It’s time for collective action


Picture of Mikaela Gavas
Mikaela Gavas

Co-Director of the Center for Global Development (CGD) Development Cooperation in Europe Programme

The EU has a unique role in shaping the world in concert with others to protect and boost global common interests. But it has failed to communicate just how central a role it has.

The EU needs a new global strategy that encompasses all the dimensions of its external policy and identifies the EU’s key objectives. Crucially, the strategy needs to integrate internal and external action for sustainable development, and address the underlying issues of governance and collective action. It needs to find a role for the European External Action Service and the High Representative in improving the EU’s internal co-ordination, as well as the coherence of external instruments.

This strategy needs to be clear-eyed about its comparative multi-lateral advantages and ruthless in setting priorities. It also needs to set out exactly what the EU can bring to the table, how it can help address the failures of regional co-operation that continue to permit cross-border conflicts to erupt and the failures of collective action that make it hard to deal with issues like migration.

The EU’s failings often reflect the pressures from member states. Even though member states would quite obviously benefit from a European response to many global problems, national self-interest and a lack of political will often prevail. If they are to take part in directing its external action, member states need to decide, once and for all, whether they are committed to EU political integration.

Outside the EU’s formal structures, there is the need for a safe forum for dialogue between constellations of member states that do not otherwise have the opportunity to be open and honest about the challenges they face and the hard compromises needed. This would help reinstate EU collegiality and a sincere focus on problem-solving.

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