advocating measures ranging from development to democratic governance, trade and security assistance (read: The EU Action Plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan).

Is Pakistan just a trade issue?

The debate that took place on Friday at the Gymnich, the informal meeting of foreign ministers revolved mainly around a single issue: trade relations and the question of opening a GSP+ (negotiations on the free trade of certain products on preferential terms). Humanitarian aid concerning the floods was also discussed. But all the other more political aspects seem to have been, if not forgotten, at least postponed to a later date. This discussion is not anecdotal, it is symptomatic of an evolution.

At European level, in recent months, indeed, the focus seems to have been on an economic analysis of the EU's external relations (which partners matter, what needs to be done to develop relations?) than on a political analysis (what is the weight of the EU in the world? Where should we intervene to influence, appear as a global actor? And with what means?). The approach of the High Representative, Cathy Ashton, seems to favor economic relations as a lever of foreign policy, rather than the traditional levers of diplomacy. If we simplify, a more British (or German) than French (or Spanish) approach.

It is in this light that we can analyze the tensions surrounding some of the High Representative's decisions, such as not attending the start of direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis in favor of a visit to China (long-planned ). A decision still "regretted" by some foreign ministers. The Frenchman Bernard Kouchner in the courtyard of the Palais d'Egmont where the informal meeting of the heads of European diplomacy was taking place confirmed it to a few journalists. " Cathy has a really tough job " Corn "Indeed, several of us (Ministers) around the table regretted that Europe was not present at the opening of the negotiations in Washington. »

Look for other ways of working

Bernard Kouchner, however, wanted to smooth things over, on the form, in his somewhat strained relations in recent days with Cathy Ashton (read: Bernard) and wanted to focus on a more political approach to the EU, betting on a recovery control of the heads of diplomacy of the Member States around the content of European policy. For him the question is not really whether one Minister or the other “can represent the EU” when the High Representative is busy elsewhere—“ It has already been done” — What is needed more is to work together, upstream. " We need to see each other more often among foreign ministers. For example, we could work with several ministers, from different countries (NB: not only those who have an interest in the area) on certain topics. We will only be able to have a strong and united position if we prepare these decisions, upstream”.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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