Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

EU foreign policy

How official diplomats in charge of implementing EU foreign policy regard the developing world, that is reflected in what the European Commission proposes and recommends, but not only. There is uncertainty about what is followed up in practice. Often propositions are in reality declarations of principles rather than being an operational basis for concepts to be worked out in partnership with local actors (NGOs, communities, etc.). Such a partnership is lacking in most cases. Even more so the offer of mediation which the EU can offer in areas of conflict are not sufficient to sustain substantial peace efforts, see the Middle East but also Afghanistan. Out of that results a confusing picture of aid and military support all while claiming to be still operating within the domain of 'soft power'. That does not work once demands upon any specific locality over exploit vulnerabilities without having supportive structures in place. It lets sooner or later all contradictions come to some kind of explosion, if not implosion.

A crucial question is what EU measures sustain cultural accommodation within Europe of the needs of the developing world? In some cases, twinning between a Belgium and an African city work better in accommodating each other needs then in the overall sense. Can that be attributed to a lack of overview, structural differences, world wide divergences?

Nevertheless it has to be noted that there are efforts to create something like a single foreign policy Commissioner, and this despite the failed EU Constitutional Treaty and the uncertainty surrounding its follow-up in the form of the Lisbon Treaty. Right now this function is being fulfilled by Solena but without a fully recognized mandate. These efforts are undertaken in recognition of the growing importance of the European Union in the world1.

However, unification of Europe from the outside leads fatally back to classical politics engaged in wars abroad or military types of adventures just to ensure ‘unity’ at home e.g. Bismarck’s efforts to unify Germany.

Equally EU expansion shall be highly problematic if merely a direct consequence of bourgeoisie society which knows only one way to survive as attested already by Hegel, namely by expanding still further. It means literally transgressing borders.

The narrow confines of EU foreign policy become apparent already when reading following text made publically available on the official website:

“La Commission propose une nouvelle conception de la cooperation au developpement qui repose sur les piliers d’une meilleure coordination et d’objectifs communs.

La nouvelle politique de developpement de l’UE proposee par la Commission fait de l’eradication de la pauvrrete sa preoccupation essentielle. Elle souligne l’importance d’une relation de partenariat avec les pays en developpement et de la promotion de la bonne gouverance, des droits de l’homme et de la democratie. Elle met en evidence le role de la societe civile et s’attaque aux situations de conflit et au probleme des Etats defaillants. Cette nouvelle politique accorde aussie au developpement une place fondamentale dans l’action exterieure de l’UE, parallelment a la politique etrangere et de securite commune, et explore les liens entre ces domaines d’action et d’autres comme les migrations, l’environnement et l’emploi.

Cette proposition reconnait que les relations de l’UE avec chaque partenaire exterieur sont uniques et supposent une palette specifique de mesures, dans les domaines de l’aide, du commerce et d’autres politiques, pour repondre aux besoins particuliers de chaque partenariat. La communication resume aussi les grandes orientations que suivra la Commission pour mettre en oeuvre la nouvelle politique de developpement

La proposition va maintenant faire l’objet d’un examen conjoint avec le Conseil et le Parlement europeen en vue de parvenir a une declaration commune d’ici a la fin de l’annee.” 2

Quite clearly, implementation of such declared development policy needs full cooperation between European member states. Despite emphasis being given to consensus, nothing is said how the monitoring of concerted actions will be backed up by further going decisions, never mind translate themselves into a common EU foreign policy. Efforts to rectify that situation have till now been thwarted by member states like the United Kingdom which wish to keep their sovereignty in this domain.

Of interest is that the EU gives highest priority to ‘eradication of all poverty’ – a novel goal, so it appears at best. That goal is already incompatible with the priority which the European Commission stresses in the next point mentioned, namely that development can be promoted best by enhancing ‘good governance, human rights and democracy’. How political preconditions translate themselves into factors of development is a definite mystery; if anything, this presupposition looks more like a list of vague criteria for good behavior and by which the European Commission reserves the right to judge developing countries how close they come to fulfilling these norms in order to gain trust and financial support. It seems to overlook what is taking place at local level and what it takes to translate that into ‘good governance’. What is compliance to a norm and what is good practice when both are really a matter of coming realistically to terms with poverty?

