Situated literally at the heart of the European Union, the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union serves as a forum of dialogue with the European institutions. By organising a regular frank exchange of views with political actors from the EU institutions, European and international organisations, NGOs, think tanks, the media, the private sector, the diplomatic corps and the academic world, the European Union Office aims to inject green ideas into this dialogue and, ultimately, into the work of the European institutions.
Our dialogue with the European institutions is focused on two aspects: European Integration and the EU’s External relations.
The European Union is currently in a deep crisis. Citizens seem to have lost faith in the European project which has been so important for peace, welfare and stability in the region after World War II. In 2014 European citizens can elect their representatives for the European Parliament for the 8th time in history. The year 2014 will be a historic year for Europe as it marks the beginning of the First World War 100 years ago, the ending of the Second World War 65 years ago, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal 40 years ago, the end of the colonel’s regime in Greece also 40 years ago, the beginning of the peaceful revolution in Eastern Europe 25 years ago and the ‘Eastern enlargement’ of the EU ten years ago.
Euroscepticism has its roots in a lack of knowledge and understanding of European history and of the importance of EU institutions and policy for the daily life of citizens. The European Union Office of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung supports the process of European integration and strives to make its process transparent.
1. Common European Foreign and Security Policy
Despite the development of the European Security Strategy in 2003, the Common European Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) did not make much progress due to the institutional problems of the last years. Yet the EU did not relinquish its operational commitments and deployed some 20 military or civilian operations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The Treaty of Lisbon has improved the visibility of CFSP and ESDP (now renamed Common Security and Defence Policy – CSDP) as well as the EU’s ability to act. These improvements include the appointment of a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The HR, currently Catherine Ashton, leads both CFSP and CSDP and serves as Vice-President of the Commission and Secretary-General of the Council. The High Representative is supported by the European External Action Service, basically an EU Foreign Office or Diplomatic Corps officially launched on 1 December 2010. Unfortunately, so far the new institutions and possibilities have not led to any remarkable improvements in the performance of the EU as a global actor and the HR has been frequently criticised for a lack of determination, especially during the ‘Arab Spring’ and the events to follow. The internal crisis of the EU and its institutions as well as the tendency to ‘re-nationalise’ policies do not favour a further development of the global role of European Union and yet it is a role necessary to play.
Enlargement has proved to be the most successful instrument of bringing stability, prosperity and security to the areas surrounding the European Union. After the ‘big bang’ enlargement of 2004 when the countries of central and eastern Europe joined the Union followed by Bulgaria and Rumania in 2007, the prospect of EU membership was of great importance to the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey. However, due to the eurozone crisis and the general malaise of the European project, enlargement is no longer seen as a priority or even desirable by many Member States’ governments and citizens. It looks as if Croatia, which will become the 28th Member State on 1 July 2013, could be the last country joining the EU for quite a while. Turkey’s EU membership has disappeared out of focus on both sides and the perspective for the rest of the Western Balkan countries seems to be fading away.
The Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union has supported the accession process through debates, visitors programmes and capacity buildings for young political activists from new member states, accession countries and from countries with an EU perspective (More information can be found here).
3. Neighbourhood Policy
In order to guarantee peace and stability in countries surrounding the European Union which have no membership perspective (at least not on short and medium term) the EU, in 2003, established its Neighbourhood Policy. The ENP offers the EU’s eastern and southern neighbours privileged partnership agreements. The persistent criticism of the ENP as being non-committal has led to the establishment of the Union for the Mediterranean in July 2008 and of the Eastern Partnership in May 2009, new forms of cooperation with the EU’s southern and eastern neighbours respectively.For more information on the European Programme of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union please contact Marianne Ebertowski.