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IEP Lunch Debate with Elmar Brok: “The European Union facing new challenges: transatlantic free trade, intensified neighbourhood policy, joint crisis intervention”

Elmar Brok, MEP and Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, gave an address on “The European Union facing new challenges: transat­lantic free trade, inten­sified neigh­bourhood policy, joint crisis inter­vention” on 15 April 2013 at the Repre­sen­tation of the European Commission in Berlin. Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp, director of the Institut für Europäische Politik, moderated the event.

On April 15, 2013, Elmar Brok, Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, gave a presen­tation for an audience of approx. 200 partic­i­pants on the planned Transat­lantic Free Trade Agreement, the inten­sified Neigh­bourhood Policy and the EU crisis inter­vention. He highlighted the impor­tance of national govern­ments placing a stronger emphasis on the positive aspects of the EU, both with regard to the EU’s external relations and to the inner crisis of the EU. With the new tools for coping with the eurozone crisis and the new budgetary und super­visory proce­dures, more substantial results have been achieved on the EU level than on the federal level in the German political system. It is extremely important to bring these devel­op­ments to public attention. With regard to the current efforts in Cyprus, Brok empha­sized that all Member States of the EU are of equal value. Thus, it is of utmost impor­tance to support Cyprus; by no means can the EU refuse to rescue a Member State that is facing diffi­culties simply because it is econom­i­cally insignif­icant. This would lead to increasing mistrust between the Member States and endanger the EU’s internal market.

Regarding the project of a Transat­lantic Free Trade Area, Brok pointed out that the EU currently has the biggest share of global GDP with 27–28 per cent. The EU is also in a better position than Japan and the U.S. in terms of national deficit. Thus, the EU can enter negoti­a­tions about a transat­lantic agreement with confi­dence. Brok empha­sized the impor­tance to start with the negoti­a­tions immedi­ately following the report of the High Level Group this summer, although they can be expected to be compli­cated, especially in the fields of norms and standards as well as agriculture. The effects of tariff-barriers alone account for 10 per cent of the common transat­lantic trade, which could be completely removed. A Transat­lantic Free Trade Agreement would mean an additional annual growth of 0.5 per cent and an absolute increase in EU GDP of 86 billion Euro. Furthermore, the economic area created by the agreement would encompass 800 billion consumers, produce almost half of the global GDP and support the creation of urgently needed employment.

Brok took a rather critical stance towards the European Neigh­bourhood Policy, which is not working properly. In the Eastern Dimension, the Member States tend to completely under­es­timate the compe­tition of Russia over integration, whose imperi­alist efforts are starting to have an impact. It is hardly possible to talk about democ­ratic reform in the Eastern Partnership countries, and the past decade can be considered wasted time in this regard.

The negotiated Associ­ation Agreement with Ukraine is an important component for the future devel­opment of this country’s relations with the EU. At the same time, however, it will only be possible to sign and ratify the agreement if Kiev is not simul­ta­ne­ously responding to the Russian offer of a free trade area. Free trade in both direc­tions is mutually exclusive. In the southern dimension, there is signif­icant change happening in the Arab countries. In this regard, the national reflexes of the EU Member States are problematic and prevent a truly common approach. Brok rejected sugges­tions to transfer the compe­tences for the European Neigh­bourhood Policy completely to the High Repre­sen­tative and empha­sized that areas already displaying a relatively high degree of commu­ni­ti­sation should not to be completely re-intergovernmentalized.

On the other hand, Brok firmly empha­sized the necessity of a European External Action Service. This service is still in an early stage of devel­opment, and there are still tensions with the European Commission. Furthermore, the discus­sions of the PSK-ambas­sadors are too lengthy, and the decision-making process suffers from the principle of unanimity. However, Brok believes in the success of the External Action Service in the long run. In no other country worldwide, he argued, has a foreign service been success­fully developed in such a short period of time. Thus, he called for awaiting the review of the External Action Service, its proce­dures and instru­ments as well as the review of the Common Foreign and Defense Policy in order to give the devel­opment of a European Foreign and Security Policy a chance.

Regarding the EU crisis inter­vention and the Common Security and Defence Policy, Brok regretted that the Inten­sified Cooper­ation and the Permanent Struc­tured Cooper­ation have so far not been put to use. The French inter­vention in Mali was important and legit­imate and so was the support by the other EU Member States, including Germany. However, the fact that the EU training mission in Mali was already agreed upon last autumn but realized only now is a negative devel­opment. Actually, the EU is partic­u­larly skilled and experi­enced in the formation and training of local law enforcement and peace-keeping forces. In Somalia, the training mission EUTM is running success­fully, and the same can be said for the Atlanta Mission fighting against piracy off the coast of Somalia.

On the whole, Brok empha­sised that it is important to reinvig­orate the devel­opment of the EU external relations, which in recent years have been neglected in favor of the creation of consol­i­dation instru­ments and fiscal reforms in the fight against the eurozone crisis. A global re-shuffling will take place in the next two to five years, a devel­opment which is not pausing for Europe, even though there are great expec­ta­tions for the EU on the part of the U.S. and other countries and regions such as ASEAN.

By Anna Wartmann