For instance, Mwiika Malindima points out that many women are left alone to face the plight of their children. Despite African societies being known for their extended family structures, many women are abandoned for numerous reasons: war, urbanization, AIDS etc. All these factors tend to ravage the social structures. They deprive more women and mothers of any kind of support, support they need especially from men but who have gone if not to war, then to the next big town or city. They abandon their families out of numerous reasons, the lure of big money only one of them. Often certain gender differences play themselves out here as well. As a sign of great inequality the women have to carry more often alone the entire burden of survival of the family, in particular of the smaller children. When looking at African societies, there has to be kept always in mind that tribal justice and local governance differs very much from the Western model of democracy. The tribal system differs insofar as the plight of women takes on something like an external or third dimension. Consequently it is to be feared that the European Commission is operating only at such conceptual levels where the inward-outward movements of goods and other services is possible while everything else is made subservient to that greater need of mobility. Hence the emphasis upon transportation and communication is very evident. Clearly if the European Commission wishes to know with whom to talk in such a way that the local people can begin to find solutions by themselves, then governance must become ‘cultural governance’. It will mean there is no point in imposing a certain political model if the motivational structures of the local population cannot be addressed thereby. As a way to get in touch with representatives of the European Commission, prime emphasis should be to ensure they become creative and productive in their own terms rather than attempting to fulfill EU criteria of good governance. It goes without saying that ‘good governance’ is still needed but it has to have a cultural dimension.

The best way to resolve that dilemma is to ensure that ‘cultural governance’ includes the possibility for people to share experiences, so that they can build up their own knowledge base. For the main emphasis should be on letting people become creative and productive individuals for their own communities and larger society. The main focus should be, therefore, on making realities become ‘intelligible units’ or like small islands capable of fulfilling criteria of sustainability by themselves. The aim should not be so much on nation but on societal building. This goes hand in hand with the need to recognize that ‘politics’ goes beyond mere governance and starts with how people are informed and inform each other about what is going on. A gain in self knowledge can be noted where the local people are prepared to take a stand at crucial developmental turns. If they take a stand against injustice itself, then they are rooting themselves more than ever in Human Rights as they are prepared to stand up for others out of respect for them. That is how freedom for everyone can take shape.

EU development policy will fail where the need to take small steps is not being heeded while further down the line development strategies fall quickly out of tune with local people because most difficult to follow. This is especially the case once the going gets tougher and hard development decisions need to be taken i.e. not in preference of quick profits or solutions but in standing up for the need that everyone is informed and can participate in the process.

Is Europe’s project orientation, expert driven, in reality a foreign policy devoid of implementation chances?

In Europe project driven development is part of an overall learning process. It means a lot of time is given to work out solutions in agreement with almost everyone. Results can be followed up by new directives being initiated while the various levels – local, regional, national and European wide – encompass at European level itself a complexity of decision making bound to further processes in consideration of different voices. The European Commission points out already in its foreign policy declaration that due consideration has to be given to the European Parliament. Equally other forms of consultation or due processes include the Council and various other bodies, including the Committee of Regions and the Committee for Social and Economic Affairs. By contrast, the same kind of institutional framework to oversee implementation according to various issues, needs and priorities does not exist when operating outside of Europe and in settings with very different law giving bodies, authorities (especially the Clerical ones in Islamic countries) and institutions. As such the question has to be asked if the reliance of Europe upon ‘projects’ financed in a specific way really a reliable instrument to substantiate foreign policy or is it in reality due to the expert driven types of projects initiated in reality a foreign policy devoid of implementation chances? The question can be posed slightly differently, and this without wishing to dispute the enormous success stories, if the project orientation without legislative back-up has any chance of succeeding in what it aims to achieve, namely to initiate such a learning process that a transposition from the experimental, non compulsive field to a more regulated advancement of development can be achieved. This is not about brokerage of deals; it is about gaining in the process insights in how knowledge obtained by experience can become validated advise for political decision makers to take into consideration when organizing the next phase of development. If anything, the European experience can be transposed into other contexts at best only with a grain of salt.

Why is that? Here some simple answers may allow reflections about this crucial matter to go a bit further. First of all, it is not self evident nor all that easy to gain access to authentic information about the situation on the ground. Even the term ‘needs’ shall be redefined as development progresses through various levels of economic viability and wealth is attained. The dynamics are also quite strange for the outsider as various other notions and perceptions have to be played out before some reliable degree of mutual understanding can be attained and claimed as premise for the next step. Consequently assessment of the situation is most crucial and should be elongated as initial phase if there is no reliable data available on the ground. And it is not merely about monitoring but also whether or not trust and other intangible prerequisites are there so that the participation of the local people can be guaranteed.

