GRADING EUROPE - EU doing ok, Italy hard to tell!

Marks for European foreign policy.

Germany is leading Europe – no big news. And yet it is news, since we are talking not (only) about the economy but about European foreign policy – supposing that it still exists.
The 2014 report on European foreign policy issued by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) anticipated what did, in fact, happen: Merkel meeting Putin to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis. This is a clear sign – if it was not clear enough already – of the re-nationalization of foreign policy. But, above all, it establishes German leadership, this time without reluctance, as its readiness to publish its foreign policy strategy document for the first time suggests. The ECFR’s Scorecard report depicts Europe as surrounded by crises from the east and to the south with one important difference: in 2014, Europe, to keep eastern matters under control, has neglected the south. 

The Scorecard praises the EU's cohesion on the sanctions against Moscow. Internal conflicts are of little consequence, what really matters is that the EU was able to reach an agreement and stand united, thus proving to the world that Europe still wields great influence without having to resort to military force. But while the EU was, with good reasons, busy with Russia, it overlooked its Mediterranean neighbors. The most alarming trend that stands out in the report is Europe's withdrawal of support for post-Arab Spring countries. Everything Europe does today has an anti-terrorist slant. In other words, it is no big deal if we abandon cooperation, giving free rein to petro-monarchies or to the Chinese giant, for which we will no doubt pay a price – what matters is security.

And Italy? Gets a failing mark. Changing foreign ministers three times in a year certainly doesn't help. The days when Italy, under Emma Bonino's lead, topped the rankings, seem long gone. At the time, it was leading the way on Syria, gaining the support of countries such as the UK and France and it was also the first country to establish relations with post-Ahmadinejad Iran, a strategic country in the region.

Today, Italy gets a pass only for its engagement in Libya (where it was the only country, until very recently, to have kept its embassy open) and Afghanistan, and for its support of TTIP, providing it has done its homework and can hope to gain from the agreement.

But most importantly, Italy has never hindered European common action. This is a positive thing in itself, yet seen in conjunction with its lack of internal leadership, it looks more like a withdrawal from foreign policy – a real pity what with 2014 being the year of the Italian EU presidency. 

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