EU’s top diplomat urges bloc to step up and become real geopolitical player

epa08057690 European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell speaks at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (unseen), ahead of a meeting at the building of the European External Action Service (EEAS), in Brussels, Belgium, 09 December 2019. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

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The EU’s new top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has urged the bloc to step up and be a real geopolitical player or risk Europe becoming just a playground for other big powers.

POLITICO reports ahead of chairing his first meeting of EU foreign ministers Monday, the bloc’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy wrote a three-page letter to ministers late last week outlining his ambitions.

In the letter, seen by POLITICO, Borrell wrote that as “we see the rebirth of geostrategic competition,” notably between China, Russia and the United States, the EU “has the option of becoming a player, a true geostrategic actor, or being mostly the playground.”

His remarks reaffirm the new Commission’s aim to be more geopolitically relevant, with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defense minister, saying last week that each weekly meeting of the College of Commissioners will set aside time for a report on “external action.” The new geopolitical push was also reflected in the Strategic Agenda 2019-2024, agreed by EU leaders in June, stating that “the EU needs to pursue a strategic course of action and increase its capacity to act autonomously to safeguard its interests, uphold its values and way of life, and help shape the global future.”

In a passage that will cheer those diplomats who have complained that the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) was turning into a “travel agency,” where ministers talk about their trips but often take no actual decisions, Borrell promises change: “I will strive to make our discussions informed, interactive, political and result-oriented, and for outcomes that are operational,” he wrote. “I intend, inter alia, to send you letters before each FAC meeting, setting out the scope, purpose and possible outcomes of the proposed agenda topics.”



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