Unfortunately the European project orientation tends to skip over this initial phase or wants to by-pass by making a projected aim into the very prerequisite of what achievements in development should stand for. There is a single word for this, namely ‘capacity building’. Needless to say it does not go in the direction to train lawyers, administrators, academics, researchers etc. to work on the regulatory framework in order to accompany the concrete implementation process. Instead capacity building is misunderstood as finding those decision makers who can bring together the necessary resources and complete the project on time. Such an approach tends to sideline more than the number of people who are involved in such a process. And it is skewed towards building up such a power base as if the entire or residual environment tends to be hostile to the project’s core idea. What happens then altogether is while some gain access to special knowledge, the rest are left out of an experience so that in the end greater differences in aptitudes prevail towards the newly introduced working methods. All of it contributes towards a growing inequality prompting sooner or later a backlash by those who feel themselves impoverished in the process.

There are some other important aspects related to that. Repeatedly in an effort to avoid misuse of money stress is being put upon anti corruption measures. This leads, however, very quickly to greater ambivalence as to what is being done to satisfy international controls while underneath it much pressure is being put upon those working in anti corruption squads not to reveal out of patriotic reasons everything to the international observers. It is a game developed over time and takes on a highly sophisticated form of deception once certain rules are broken, but no consequences are pursued due to higher placed connections. Most telling is what international NGOs like Human Rights Watch manage to address and what becomes then not a matter of anti corruption squads, but anti crime squads. Out of that arises a confusion of terms and more so how differently the issues are being dealt with. While corruption has very much to do with intangible matters like loss of honesty and therefore in a much wider sense with morality linked to the public interest in transparency, crime related matters cannot be dealt with by the art of persuasion to remain consistent in methods of accounting and payments. Criminal acts are of a very different nature even though they can be sanctioned by the simple equation of insiders or locals versus the outsiders or international agents. Again over simplistic concepts obscure rather than illuminate upon those critical moments where decisions would need to be taken before the development goes off on a tangent and into a very bad direction.

Basically it is about developing tools for monitoring the situation and to obtain original documentation. That validity is needed so that the European Union has a basis to act upon. Here some very careful mediation is needed and other things outside of expertise need to be taken into consideration, before a process is started to implement a certain project or number of projects. European development projects as a rule fail to satisfy that critical criterion by not obtaining not only sound information, but equally valid and original documentation. Because the European projects tend to be expert driven, more or less top down, the core references needed to know what to formulate as guidelines for projects are themselves contentious and off the mark. That means the backbone for foreign policy as it relates to development projects on the ground tend to obscure the lack of substantial information by tending to be more or less demonstration projects i.e. good for showing to the media especially when higher placed officials visit the area but they are inconclusive and unsubstantiated in terms of real experiences made on the ground even though that spells all the difference between what works, what not.

One reason for this overt driven model of development is that exogenous factors count more than substantial experiences. These factors are needed, so the common belief, in order to attract investors and foreign companies. The claim of being a successful development strategy has to be aligned with that need, namely the ability and capacity to attract and to hold onto inward investments as they start to come in due to the European project being initiated. So while no attention is given to the regulatory framework as part of cultural governance, preconditions for businesses are worked out so that they can safeguard their interests. The prime opening of a project has to do much more with creating business opportunities and only secondary with what may be spill over effects i.e. employment, extra equipment, upgrading of facilities, access to other activities not necessarily conducive to development but as part of a crazy world of businesses attracting still other kinds of businesses with the main negotiation going on in the night bars and somewhere quiet than in public places where everyone could be a witness on how the community altogether stands with regards to new businesses coming in. Once the voice of a community has been fragmented, its backbone, mainly an adherence to cultural heritage and therefore to a collective identity, will no longer be able to uphold any formidable negotiation position. That would only be the case if the local community could demand that cultural constraints are heeded and therefore forms of over exploitation avoidable. It does not seem possible if the voice speaking on behalf of all is silenced and especially if ‘private’, equally international interests can override all other concerns. If that is the case, then development projects are transformed into social explosives. Once set off, they scatter local interests in all direction.

Needless to say the European approach follows a specific model of democracy based on the workings of a free market. Consequently everything is set on course to deregulate everything and this even before a functioning regulatory framework could be tested and validated. Moreover present world trade agreements and conditions of global business mean in reality the imposition of such rules and regulations which can never work in favor of developing countries just struggling to get on their feet. An example for such contradictory framework outline by the EU can be shown on hand of how a bidder for a tender outlines what experts are sought, in particular experts who can provide the necessary know-how about conditions under which ‘third countries’ can benefit from external aid coming from the EU and thereby what requirements have to be fulfilled to get such an external project started:


Invitation to Tender: EuropeAid/119860/C?SV (OJ 2004/S 132-11-111932) Lot 7: Culture, Governance and Home Affairs

Dear Partners,

We are pleased to announce that we have been pre-selected by the European Commission to participate in the tender process for the above mentioned framework contract.

