March 23rd, 2021
EU IDEA Project: Federica Mogherini and EU Idea researchers: Does differentiation make the EU a stronger actor?

On 23 March 2021, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) organized a webinar with EU Idea researchers and Federica Mogherini, Rector of the College of Europe and former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The webinar, titled “European foreign policy in turbulent times: Does differentiation make the EU a stronger actor?” addressed the question, when and how has differentiation advanced the EU’s role in world politics.

Scientific coordinator of the EU Idea project Nicoletta Pirozzi opened the webinar by noting that differentiation can offer a way forward for the EU when uniformity is not attainable or desirable. In her keynote speech, Mogherini agreed that differentiated groups can support the EU’s role in a specific context.

Mogherini noted that the differentiated process in the Normandy format, in which Germany and France negotiated with Ukraine and Russia, allowed the EU and its member states to be part of a mediation process where they would not have had a role without differentiation. Another positive example is the EU/E3 format which aimed at resolving the conflict over Iran’s nuclear programme, with the EU High Representative officially involved. Mogherini also mentioned examples of positive differentiation in the field of EU defence.

According to her, problems with differentiation emerge if differentiation is a means to circumvent lack of consensus or a stalemate between the member states; in such a scenario, differentiation gives a signal that there is no EU position on the policy issue. Similarly, it is a problem if a group of states acts against a EU policy line. On the other hand, Mogherini also noted that instead of “speaking with one voice”, in EU foreign and security policy, it is beneficial to acknowledge the strength in 27 voices.

After Mogherini’s input, EU Idea researchers presented their recent research in a panel moderated by Programme Director Juha Jokela from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs that coordinates a work package on EU foreign, security and defence policies in the EU Idea project.

Eduard Soler i Lecha, a Senior Research Fellow at Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), analysed why EU member states have faced difficulties agreeing on a common position on the Arab-Israeli conflict and in the Middle East Peace Process, and how the EU could remain relevant in it through differentiation. He argued that in general, differentiation can make Europeans relevant in policy situations and should be explored further also in the case of MEPP.

Marco Siddi, a Senior Research Fellow at FIIA, addressed the case of lead groups in EU foreign policy and in the Normandy format in particular. He noted that the Franco-German duo did not resolve the conflict but the cease fire negotiated could be considered as an achievement. Recognition of the lead group by Russia and Ukraine was important for the grouping, he noted.

Luigi Scazzieri, a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform (CER), analysed neighbouring countries’ participation in EU foreign and security policies. He noted that the cooperation models vary with different partners, including accession candidates, non-EU NATO-members, and EaP countries. Partnerships include for example consultations and coordination, but also contributions to CSDP operations and missions, and the battle groups.

Senem Aydın-Düzgit, a Professor of International Relations at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Sabancı University, also analysed external differentiation in EU foreign and security policy, and the cooperation with Turkey in particular. She argued that the more there is value-based or political convergence between the EU and the partners, the more beneficial the cooperation is likely to be, both in terms of informal and formal cooperation.

Finally, Sven Biscop, director of the Europe in the world programme at the Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels, covered differentiated defence cooperation and the Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO) in particular. He considered PESCO as a great instrument, the problem however being that it is not being used to a sufficient extent. PESCO could be about integration and not only about cooperation, he noted.