A Grand Strategy for Europe?

In late September I posted a piece on the relationship between guerrilla diplomacy and grand strategy, which might be summarily defined as the achievement of broad agreement on comprehensive international policy objectives, and on how that, and they, might best be accomplished.

I would like to pick up that thread, and examine in particular some of the strands in relation to the emergence of the New Europe. This subject, BTW, is one about which I profess no special expertise, apart from having travelled often in the region and having been a participant in a wonderful three week British Council program back in 1999 intended to expose “mid-career opinion leaders” to the wonders of the emerging Europa.

Let me also declare from the outset that it worked for me – I became a convert. There is something very good happening here.

For the past week and a bit I have taken Guerrilla Diplomacy on the road, and find myself now in heavy Eurotation; this part of the tour will continue until the middle of next month. Today, I am writing from Brussels, the capital of Euroland and, judging not least by the vast number of office buildings flying the gold star studded,  royal blue flag,  also its administrative headquarters and institutional epicentre.

At present, Europe is all abuzz about the implications associated with the coming into force, at long last, of the Treaty of Lisbon. This will bring the level of integration in the ever-expanding Union to a higher, more political level, and will take effect pending ratification by the Czeck Republic – a development which appears increasingly certain.

This latest phase in European integration will also create the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. For those interested in diplomacy, this will also almost certainly require the creation of a much expanded European diplomatic service, the European External Action Service, with a headquarters operation in Brussels and representation in capitals across Europe and around the world. These outcomes are widely interpreted as steps along the long road leading, one day, to the creation of a common European foreign and security policy.

To date, of course, that goal has proven elusive, and has attracted some derision, especially on the part of certain Euro-skeptic commentators, based mainly in the UK.

Even so, that is not to suggest that a common European approach to the management of various global threats and challenges is either unattainable or undesirable. Rome, after all, was not built in a day, and these are early days yet for the integration project, which has made remarkable strides inthe space of  a scant half century. Not to be forgotten is the fact that the Union has so tightly bound the destinies of Germany, France and the UK, and so ingrained the habits of cooperation, that war between these once irreconcilable adversaries now unthinkable.

Given the horrific events of the 20th century, this is an enormous accomplishment, the value of which cannot be overstated.

But let’s step back from all of this a little.  If history can be taken as a reliable indicator, then it is entirely likely that in the fullness of time the consolidation of the European economy will be matched, one day, by the consolidation of the European polity. With an increasingly interwoven economic union will inevitably come a higher degree of political influence, and that enlarged political influence will, in my view, sooner or later translate into Europe’s increased international sway.

That said, the task of folding sometimes divergent national values, policies and interests into a a larger, and shared vision of the way forward will not be easy. In the words of Nabil Ayad, Director of the Diplomatic Academy of London, “the Americans may act without thinking, but the Europeans think without acting…”

Back, then, to the matter of European grand strategy, and the question then must be put:  how will this newfound power be expresssed, and to what end will it be directed?

Those issues will be broached in this space presently, and, hopefully, with the added benefit of a few more weeks of close observation on site.