We have been reviewing the tender dossier and have been preparing the necessary templates and documents that we will need for the application, as well as developing a strategy based upon the needs that we have to fulfill.

In general the challenge of this tender is of volume rather than of intellectual quality, although this will still distinguish us from the competition, we are asked to provide lists of in-house experts, external consultants, and of network partners. It is a time consuming work and a logistical one, the methodology in this case is relatively straightforward and will not pose a problem.

The Needs:

International Experts / Freelance Consultants

Here we need to provide experts, 60% of which CAT 1 and 40% CAT 2, of the above percentages respectively 75% of the experts should be EU 15 MS, and the remaining 25% is New MS plus beneficiary countries. We need a minimum of 1 – 2 per sub-sector.

All CVs need to conform 100% to the template model provided, we cannot afford to be rejected for the non-respect of this template.

For each expert we need to have a properly formatted CV no more than 3 pages and respecting the format together with an original statement of exclusivity, there can be no exceptions to these requirements.

Deadline for the receipt of CVs = 29/1/2005

1) International Support Network

We are required to demonstrate our network of support institutions that will be available for co-operating with us in the execution of the contract, the EC requests a list of 50 organizations outside the EU and max 1 Organization per country, after 6 months we are supposed to cover 90% of all countries covered by EC TA.

Deadline = 29/1/05

List of Network Partners

TACIS – OBNOVA/CARDS – MEDA – FED – Asia-ALA – Latin America ALA – Phare

Annex: Description of the Contents of each Framework Contract Lot & Consortium Partners

Lot 7: Culture, Governance and Home Affairs Sectors covered:

A. Culture

1. Cultural development policies

2. Intercultural dialogue

3. Cultural heritage

4. Audio-visual (including cinema)

5. Cultural industries and tourism

B. Governance

B.1 Promotion and protection of human rights

6. Promotion and protection of fundamental human rights

7. Social, economic and cultural rights

8. Political and civil rights (women rights, freedom of movement, freedom of thought, conscience and regional, children, minorities, migrants)

B.2 Support to democratisation

9. Democratisation processes

10. Social and political roots of conflicts (conflict prevention)

11. Elections (census, support to electoral processes and supervision)

12. Role and functioning of the Parlament

13. Citizenship (representing legitimacy, participation and political accountability)

14. Media freedom

B.3 Reinforcement of the rule of law and administration of justice

15. Reinforcement of the rule of law

16. Reform of judiciary (legal reform, justice and protection of human rights, capacity building)

17. Penal regime (sentencing and detention, pre-trial, juvenile detention)

18. Awareness and prevention of corruption

19. Police reform

20. Security sector reform (including exercise of civilian control over the military)

B.4 Public administration reform, management of public finances and civil service reform

21. Public administration reform and organizational development of public institutions (including policy formulation, planning, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation)

22. Civil service reform (including legal code, human resources management – recruitment, training, salaries)

B.5 Decentralization and local development

23. Decentralization (subsidiarity, legislation, resource and fiscal issues, accountability)

24. Support to local authorities (local and regional levels including municipalities)

25. Community based development (empowerment and participatory approaches, gender issues, micro projects)

26. Local development strategies (social, economic, multi-sector)

B.6 Enhancement of the role of civil society

27. Organizations (non Governmental organizations, Community based Organizations, media, trade unions), roles (service delivery and advocacy) and recognition (legal framework)

28. Capacity building (development of strategies, management and human resource development) and networking

C. Home Affairs, the fight against organized crime and terrorism

C.1 Drugs, Organized Crime, Border-crossing Management and Security

29. Fight against drugs (drugs data collection, forensic laboratories, Precursor/Licit and synthetic drugs; development of alternatives for drug production; drug prevention / rehabilitation; social reinsertion; anti-drug NGO strengthening and networking)

30. Fight against organized crime (including trafficking of persons, human organs, weapons and chemicals)

31. Fight against money laundering

32. Border-crossing management and security (travel documents and visas, persons and goods control)

C.2 Terrorism

33. Information and Intelligence (including data collection and exchange)

34. Anti-terrorism systems and cooperation (national and international)

For Lot 7: Culture, Governance and Home Affairs

As a minimum, the expertise is required to cover the entire project cycle:

programme / project identification and preparation / formulation

assistance implementation

preparation of Terms of Reference (services, works, supplies…) and evaluation of offers (Procurement)

evaluations (ex ante, interim, ex-post etc.), monitoring

as well as a number of horizontal aspects:

(Cross-) sectoral policies and reforms

(Cross-) sectoral and macroeconomic (economic, budgetary) appraisals/studies (incl. Public expenditure review)

Legislation, regulations and law enforcement

Approximation of legislation (acquis communautaire)

Institutional building

Training and research

Awareness-raising (incl. information and communication)

Information systems and technological issues

Gender issues

Environmental issues

HIV / AIDS issues (impact, prevention, mitigation)

Technical Description


Cultural development policies

Intercultural dialogue

Cultural heritage

Audio-visual (including cinema)

Cultural industries and tourism


B.1 Promotion and protection of human rights

In the context of the human rights approach to poverty reduction, inclusive focus on people’s participation and empowerment, linkage to national and international human rights norms and standards, equality and non-discrimination, monitoring and accountability

Promotion and protection of fundamental human rights

Social, economic and cultural rights

Political and civil rights (women rights, freedom of movement, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, children, minorities, migrants…)

One of the bidders made following general comment in view of these requirements:

“The task ahead is not a complex task or an overly intellectual challenge it is a test of perseverance and logistics, involving a large number of telephone calls, emails and discussions with experts, network partners and collecting all the requested documents.”

Basically, as long as the European Union fails to challenge the way foreign and development policy is being implemented right now, there will be no way that developing countries will emancipate themselves from one sided dependencies and relationships. There are several reasons for that. Certainly Europe has through its foreign and development policy given more the primate to economic than to cultural interests. While the former stands for increasing interdependency and certain advantages in the globalization process, neglect of culture as factor of development follows the lower priority given to improving the situation by giving recognition to the other side on equal terms.

These terms are, however, very difficult to realize, complicated and at times obscured by other messages linked, for example, to ‘the global war against terrorism’. The latter has made a huge difference since 911 since it means security and safety measures linked to a new type of world order are dictated by force. War is even waged to ensure ‘full compliance and co-operation’. As such it dictates time and pace as to how money is being spent and what goods are allowed to circulate (a war zone makes this kind of regulation / control justifiable and no one speaks about a controlled market access). Already at world trade level, new developments are marked by various forms of protests leading to new trade barriers e.g. clothes from China facing suddenly a trade barrier once it becomes clear that these cheaper clothes could flood the European market and drive European textile factories out of business. A Europe which stipulates that bananas have to be curved only so much, has no time to think about whether or not its foreign and development policy need a cultural component to overcome structural and systematic inconsistencies.

Then there is the problem of representation i.e. by Solena 3. He is the diplomat moving in-between EU institutions and foreign policy competencies of the EU member states. Accordingly his tasks are stipulated as much by formal agreements between member states as by informal consensus. There is little or no public consultation taking place. Citizens of Europe have no way to influence the process by which European foreign and development policy is being formulated. There is not only a huge gap in legitimacy but also in knowledge. The latter depends a great deal more in real experiences made in the developing world and requires a conscious effort to avoid false projections by the Western world upon the developing countries. Unfortunately all of this reinforces what people experience already within their nation states. As a matter of fact foreign policy matters at national level are one of the least accountable policy areas. By nature and structure they are far removed from any democratic decision making process. This has to do as well with diplomacy being based on national terms to define interests in the international context. Subsequently misunderstandings are reproduced by relying upon career diplomats who represent abroad their states and only indirectly the people of that state.

The European Union could become a model for inter-state cooperation, provided governance at international level is refined and strengthened by decisions being based on ‘cultural consensus’ and ‘cultural impact awareness’. Unfortunately Europe has not been able to achieve this most recently on three different occasions:

