European Foreign Policy After the Lisbon Treaty     Print Email
Monday, 01 February 2010

On February 1, 2010, The European Institute convened a conference to discuss current questions of European foreign policy in light of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, a sweeping policy framework entered into force on December 1, 2009. On hand to discuss the significance of Lisbon was Stefan Lehne, the Political Director of the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs.  Mr. Lehne’s presentation addressed a wide range of contemporary questions on EU foreign policy and the EU’s role on the diplomatic world stage.

In response to the question “Is there an EU foreign policy?,” Mr. Lehne outlined seven main points. First, he conceded that the “machinery” of the EU created a considerable bureaucracy in which the EU was required to function. Multiple agencies and departments were at the EU’s disposal, he said, but the size of these bodies often slowed down efficient policymaking. Second, Mr. Lehne cited the sheer size of the EU’s offices and described the primary disadvantage of these agencies as a “lack of maneuverability.” Third, Mr. Lehne described the structure for third parties working with the official branches of the EU. Fourth, the Austrian official insisted that the EU “doesn’t lack teeth.” Twenty-eight countries are currently under EU sanctions, he said, and gave examples of the many sanctions and visa restrictions as determinant tools used by the EU in global diplomacy. Fifth, Mr. Lehne cited the EU’s capacity or small-scale crisis management missions all over the world. Sixth, he discussed the EU ‘neighborhood policy’ in relation to the countries sharing borders with non-EU member states. And finally, the official concluded with the issue of enlargement. He credited the EU with contributing to the peaceful transition by ex-Soviet countries into democratic regimes, such as in the case of the Ukraine and its “Rose Revolution,” and termed the EU the “reluctant magnet” for democratic reform in Europe.

Mr. Lehne focused special attention on Lisbon’s implications for relations with and in Washington. The diplomatic face of the EU will take longer to get going, he explained. The practical start of an EU external service will likely kick off five to ten years from the present time. For now, Mr. Lehne predicted, there will continue to be a bilateral focus at the national level – and not at the EU level – between Washington and its European partners.