chapter  7
The EU, strategic diplomacy and the BRIC countries
Pages 14

Introduction One of the key tests facing the emerging diplomatic system of the European Union is that of developing a strategic diplomacy. By this is meant a pattern of diplomacy that focuses on the pursuit of a strategic vision for the Union, and that provides principles and guidelines to shape the positioning of the EU both in the global arena more generally and in relation to key strategic partners. As noted in Chapter 1, the EU has been a keen developer of strategic statements and strategic frameworks in relation to key partners and key regions or issues in the world arena – a tendency that can be traced back at least as far as the 1970s (Edwards and Regelsberger 1990; Alecu de Flers and Regelsberger 2005; Edwards 2011), and which reflects both the ‘internal’ desire to consolidate European diplomacy and the ‘external’ drive to contribute to world order. But from the outset, these efforts have been beset by tensions and apparent contradictions. As a result, it has been said on a number of occasions that the EU has many strategies but no real strategy (or ‘grand strategy’) for its international involvement, despite the elaboration of the 2003 European Security Strategy (Dannreuther and Peterson 2006; Biscop 2009; Biscop et al. 2009; Smith 2011). It has also been argued that the EU’s international strategies reflect primarily the desire for international stability and for the creation of an environment amenable to the pursuit of commercial advantage, or that they reflect the needs of the EU’s most influential member states (see for example Smith 2004; Keukeleire and Delreux 2014). This chapter focuses on the issue of strategy through the particular lens of strategic diplomacy, and relates it to the ensuing chapters in this part of the volume. If we start from the assumption set out above – that strategic diplomacy is concerned with the generation and pursuit of a strategic vision, and with the provision of principles and guidelines to shape the positioning of the EU both in the global arena more generally and in relation to key strategic partners – then this suggests a number of requirements for the framing and pursuit of such a diplomacy: a stable institutional base, a means of extracting and coordinating the relevant resources both at the European level and from the member states, a unified strategic narrative or vision, the capacity to adapt this narrative in the face of

major international trends, and the capacity to both prioritise and target EU actions in a coordinated fashion on key relationships, partners or activities. If such qualities are present, it would suggest that the necessary components of deliberation, representation, communication and negotiation can be brought together to constitute an effective strategic diplomacy. As noted in Chapter 1, such aspirations are challenged especially in the current period by the proliferation of actors and issues in a globalising world. The contention of this chapter is that despite the implicit and explicit claims made in relation to the post-Lisbon EU diplomatic system, the EU has not yet developed such a strategic diplomacy in a consistent or comprehensive form – indeed, in some ways it may be further from achieving this ambition than it was before the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. It does however possess the tools with which to construct a strategic diplomacy: there has been evidence that these might be used more effectively as experience in their deployment has accumulated, and it is possible to make a number of recommendations about the ways in which those tools might be deployed in the next period. One key conclusion to the chapter in this context is that the initial assumption that strategic diplomacy implies a hierarchy of aims, relationships and actions is challenged by the development of a more differentiated and networked process, through which a pragmatic adjustment to change by the EU is likely to be accomplished. Such a strategic framework is no less demanding than those traditionally attributed to states, but may be more attuned to the contemporary diplomatic milieu. The chapter proceeds by looking first in more detail at the nature and requirements of strategic diplomacy, and exploring the challenges facing the development of a strategic diplomacy by the EU. It then focuses on the challenge of change in the global arena, and on one of the key ways in which the EU has pursued its strategic objectives through diplomatic means – the growing array of ‘strategic partnerships’, particularly those with the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) group. As will be seen later, this group is in itself a moving and sometimes elusive target, indicative of the renewed fluidity of international dealings more generally in the twenty-first century, and thus it poses a particular test of the EU’s capacity to address diplomatic challenges in a strategic manner. As such, it also focuses very precisely the relationship between the aspiration to strategic diplomatic action and the realities of a changing global arena, which is taken up in more detail in relation to the four BRIC countries in later chapters.