  1. Despite disagreements having become known to the public on how to face the pending war in Iraq with Germany and France disagreeing with Britain, in effect the war efforts by the United States were endorsed by other European nations, in support of the UK position, specifically Italy, Spain and Poland. They allowed the by-passing of the Security Council of the United Nations. This was reinforced by all European member states which followed suit after the 911 attack by declaring their unconditional support and solidarity with the United States, and this in accordance to their membership in NATO which stipulates automatic solidarity with the member under attack. Such instrumentalization of the military structure has been decisive for the political decision making process in Europe. It has deeper implications than admitted openly upon the formulation and implementation of EU foreign policy. In particular, its development principles are left far behind, as seen by home security receives a much higher priority than cultural work due to the global war against terrorism. Once this automatic solidarity clause in the NATO agreement was invoked and not questioned by the EU member states, insofar as a single terrorist hit even if of huge dimension as the case with the collapse of the Twin Tower does not qualify as a military attack as the USA experienced in Pearl Harbor, by allowing them to be manipulated in this way meant they lost credibility when it comes to uphold peace efforts in the world. Europe lost here a lot of ground via the developing world and not only due to Great Britain being under Tony Blair one of the staunchest supporters of the USA occupation of Iraq in order to achieve a regime change by means of violence and war.
  2. The failure to ratify the EU Constitutional Treaty in 2005 made it impossible that the EU gives formal recognition to what is being already practiced by Solena, namely to represent the European Union in foreign policy matters. It is still a matter to create the right conditions for a single EU foreign policy. The failure means effectively not to have the legal basis for such actions. For now, the European Union is not really legitimized to act outside Europe as if having a single voice.4
  3. The failure to agree on the EU budget came after the ratification process of the EU Constitutional Treaty was stopped. That failure marked the EU summit held in Luxembourg June 2005. It exposes two major needs of reform: the balance between net contributors compared to net beneficiaries no longer holds in the eyes of many, in particular the Dutch who give per capita the most contributions; the subsidies given to agriculture is at the core of the problem when wishing to come to terms with the EU budget and reflects what may indeed jeopardize social and economic cohesion, especially if redistribution of resources ends up benefiting wealthy land owners like Prince Charles while the poor stranded in cities remain below, at or just above poverty line. These two problems compound into an unstable basis for foreign and development policy implementation. There is a need for agreement within a given time framework now exhausted after the method of putting problems on the table i.e. the European Convention formed to draw up the EU Constitutional Treaty, has also been thrown out with the rejection by France and Holland. That means there is no method in place by which cultural consensus can be found through dialogue with civil society. The lack of legitimacy will prompt only more top-down impositions by the EU member states and therefore leave ever more citizens outside the integration process. The legitimacy and financial crisis will reflect itself in the confidence people have in the EURO and what role the EURO shall play in the world.

Due to these three factors the European Union risks being incapacitated, if it does not face the crisis of legitimacy brought about by the failure to ratify the EU Constitutional Treaty and to agree on a new EU budgetary approach to make use of funds more transparent and accountable. The EU Presidency of Great Britain under the leadership of Tony Blair proved to be to the surprise of everyone very weak. Surely this points to under swelling conflicts which have not been resolved for a long time and cannot be dealt with adequately by granting always Great Britain exceptions. At the same time, the European Union is overburdened by the entry of new members while glossing over these problems by staying on the course of steady and more expansion. If the European Union is to face future challenges openly and ready in time quite another politics has to realign itself in terms of what sort of projects are financed and how the outcomes are disseminated to include as well further considerations by politicians and advisors involved in the legislative process. Here the upgrading of the European Parliament is being delayed by giving greater powers to the executive branch of the European Union, namely the European Commission. That means by definition autark form of governance. It will not satisfy the minimum test of democracy. If the avoidance of core issues becomes the primate of politics, as Deutsche Welle assumes to be the case at the upcoming EU Summit, then gone will be the chance to step out of the routine in order to become truly innovative and creative in the process of adapting to future chances and challenges. Tony Blair in his letter of invitation to the summit announced merely that “the main theme of discussions will be ‘the opportunities and challenges of globalization.’ ’How do we meet the competitive challenge and maintain the security of our citizens in a world of unprecedented movement.’” 5

In very specific cases, the overall strategy of the European Union remains the same regardless who holds the EU Presidency. As a declaration on Bangladesh indicates, governance, human rights and security top the list of priorities while more specific matters never reach the level of the official agenda. Hence it never comes to a real European debate about negotiating terms and future developing strategies which would allow developing countries get out of their one sided dependencies upon the Western World.

“Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on publication of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for Bangladesh”

The UK in its present capacity as holder of the Presidency of the European Union has the honor to present the following statement on behalf of the European Union’s Member States and the European Commission to confirm the European Union’s long-term partnership with Bangladesh.

The European Union commends the Government of Bangladesh for its commitment to poverty reduction and its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as set out by its ambitious and comprehensive strategy “Unlocking the Potential: National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction”.

