Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘CFSP’

Timmermans’ Convincing Case

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 6th March, 2015

Frans TimmermansIt is frustrating that so much of the discussion about Britain’s relationship with the European Union is about the question “should we be in, or should we be out?” The Prime Minister, David Cameron, must shoulder some of the blame for this, for constantly trying to dance to UKIP’s tune, instead of standing up firmly on the side of most of British business (a natural constituency for him, one would have thought) to stress how important EU membership is for the UK’s economy and how risky leaving to “go it alone” would be. I wish Mr Cameron, and indeed other Tory government Ministers, could have been present yesterday at Thomson Reuters in Canary Wharf to listen to the First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, give a masterly exposition of how the EU can steer itself through the next four or five years, by doing less better. The event was organised by the social democratic think tank Policy Network, focussing especially on EU reform as well as UK membership, but Mr Timmermans also highlighted the need for a more concerted European response to challenges such as Russia’s adventurism, Mediterranean migration and ISIS and related matters. I asked him if that meant that a recalaibration of the EU’s priorities might therefore be towards a stronger Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), at the expense of internal market regulation, but he responded by quoting Harold Macmillan’s classic remark about “events, dear boy” — in other words, the EU must be able to respond pro-actively as necessary. Meanwhile, Britain marginalises itself from EU action to the detriment of both London and Brussels; I have already blogged about my dismay that Mr Cameron stood aloof from the Merkel-Hollande mission re Ukraine. On that specific issue, Mr Timmermans said that even if the Minsk Agreement has not yet reached a satisfactory conclusion, Minsk must be the basis for taking things forward.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ukraine and the EU’s CFSP

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 22nd March, 2014

EU three pillarsOver the past few weeks I have been commenting regularly on developments in Ukraine/Crimea for an Arab TV channel, Al Etejah*. And while much of the attention rightly has been on Russia and what exactly Vladimir Putin has in mind from day to day, one of the broader aspects I’ve been mulling over is the implication the whole affair has for the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which between 1995 and 2009 was one of the “three pillars” of the EU (see diagram). CFSP is one area of European integration that has not progressed very far, and although the EU 28 usually vote as a harmonious bloc at the United Nations quite strong policy differences often emerge between member states, some of the larger of which (including Britain) still see their foreign policy as a matter of fundamentally national concern and competence. The EU has been united in condemning Russia’s effective annexation of Crimea and in extending the hand of accelerated friendship to Ukraine, but there have been divergent views about what sort of sanctions to impose against Russia, how strongly one should fall in line with what Washington is doing (London’s default position) and to what extent European economies should try to reduce their dependence on Russian energy supplies. There has been agreement that the EU should move faster to embrace more warmly Georgia and Moldova — both of which could eventually aspire to EU membership and are vulnerable to Russian expansionism. But on other international issues — such as how friendly Europe should now be to Iran, and how disapproving of Israel’s activities in the occupied West Bank — there often appear to be irreconcilable divides. Of course, the EU is not a single state and maybe never will be, but if it is to be taken more seriously on the global stage it really needs to present a more coherent Common Foreign and Security Policy. And although the High Representative Cathy Ashton has performed better than I dared hope when her appointment was announced, her successor in charge of the EU’s external action needs to be a figure with more political clout.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Europe in the World

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 10th October, 2012

There is a real danger that the European Union will slide into irrelevance, like the Venice Republic. That was the grim warning from Professor Richard Whitman from the University of Kent at a Federal Trust seminar on Europe in the World, held at Westminster yesterday, and his gloomy prognosis was shared by other panel members. Prof Whitman deplored the fact that there is no guiding light to the EU’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP): “We are muddling through rather than articulating what our core objectives are. We are also not sure what our relationship with the United States should be.” He placed the blame for this incoherence squarely on the shoulders of the governments of the EU member states, which have demonstrated an inability to agree on everything from last year’s intervention in Libya to how we should relate to Israel/Palestine. “The member states have done little to support Cathy Ashton in her job as High Representative, and the EU’s External Action Service is resource-constrained,” Prof Whitman added. The Director of the Global Policy Institute, Professor Stephen Haseler, argued the federalist case, declaring that the eurozone countries are going to have to work towards a United States of Europe if they are going to overcome the ongoing financial crisis. “Only through a super-state will we be able to deal with things,” he said. “The global financial crisis may have destroyed the old model of Europe; now we need essential integration. A common foreign and security policy will then follow.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Black Sea Test for EU and NATO

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 11th August, 2008

Tne days ago, I was in Sevastopol, lecturing on the Black Sea. I had an afternoon off after visiting the battlefield at Balaklava to amble along one of the Crimea’s most elegant waterfronts, picking my way between sunbathing Russians. Ukraine had been independent for more than a decade now, but ethnic Russians still dominate in this part of Crimea, the descendants or successors of people who came south to replace Ottoman Turks, Tatars and others, as the Russian Empire spread to the temperate waters of the Black Sea.

