Foreign Relations

Foreign policy and EU states

Foreign policy and EU states

This is a review of the book The Foreign Policies of European Union Member States Manchester, written by Manners I. and Whitman R.G. and published by Manchester University Press in 2000.

This welcome and commendable volume attempts to construct and apply a framework to analyse the individual foreign policies of the EU member states so as to ascertain whether a comparative study is possible. Do EU member states require their own specific form of Foreign Policy Analysis? And to what extent have these foreign policies been ‘politicised’ or ‘Europeanised’? Have the respective governments been willing and able to retain their own domaine privé in foreign policy? The bulk of the work is divided into three parts, the first comprising the ‘big three’ member states, the next looking at the second tier of states and the third focusing on the so-called post-neutral states. Within this, what is particularly useful in an attempted comparative study is that each chapter follows roughly the same structure, including insights how foreign policy is made in each of these countries and how EU membership has impacted on these processes.

Blunden kicks things off with a look at France that she describes as being a mission state like the United States, with its claim to a global vocation. Given that France on its own now lacks sufficient resources to maintain this global vocation, it has defensively turned to the EU as a power multiplier for national foreign policy; the Mediterranean being one example. Union membership has equally enabled French influence to be augmented in geographic areas where it has traditionally been weak. Conversely, by working through the Union, French leaders can avoid being bogged down by any colonial baggage when they deal with certain parts of the world. Of course, France’s often termed ‘axis’ with Germany is also an important factor and Blunden alludes to certain sacrifices that third parties have had to make in order that this axis be preserved for the sake of European solidarity; namely in the former-Yugoslavia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when national interests are deemed to be at stake, which they were not in Yugoslavia, then European solidarity becomes a secondary consideration; as in Algeria and elsewhere in francophone Africa.

With regard to Britain, Forster observes that the government cannot admit to its domestic audience just how integrated EU foreign policy-making is, with its heavy reliance on qualified majority voting for example. ‘Europe’ is still a highly sensitive issue and governments have to be vigilant, not least with regard to their own back-benchers. Like France, Britain obtains greater leverage via the EU in certain areas like the Middle East or concerning transatlantic trade. However, the constraints of the Common Foreign and Security Council (CFSP), in which Britain has taken a growing leadership role in recent years, have forced the government to considerably trim its unilateral stance. But as with France, unilateralism within the EU is not extinct as a foreign policy option as can be attested by the policy towards Iraq since the mid-1990s. And Forster adds that 27 (now 29) years of Union membership have not led to a new and wholly different European identity for British foreign policy. In addition, Britain and France are the member states the most embedded in alternative, non-CFSP foreign policy networks; more than their EU partners, these two members have foreign policy options.

German foreign policy, much more than that of France and Britain, emphasises, according to Aggestam, the non-military aspects of security and this is where the Union has most to offer in foreign policy terms. Although she concedes that the end of the Cold War has challenged both Germany’s and the EU’s civilian approach to foreign policy. Again in contrast to France and Britain, it is claimed here that unilateralism is not an option for the policymakers in Berlin; the unilateral stance taken with regard to Croatian and Slovenian independence is now regarded by them as an aberration rather than a precedent. German foreign policy remains rooted in multilateral institutionalism. But, Aggestam notes, this is not to say that Germany does not act like other member states in having its own privileged non-EU partners; in this case, notably, Israel, Poland and Russia.

Part Two of this volume looks at what could be termed the second tier foreign policy states within the end and commences with Missiroli’s study of Italy. Here Italy is described as a laggard, particularly with regard to the implementation of EU policy. Its style with regard to the machinations of Brussels is described as reactive. For Missiroli, Italy’s participation in any future EU ‘inner core’ is no longer guaranteed, not least because it is repeatedly impeded by domestic political crisis. He points to the break-up of Yugoslavia as just one instance when Italian influence was marginalised. Added to this can be the loss of its primary role in EU-Mediterranean relations to Spain. But as elsewhere among the member states, the European/EU context has grown in importance, often to the detriment of other relations like, in this case, the transatlantic.

