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Foreign policy

The EU’s feeble foreign policy

Biden in the Situation Room; Scholz and Macron having a sarnie

If we Europeans have learned one thing from the Israel-Hamas conflict, says Markus Becker in Der Spiegel, it’s just how impotent and irrelevant the EU is when it comes to foreign policy. In the immediate aftermath of the attack on Israel, one commissioner declared that Brussels would “immediately” suspend €691m in aid to the Palestinian Authority. A few hours later, another commissioner insisted that, actually, they would keep sending funds for “as long as necessary”. Eventually, the European Commission officially announced that Brussels would conduct an “urgent review” into the payments – only for foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to pre-emptively declare that they would have to increase. What a “bizarre” and embarrassing spectacle. No wonder Israel’s chief diplomat declined to join an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers, even via Zoom.

It’s not just the Middle East where Europe lacks clout. The EU has spent billions trying to stabilise the Serbia-Kosovo region. Yet when Serbia appeared to be preparing to invade its neighbour last month, it was Washington, not Brussels, that stepped in and resolved the crisis. Likewise, the EU had to watch on “hopelessly” when Azerbaijan took over the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh – clearly, previous “diplomatic offensives” by EU Council President Charles Michel had been for nought. Europe can never compete with the raw military power of the US, of course. But the theory was that it could still wield influence in global affairs through its economic and development prowess. The past couple of months have shown that to be complete fantasy.

🛳🍻 Here’s one illustration of how differently America and Europe are approaching the crisis, says Matthew Karnitschnig in Politico. When Joe Biden was “hunkered down in the White House Situation Room”, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz were meeting in Hamburg to discuss their efforts to “cut red tape in the EU”. After this crucial summit, they went for a harbour cruise with their partners, followed by Fischbrötchen, a local fish sandwich, and beer. “The sun even came out.”