On my walk, I looked out at some of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which is still allowed to use Sevastopol, though now on a short-term lease. I wonder for how much longer.  It is not just Ukraine that is alarmed by latest developments round the coast in Georgia, where Russian troops have today intervened not just in the semi-autonomous enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but inside Georgia ‘proper’ too. It’s an extremely dangerous situation, which all too easily could get completely out of control.

It’s at times like this that the need for a clear European Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is so blatant. France is trying to act as a kind of mediator, but the whole weight of the EU should be acting as a cautionary voice. NATO — which Georgia aspires to join — also has to get its act together before things spiral out of control. Although this is not a black-and-white situation (the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has made some serious errors), nonetheless Europe cannot just sit by and let the Russian bear stomp all over this part of the Caucasus, or else the whole region could go up in flames. I am not suggesting military intervention, but a form of coordinated, firm EU and NATO diplomacy in Moscow, Tbilisi and beyond, that can bring the region back from the brink.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Patrick Mercer’s Waterloo

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 18th June, 2008

The Association of European Journalists (AEJ), being an intrinsically pro-European assemblage of hacks, does not normally celebrate Waterloo Day, but it was fitting that our guest for lunch at the European Parliament’s offices in Westminster today made reference to this military anniversary. Patrick Mercer, Conservative MP for Newark and Retford, served for 25 years in the army, before going into journalism (with the ‘Today’ programme on Radio 4) and then into Parliament. It is always refreshing to be in dialogue with an MP who has a genuine ‘hinterland’, rather than someone who goes straight from university to being a political researcher and then an eager-beever backbencher, hungry for a taste of power.

Patrick’s theme was terrorism, or more precisely, counter-terrorism, about which he knows a great deal. For four weeks last year he was actually enticed into Gordon Brown’s ‘big tent’, as an advisor on security issues, based on his experience in Northern ireland and elsewhere. This earned him some frowns from certain Tory colleagues, but he is not someone to be fussed about a detail like that. He is not, he insists, running David Davis’s maverick campaign in Haltemprice and Howden, contrary to a report in the ‘Independent’, but he not ony supports Davis’s objection to the prospect of 42 days detention without trial — he even thinks 28 days is too much (mainly because such measures play straight into the propaganda hands of extremist groups, as well as further alienating Britain’s Muslim community).

Patrick is also an unashamed Atlanticist, which is where I part company with him. ‘The only allies we must depend on and can depend on are the Americans,’ he declared at lunch today. He deftly side-stepped a question I asked about whether it would not be in Britain’s security interests if there were a more integrated European common foreign and security policy (CFSP). I believe so. And whereas it is important that Europe maintains close relations with the United States, I believe we will have a more equal and productive partnership with Washington if Europe is seen to be more united.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Canterbury Tales

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 14th May, 2008

I spent much of today in Canterbury, balmy under the strong spring sun. In the afternoon, after an al fresco pasta lunch, I spoke to the local University of the Third Age (U3A), on my life as a foreign corespondent — the highs and lows of roaming the world, from the Vietnam War to my latest trip to Brazil. The U3A audiences (if ‘audience’ is the right word, in this case) are always among the best and the most responsive of all the groups I talk to, heavy with retired teachers of one kind and another, and inevitably with a few people in the room who lived and worked in the places I’ve reported from.

Later I moved to the Friends Meeting House, to lead a discussion on War and Peace. Not only were several local LibDem councillors and activists gathered, but also pro-Europeans from both the Labour and Conservative parties, so there was a warm reception to my argument that a more co-ordinated European Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) would mean that Europe could use its weight and experience to promote both peace and development in areas of conflict around the world. In the meeting house room was one LibDem Councillor, Brian Staley, whom I first met in Saigon in 1969; the eminent psephologist Michael Steed whom I’d met in Manchester a year before that; and Maureen Tomison, whom I had known as a keen Conservative European activist before she left the party because of its Europhobia — and suddenly found herself the Labour candidate fighting Michael Howard in Folkestone at the last general election. As the old cliché goes, it’s a small world!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »