The question of “acquis diplomatique”, which is the realm of a collective European foreign policy making, and whether “there is a coherent European foreign and defence policy”, is a relevant one. If it wasn’t relevant a decade ago, it is becoming more and more relevant in the coming decades. This relevance needs to be the guiding force for Pakistani foreign policy stakeholders going forward. Pakistan must plan for this eventuality from today. The EU-Pakistan Five-Year Engagement Plan is just a beginning in this realisation. Its optimal execution is largely dependent on Pakistan’s fiscal discipline.
There is a definite realisation within some European countries led by Germany (11/27) that there is a need for such a unified purpose and this realisation became clear earlier in September when a 12-page document detailing recommendations was pushed by this group: “To make the EU into a real actor on the global scene we believe that we should in the long-term introduce more majority decisions in the common foreign and security policy sphere, or at least prevent one single member state from being able to obstruct initiatives.”
Contrasting to this initiative is the fiercely independent and nationalistic sovereign stands of countries like UK and France. These two mostly lead and ‘go it alone’ on issues which are divisive within the Union. Coupled with this trend and, in fact, the reason for this trend is the cohesiveness of the concept of Europe itself. The European countries transformed in 2011 from being the solution to the problem when the European leaders failed to reassure the world about the sustainability of the Euro. Economics lead politics as is often said. And there could be no better example of this than when due to the Euro Zone issues European foreign policy shifted from being a subject to an object. If Europe was forced to go with a begging bowl to the IMF and China for contributions for a bailout, its initiative on a unified foreign policy was certainly lost in the process.
However, what is uniquely European is the search for this joint identity. Since there is a belief in this unity of purpose being most beneficial for member states, there will always be a strong drive within the EU to achieve this difficult goal. Europe, after all, is a collection of nations striving for a joint nationhood. It is unlikely that the sovereign nation concept will melt into a pan-European nationhood immediately, but when the benefits of a joint foreign-defence-security strategy outweigh the charms of solo policies, this will become a reality. When the enemy strikes hard at the European defence lines, this joint policy will become a necessity.
Pakistan’s EU Engagement Plan is well meaning and balanced. Let us examine it critically. What will lead the plan is the “Regular Strategic Dialogue between the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan.” These meetings are not just symbolic of a will to work together on trade, investment, good governance, institutional strengthening, national security related issues. These meetings are key for providing the right impetus in all sectors of joint action. The Foreign Minister’s intellect, independence, initiative, institutional memory and mainly negotiation acumen is as key as the ability of the rest of the government to implement that drive. The current outstanding on this relationship are the package of Autonomous Trade Preferences (ATPs) for Pakistan offered by the EU in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 floods. And the GSP+ scheme which Pakistan needs to be considered for in 2014. It is clear that “comprehensive cooperation in areas related to stability and security, in particular counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics” are as important as “cooperation and exchange expertise on the functioning of civilian democratic bodies and safeguarding fundamental human rights and opposing extremist intolerance.” All are dependent on having real leadership in Pakistan to deliver on these grandiose cooperation agendas.
Whilst Pakistan is clearly lacking on delivering on this Pak-EU Engagement Plan due to the deficiencies of the current Pakistani leadership, the Europeans are also struggling with the “acquis diplomatique” for a coherent foreign policy narrative. The European foreign policy actors proposed earlier this year the strategy of “money, markets, mobility.” It was, in essence, the principle of “more for more.” This showcased their will to build “deep democracy” with their subjects. It has had a bumpy start, as the EU cohesiveness scorecards clearly demonstrate. The will of the European powers to deliver a joint strategy in Syria, Libya and Iran contrast heavily with their failures to react in time to the Arab uprisings. Their checkered pasts of having supported dictators in these countries had to fast convert into their support for populist movements.