The Poverty Reduction Strategy provides a realistic picture of the development challenges in Bangladesh and correctly seeks to build on past gains, stop slippage and address implementation. This will help build on the remarkable progress already made by Bangladesh on macroeconomic stability, growth and human development.” 6

The wording is as revealing as diplomacy means to acknowledge that progress has been made while still further work is needed especially in the area of poverty reduction. The fact that there is praise that progress has been made, means above all ‘macro economic stability’ could be maintained despite continual existence of severe poverty. This suggests overt interests in general market conditions precedes actual poverty reduction. Crucial is the realization that real poverty reduction and positive development can only be combined when both business and NGOs as representatives of civil society are actively involved. Yet the two are not necessarily compatible. The two thronged approach by the EU is connected to the declared Millennium Development Goals which have really replaced the much more inspirational and far reaching aim of sustainable development, but which was not secured at the WSSD 2002. That failure meant the agenda was hijacked by business interests and therefore politicians left the meeting no longer convinced on how to relate to sustainable development both as a method and vision. Since then ‘sustainable development’ has more or less disappeared as buzz word.

Even more revealing in terms of EU priorities with regards to foreign policy is how the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy is viewed in practice. Rather than putting emphasis on labor activities, investments in human resources, development of cultural tools etc. more emphasis is put on issues like security. It leads to a gross neglect of those areas in need to being understood first of all in cultural terms in order to see what can give a country like Bangladesh a real development chance:

“The Poverty Reduction Strategy rightly identifies weak governance, poor human security, and violation of some human rights as significant challenges to improving the livelihoods of poorest and women, and to stronger economic growth. Corruption hinders service delivery, and this holds back growth and progress on development. These issues also constrain the successful implementation of Government plans. Likewise political and ethnic violence, as well as recent bomb attacks, add to human insecurity and are significant threats to continued development. The European Union hopes the Government of Bangladesh will demonstrate its commitment to addressing all these issues during implementation of the Strategy.

The European Union commends the Government of Bangladesh’s efforts to consult international partners and sections of civil society during the drafting of the Poverty Reduction Strategy. However the European Union notes with disappointment that full political participation in the PRSP process was not achieved. The European Union looks forward to stronger cross-party engagement during implementation of the Strategy and continued commitment to the Strategy beyond the next elections in 2007. Bangladesh continues to confront fundamental development challenges. The European Union values its partnership with Bangladesh and looks forward to a successful implementation meeting on 15 – 17 November. We stand ready to support Bangladesh in this challenging process.” 7

What are then the challenges, if not the need to reform all international relations and therefore what kind of foreign policy is pursued by individual member states and in unison by the European Union. Naturally the Council working together with the European Commission leaves the European Parliament on the sidelines and makes accountability even more problematic than what appears to be the case at first sight. As long as the European Commission can make legislative initiatives and controls in reality the whole process, the European Parliament does not play any significant role. Given the power of the Council of Ministers, the member states relinquish only so much power to the collective principle as they stand to benefit from such collective and collaborative process. Repeatedly it can be seen that other forces impact upon the EU foreign policy e.g. NATO while some member states prefer to demand the rule of the exception e.g. Great Britain. It is done in favor of preserving national sovereignty.

It would really be worthwhile to reformulate the challenges to be faced since by nature they are multi complex issues all of which have their own cultural dimensions. As a rule these dimensions are not perceived as being of any significance and therefore it leads to a gross misunderstanding. The failure of ‘intercultural dialogue’ as method proposed by the EU to further the peace negotiations in the Middle East comes here to mind. Over all the failure of diplomacy in a world marked by war as exemplified by the bombing of Kosovo in 1999 has exposed the general weakness of the European Union. It cannot really stand up to the United States and its way to impact international developments. Despite emerging out of nation states which had engaged in wars over centuries, the European Union has not found an alternative to the key US policy propagating nation building using single culture (defined by one language, specific religion and key values) as smallest building stone. If anything, things go basically wrong if new occupational forces replace the former one, the USA led coalition the former Russian forces in Afghanistan, and therefore not really letting the country heal its wounds. Afghanistan besides Iraq gives a good example that semi free elections and attempts at controllable governance are not enough, especially not if the real challenges are not met on a daily basis and solutions brought about are not sustained over time. Afghanistan is more than a challenge and it faces above all the challenge on how to overcome the dictatorship of fear:

