While reading articles on the first Euro crisis, something unique about post-Lisbon EU kept being quite visible.
Actually, the first thought was derived from a remark of the new “EU Minister for Foreign Affairs”: too much time to spend in inward-looking meetings, and not enough time to spend to “position” the new European Union abroad.
Most countries have “just” to sell their foreign policy to their own country and to their “foreign buyers”.
In my smaller world (SMEs), I saw how tough it was to keep moving a partnership of independent agents, sometimes with conflicting and overlapping business relationships with third-parties.
In the EU, the number of constituencies to take care of is variable, where “n” ranges from a handful to few dozens (each member country plus each EU institution- sometimes also with ripple-effects in member countries).
Because it will take some time to shape the new post-Lisbon “way of business”.
And, probably, the uniqueness of European Union is the long history of the external relations of each member country.
More than a liability, a potential asset in a post-Cold War world: it would allow to shape a foreign policy based on issues, not on a monolithic position reached by committee.
Hence, the title.
Recently this issue was again shown eloquently, when the European Parliament reported a certain degree of dissatisfaction at the request to consider the development funding as part of the foreign policy.
But it is actually a long honoured tradition, and not just in Europe.
At least since after WWII, financial and institutional aid has been often part of the long-term relationship between donor countries and recipients.
Along with the development of cultural and economic ties through knowledge and expertise exchanges.
In the XXI century, this implies going beyond the mere physical presence of dedicated officers- and adding to the agenda knowledge-licensing and long-term sustainability development support.
Moving beyond the purely financial incentives.
If you want- beyond the usual posts in foreign countries, a “virtual” post covering the sharing of the vast wealth of knowledge and expertise accumulated by the European Union could be a nice addition.
Nothing new here: other countries started right after the fall of the Berlin Wall to be increasingly more assertive in using cultural and development ties to foster a different kind of alliance.
From buying companies that would otherwise fail (and saving local politicians from painful negotiations), to simply giving away knowledge for free or a long-term interest, building stronger mutual ties between the donor and the recipient economy.
A treaty can be scrapped or replaced- a mutually intertwined supply chain has a better chance of building a long-term mutual interest.
“Supply chain” means here something more than the link from raw materials to distribution- R&D and building up exchange programs for students/researchers are, in my view, part of the “supply chain” that EU needs to build- using existing institutions.
I think that our n-dimensional foreign policy is a unique asset, but it needs targeted investments and continuous maintenance.