Moreover, European interventions in Libya proved that they were largely dependent on US for military assets such as refuelling, targeting and jamming capabilities. What needs to be worth noting from a Pakistan-Afghanistan regional perspective is that European countries will continue to have this “capability deficit” going forward due to the drastic cuts in their defence budgets.
Pakistan needs to factor in the fact that European foreign policy cohesiveness is more apparent when there is an alliance between big countries and small ones. And that this cohesiveness is least shown, since big countries like to go their own way. Examples of such incidences which reduce European power projections are many. The UK, for instance, led a diplomatic assault to block the EEAS, which was EU’s new diplomatic service from speaking on behalf of the EU at the UN or the OSCE. France led the diplomatic offensive against Turkey on the Armenian issue, which made the EU-Turkish cooperation difficult. Germany blocked EIB funds, thus impacting European support for Arab populist movements. We have often seen “selective diplomacy”, which means that meetings are informal and selective in their choice of country representatives. The pooling and sharing of resources for defence exist on paper, but defence cuts in European countries make this an exercise in futility.
The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is often accused of lacking a proactive approach, but to be fair to Ms Catherine Ashton it is difficult to lead European nations, who are divided on political issues and who are not eager to commit resources.
There is already a lot of talk about the German Europe, since Germany is largely seen as the “geo-economic” power, which uses economic means to pursue foreign policy goals. Each country in the European Union needs to converge on this key issue and find similarities on export-driven strategy. Pakistan needs to respond to this economic strategy by doing a detailed study of which blocs in EU are best suited for its own export-led strategy. This is the new paradigm shift that needs to be Pakistan’s initiative to the European Euro Zone and one nation crisis. And this is what the PML-N will concentrate on. For reasons which are largely economies of scale related, Pakistan can win foreign exchange if it successfully executes “FDI-export cluster strategy” for the EU as a bloc and not just concentrate on bilateral export strategy.
The economy of the EU generates a GDP of over Euro 12.629 trillion, according to the IMF, making it the largest economy in the world. The EU is represented as a unified entity in the WTO. The EU is the largest exporter in the world. Instead of Pakistan being in a position to take advantage of this economic power bloc its own exports to the EU fell to $5.957 billion in 2011-2012 with a decline of 8.87 percent. It is highly regrettable that Pakistan only managed to get from the EU countries investment during 2010-11 to the tune of a dismal $230 million. Sorting the economic statistics between Pakistan and EU will be a key priority of the PML-N when it gets to federal government in the next elections.
Ensuring that the dependence on aid from the EU is minimised will also be a key priority of the PML-N. We have often maintained as a party policy that aid is not the answer to our problems, but the current corrupt government has made it routine standard operating procedure to syphon of the aid coming for its poorest.
On the security side, there is no doubt that a deeper engagement with Europe as far as Nato’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is necessary to balance the unipolar effects of US policy. However, the defence budget dynamics of the European countries will be the main denominators of this equation. Pakistan must secure for itself an understanding with the EU defence stakeholders the objections it has to the Indo-Afghan encirclement strategy, as is clearly demonstrated in the recent Agreement on Strategic Partnership between Afghanistan and India.
Moreover, the EU commitment to democratic institutionalisation is something the PML-N considers itself best poised to undertake, since unlike the other parties its commitment to democracy is unflinching and consistent. This commitment will be tested in the by-elections and the elections in the coming months.
It is clear that whilst the EU undertakes its own balanced scorecard review of its own cohesiveness on foreign policy, Pakistan will have to poise itself as an eager customer for EU’s FDI/trade and eager partner in securing the region with its help. Pakistan cannot afford to ignore the following trends in the EU: “A radical overhaul of European foreign and defence policies to create a powerful new pan-European foreign ministry, majority voting on common foreign policies to bypass a British veto, a possible European army, and a single market for EU defence industries.” Pakistan must respond keeping the economy and security as key priorities using the “FDI-export cluster strategy” as the main paradigm.
Article published in The Nation on Nov 17, 2012. ~ Marvi Memon