Trials and tribulations of EU Foreign and Security Policy in 2011

Publication date:
Rosa Balfour

Days after the European External Action Service (EEAS) was launched on 1 December 2010, revolutions and uprisings swept through North Africa and the Middle East. The structures and changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in foreign and security policy matters were put to the test – and there is little unanimity in giving a grade to the EEAS and its head, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who is also Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP).The backdrop was one of profound financial, economic and political crises whose emergency management absorbed the energy of EU leaders. They did not just lead to cuts in foreign and defence policy budgets; they exacerbated the perception Europe’s global decline or irrelevance.1 The crises highlighted a broader and more structural process of relative decline of European and Western power, making it important to understand the longer-term causes and shorter-term precipitating factors. On the surface, the crises dealt a blow to the EU’s already diminishing ‘attraction’ to the rest of the world. This implies a loss of political ‘clout’ and a weakening in its posture as an international norm-setter, which, coupled its continuing inability to play the power game on a changing and increasingly assertive global scene, has led the EU to appear like a pale imitation of itself during an eventful year.