When it comes to elegance in diplomacy, former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski is perhaps not the best person to turn to. Many people whom I’ve spoken with in Washington recall their interactions with the ebullient former minister as wrought with arrogance and contempt. While this sentiment might be pervasive among foreign policy elites, there is no denying that Sikorski has talent and instincts: particularly when it comes to Europe.
The point that he makes in this article is not only valid, but one that I agree with wholeheartedly: European nations need to let the EU do its job! When everyone tried to stick their finger in the pot, we end up with some disgusting concoction hardly even resembling the original recipe we set out to build together.
Ultimately, the biggest sticking point may be that foreign policy is central to the legacies of many heads or state or government within the EU member nations. Indeed, while this article draws on the pressure Nicolas Sarkozy was able to exert on Russia as rotating President of the European Council, the ultimate outcome was a huge personal victory for Sarkozy which, to this day, is still used as a leadership bonafide. Contrastingly, when an EU official scores a major foreign policy win, who is there to congratulate them? While Brussels might be applauding the collective work of High Representatives Mogherini and Ashton on the Iran nuclear deal, who beyond these elite circles are even able to recognize these leaders, much less praise their accomplishments?
The difficulty, as far as I see it, is not merely that European leaders are not leading, but also that they are not compelled to translate their victories to the European public. As is the case in European capitals, the Foreign ministers who helped broker the Iran deal (for example) are on a public affairs victory lap. Touting these huge, symbolic wins, is likely to translate into political gain. Yet for European leaders, even the likes of Mr. Juncker, the lack of democratic accountability not only minimizes these victories, but also removes the need for spinning and PR. While some may see this as a good thing, I believe that accountability will also lead to an electorate wanting more out of Europe. I, for one, am not happy settling for a European Parliament that focuses on mundane things like fishing qutoas.
I therefore not only agree with Sikorski’s point, but I would like to take it one step further: what Europe needs is not only to let it’s designated leaders lead on foreign policy, but also to make their actions accountable to the people. It’s tough to tell politicians to scene control to what amounts to glorified Bureaucrats in brussels. I believe that more democracy is not only the solution to this problem, but is also the solution to many other problems currently plaguing the EU!