“A simple thought experiment, concrete and elemental, can, I think, help us see this. Visualize, or try to, what – assuming there to be such a thing – the prototypical new state of the last half-century-just emerged from a disused and distanced colonial past into a world of intense and implacable great-power conflict-had- to address- ab initio, from a standing start. It had to organize, or reorganize, a weak and disrupted, ‘underdeveloped’ economic employment and fiscal policy. It had to construct, or reconstruct, a set of popular (at least ostensibly), culturally comprehensible political institutions – a presidency or prime membership, a parliament, parties, ministries, elections. It had to work out a language policy, mark out the domains and jurisdiction of local administration, elicit a general sense of citizenship – a public identity and a peoplehood – out of a swirl of ethnic, religious, regional, and racial particularisms. It had to define, however delicately, the relations between religion, the state, and secular life; train, equip, and manage professional security forces; consolidate and codify a thoroughly pluralized, custom-bound legal order; develop a broadly accessible system of primary education. It had to attack illiteracy, urban sprawl, and poverty; manage population growth and movement; modernize health care; administer prisons; collect customs; build roads; shepherd a press. And that was just for starters. A foreign policy needed to be established. A voice in the expanding and proliferating system of trans-, super-, and extra-national institutions needed to be secured. Attitudes toward the half-hated, half-loved, politically discarded but very much forgotten, metropole civilizations – London, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid – needed to be rethought, their heritage, the only even quasi-modern one the country had, re-assimilated; which meant, among other things, turning nationalism around from a restive and reactive, what-we-are-not, separationist ideology to a persuasive image of a natural, organic, what-we-are, historic community, ready for deals, development, and practical alliances: Mazzini modernized. It was a heady time. No wonder it was followed by ambiguous successes, precipitate turnarounds, sobering disappointments, and, often enough, murderous disruptions.” 8

A key component of a future foreign policy, so the suggestion, is to be able to turn nationalist tendencies around and transform into a kind of ‘peoplehood’ by which those stranded in far away mountainous region and those ending up in exile in Western metropoles can be re-united in a kind of “natural, organic, what-we-are, historic community” which is ready to negotiate new deals of development. Basically a realignment of partnership not brought about by coercion but by finding identities done by bringing those far apart together again. Such small utopian dream may be expressed as a wish that future foreign policy takes that much more into consideration than what is conceived in Paris, London, New York or Washington. It would mean bringing into the process as well those who are abroad, outside their own continent and countries, in order to come to terms with what is happening in these countries. There are many African artists in London seeking a way to define African identity. These artists can deal with new images reflected in all these small and big dreams as it is possible in the age of communication to maintain a flow of information between those living in an African village and the ones wondering what to do with their lives while walking down London streets. The new communication technologies, including satellite, mobile phones, internet, have opened up possibilities to even produce television series for those back home. Everyone can be reached, even in remote areas and one can be informed as to what is happening back home, provided there are people willing and able to communicate. There is a new form of illiteracy to be faced otherwise called the digital gap, but there is also another kind of silence as hopes are muted by what is happening politically and economically back home. That then is precisely the real question: what is home? The question can be extended to ask if such an identification process can be sustained by mere images watched on a flickering television screen? There are new traps in this virtual world since to be faced.

  1. “The EU is the world's largest donor of development funding, giving over half the world total (€100 for every EU citizen in 2006). Around one sixth of this is administered directly by the EU.” See http://ec.europa.eu/development/policiesgen_en.cfm
  2. http://europa.eu.int/comm/development/index_fr.htm
  3. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/cms3_applications/applications/solana/index.asp?lang=EN&cmsid=256
  4. What the constitution says: “The European Council, deciding by qualified majority, with the agreement of the president of the Commission, shall appoint the Union Minister of Foreign Affairs…(who) shall conduct the Union’s common foreign and security policy.” This the BBC commented as follows: “It sounds grand, but the minister will only be able to speak on the EU’s behalf when there is an agreed on common policy, for example over the Middle East roadmap which members have accepted. The post will combine the present role of the external affairs member of the Commission with the High Representative on Foreign Policy so it will be more prominent, especially in negotiating trade and aid agreements. The EU is also to set up its diplomatic service which will strengthen the Minister’s hand.” BBC 22.June 2004
  5. Deutsche Welle, “EU Leaders to avoid tough topics at summit” DWstaff/AFP (jam) http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,1749550,00.html?maca=en-bulletin-433-html
  6. 13720/05 (Presse 278) P 119/05, Brussels 25 October 2005
  7. http://ue.eu.int/cms3_applications/applications/newsRoom/loadbook.asp?BID=73&Lang=1&cmsid=257
  8. Clifford Geertz, “What was the Third World Revolution?”. 2005 http://www.dissentmagazine.org/menutest/archives/2005/wi05/geertz.htm. A translation thereof can be found in Lettre International, Nr. 692005

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