Can the EU become a global actor

Replay the keynote speech and read the summary below



"Can the European Union become a global actor?"

A keynote speech by Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; former President of the European Parliament; former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Spain

Chaired by: Steven Erlanger, Chief Diplomatic Correspondent Europe, The New York Times. | Student Greeter: Miriam Aitken, PSIA student, Master in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action


Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shared his views on the European Union and its role as a global actor. He advocated for unity within the EU and discussed about European strategic autonomy. 

Top foreign policy challenges

In a discussion with Chief Diplomatic Correspondent for Europe for The New York Times Steven Erlanger, Josep Borrell began with exposing the foreign policy issues on the top of the EU’s agenda. Improving relations with Turkey, while hostilities escalated in the Mediterranean Sea last summer, is a matter of importance, on which Borrell said he was working on aligning European countries’ positions towards Turkey and deescalating tensions. Among top issues also stands cooperation with Africa, especially for the distribution of vaccines against COVID-19. Borrell also elaborated on the plans of the EU to deepen cooperation with the new American administration. “It is a new chapter, and we intend to make the most of it,” he says. “We have to work on climate change, on trade, investment, and regulating of big technological firms. “It is not an easy task, but we have to develop  a strong and coherent approach over Russia, to prevent Turkey from continuing on these drifts away and to work to keep the Iran agreement alive.”

Borrell argues that the EU needs to negotiate with China to rebalance the relationship. “We have to see China as a partner, a competitor, and as a rival” he says. He refers to the recent comprehensive deal with China, which he thinks shows that “we are capable of asserting our own interests without waiting for the new American administration.” If the EU needs to negotiate with China, he also insists on the importance of building links with “like-minded democratic countries in Asia.”

European strategic autonomy 

Strategic autonomy has become a catchphrase, especially this year with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, defined as the way the EU can avoid excessive dependence on external suppliers. “It is a concept that we need to put in action,” he says. Precisely, it means developing its own system of satellite, such as Galileo, a European global navigation satellite system that will be fully operational in 2021. But to achieve strategic autonomy, especially in the defense sector, he points out: “we need to build a common European strategic culture because we don't have one.” On top of this, says Borrell, the EU needs to revitalize multilateralism to increase cooperation and enforcement of European policies.

EU as a defense actor

Asked about the foreign action of the EU, the High Representative said: “The European Union is not a military alliance.” To his understanding, there is no alternative to the territorial defense of Europe out of NATO. However, he supports the idea of the development of joint military capacities: “we would be a better partner, also for NATO, if we will pull our forces to create an European capacity or defense, ready to act alone, in the case NATO cannot intervene.” Today, 5000 European troops are deployed, to help maintain peace at borders and to contribute to the protection of the rule of law and various peacekeeping missions, he points out. 


(c) An article written by Aude Dejaifve, PSIA student in the Joint Master in Journalism and International Affairs, 2021


More information about the Youth & Leaders Summit 2021. Watch the sessions replays.

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