Concerning Spain, as the first of the more recent former-authoritarian countries dealt with in this volume, Kennedy writes ‘the Europeanisation of Spanish policy enabled the government to bring Spanish policy in line with European norms’ (p.108), especially in relation to the Middle East and Western Sahara; although Gibraltar has proved an altogether different case. Kennedy also provides the example of transatlantic relations. In the lead up to Spanish accession to the EU, the strongly anti-American, anti-NATO, Socialist government was persuaded by its future partners that NATO was the only game in town for European security. Hence Kennedy illustrates Spain’s socialisation at the hands of its EU, and NATO, co-members, as demonstrated by Spain’s key role as a base for American bombing raids during the Gulf War. Prime Minister Gonzales justified this as Spain meeting its European obligations.

Coolsaet and Soetendorp’s chapter meanwhile examines Belgium and the Netherlands. To note here is that both countries advocate a supranational Union, although there are differences between the two. Belgium, for example, has been the keener to challenge NATO’s supremacy in European security, although both now consider CFSP as their main point of foreign policy reference. Elsewhere, it should be noted that Magone gives us a chapter on Portugal.

The case of Greece, as put forward in this volume by Kavakas, is particularly interesting. It has a geopolitical situation that is unique among the member states. But here too, Kavakas can point to the Europeanisation of foreign policy, even to policy areas that have not had to adapt to EU membership. Crucially for Greece, Union membership has served to overcome, partially at least, nationalistic tendencies that could, for example, have dragged Greece headlong into a unilateral military engagement in the Balkan crises of the 1990s. Key foreign policy issues have been made national issues and placed above party politics. At the same time, we can point to similarities with the other member states both in terms of gaining increased leverage in some foreign policy issues (Cyprus and Turkey) and being constrained to act in a way its leaders would not normally have chosen in others (the break-up of Yugoslavia). Significantly, Kavakas points to a certain transformation in Greek foreign policy-making in the EU context that perhaps could also be attributed to Britain. Greek representatives are now far more prone to consultation with their counterparts across the Union and are more willing to compromise in search of a common EU position. In addition, without any colonial legacy, Greece’s foreign policy horizons have been broadened by EU membership, to the Baltic region for instance.

The final part of Manners and Whitman’s volume concentrates on the ‘post-neutral’ member states and is launched by Miles’ examination of Sweden and Finland. As members only since 1995, both have exploited CFSP to enhance their EU credentials. This area in particular offered policy opportunities. Perhaps parallels can be drawn here with Spain in particular. But as Miles notes, both sets of policymakers were already strongly socialised to EU practices prior to accession. Post-accession, both have been at the forefront of pushing the Union ever deeper into crisis management activities. Here again though, there are differences between states, with Finland on the whole being the more centrally engaged with EU affairs. But adaptation prior to accession is not unique to Sweden and Finland, it could be observed equally in Austria, put under the spotlight here by Phinnemore. As a result, the transition in foreign policy terms was relatively smooth with the primary issue being the downplaying of the country’s neutral status. Elsewhere, Austria’s foreign policy goals already largely coincided with those of the Union. Crucially however, the cross-party disagreement over possible NATO membership, combined with the realisation that neutrality can no longer be relied upon to provide for the county’s security, has made the EU increasingly attractive to Austrian leaders in terms of forging a new European security community. Finally, it is to Tonra that the task of analysing the last two member states, Denmark and Ireland, falls. Although not identical in their outlook, both greatly value the greater international weight membership brings, and both have adapted successfully to the Union’s more consensual and cooperative foreign policy-making, although both remain conservative when it comes to the further development of CFSP, particularly with regard to any defence component.

Manners and Whitman and their numerous contributors have delivered a stimulating and innovative volume that should prove accessible to students and scholars alike. It is no fault of theirs that the foreign policy has moved on with some momentum since these chapters were written, most noticeably concerning the new European Security and Defence Policy, but also in the realm of conflict prevention and the attempts to make the Union a ‘one-stop shop’ for security. These developments are for current and future analyses. And perhaps it was beyond the scope of this particular project to consider non-EU countries that nevertheless work closely with the Union in foreign policy matters; although ‘space’ could have been created had not all the current EU members been covered. Frustratingly however, there is no real attempt here to systematically deal with external factors whether this be relations with and the impact of the United States (dealt with sporadically) and Russia (even less so) or responses to issues like migration, militant Islam or globalisation to name but three). This apart, the editors conclude with the unsurprising but nevertheless provocative claim that the member states have used the Union as a means to overcome their past, whether this be fascism, colonialism, economic underdevelopment or neutrality.