The gaze of Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission, extends beyond national borders. This means that by virtue of her role, coupled by her political engagement, she keeps constant track of the global scenarios faced by the Union on a daily basis. Born in Rome in 1973, a staunch Europeanist since her university years, an Erasmus student in France, she served as MEP and Foreign Minister in 2014, until November 1st of that same year, when she was tasked with the responsibility of representing the European Union in the world. She willingly shared her reflections on some major topical international issues.
Let us start with the facts. The threat of terrorism has no borders: it strikes against Europe (the recent attacks in London and Stockholm) and in other continents alike (the tragic massacres in the two Coptic Churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday). Do you think that a concrete answer, as effective as possible, could come from close cooperation at international level?
We have started working precisely in that direction with exchange of information inside the European Union and with our major international partners, along with continuing cooperation to address and prevent terrorist threats. But we should be aware that many answers must be given at national level, to prevent the radicalization of young people who fail to find roots or prospects in the societies in which they live. And they are European citizens in their own right.
The security approach will never be enough to solve the problem if it isn’t coupled by prevention.
Also in this respect we have started working with Countries with experience in this area.
Countries outside the European borders are experiencing situations of violence, conflict, and political instability that cause the loss and suffering of millions of people. In the case of Syria, what are the possible ways out, also in the light of the conference promoted in Brussels at the beginning of May, and of ensuing initiatives?
The European Union firmly believes that the armed conflict in Syria cannot be solved with military means. We are working for peace and for a political agreement between the regime and the Syrian opposition forces that may lead to a transition period under the aegis of the UN. For a future of peace, Syria will have to guarantee the security and freedom of all citizens throughout the Country, regardless of their religion, political orientation and cultural identity. This is what the EU is working for, fully and actively supporting the talks promoted in Geneva, keeping a constant, open dialogue with all the Countries in the region to find a common ground for Syria’s future. There is but one feasible way out that encompasses a veritable ceasefire guaranteed by the parties with direct influence on the combating forces on the ground; a political agreement establishing the onset of a transition phase; full access to humanitarian aids; the beginning of a stabilization process, reconstruction and reconciliation in the Country. The European Union is not one of the military players involved in the conflict. Our efforts are carried out at political and humanitarian level, and they include future reconstruction. In each one of those areas the EU has a central role.
A “common European defence” policy is increasingly being called for. It’s a complex theme that involves internal security, external pressure on EU borders (Russia and Turkey for example), the role of great military powers starting with the United States. What is the position of EU Countries in this respect? Is a new security and defence strategy at EU level a feasible option? Not only is it possible; it is also a reality. Over the past nine months we adopted a new Global Strategy to confront foreign policy, security and defence, and we have begun implementing various lines of action. For example, in the area of defence and security we set up a “Military Planning and Conduct Capability” (MPCC) in Brussels, a single coordination centre of all EU military training missions. We plan to implement further lines of action in the following months.
The European Union isn’t only a “soft power.” 16 EU missions and operations are already up and running, from Africa to the Mediterranean Sea.
For us, the use of military means is always part of a wider strategy, as we firmly believe that no war will ever be solved with the use of force. For the European Union soft and strong power must always be at the service of peace.
The EU is deeply concerned about migratory inflows for various reasons. On several occasions the issue has sparked off divisions among Member Countries in terms of the reception of people fleeing from situations of hunger and war. However, from a wider perspective, a long term solution to immigration must involve the development of Countries where migratory flows originate. What steps is the EU taking in this respect? First of all we are finally acting as a European Union, after decades in which the responsibility was left to individual States. We established partnerships with a number of Countries of origin and transit, especially in Africa, for common action aimed at dismantling the criminal networks that traffic human beings; to ensure life and job perspectives in communities of origin; to protect and save lives; to open regular migration channels. Migration is a global phenomenon that we can only handle together, through a global partnership. Europe’s answer is not the creation of walls, but cooperation.
Peace is the first major objective underlying the European project of the “founding fathers”. Can the EU continue considering herself a “peace-making power” still today? Indeed, peace inside our borders remains the primary conquest of united Europe. We achieved this goal thanks to European integration, after having battled each other for centuries. Peace remains the goal yet to be achieved beyond our borders, from Syria to Libya, from Palestine to Africa.
Having experienced the destruction of war and having managed to overcome it, precisely for this reason, today’s Europe can help put an end to conflicts and build peace.
Despite the challenge linked to its implementation, the recipe is very simple. It consists in the constant quest for common solutions, points of contacts, ways out whereby instead of seeing one side winning over the other, the end of the war will benefit all those involved. This is the European lesson: cooperating is more convenient that fighting against each other. Moreover, people, their lives, the communities, are the primary concern, along with conflict prevention, investing in humanitarian support, cooperation for development, promotion of human rights. Peace is not only the absence of war. Peace needs to be built.