Foreign Policy Europe's Path Into the World

If the EU aspires to become a formidable member among global powers, it has to get serious about implementing its common security policy. The Lisbon Treaty provides the basis for member states to join forces in concrete projects and provide examples for others to follow.

By Guido Westerwelle

As the world moves through a phase of dramatic change and upheaval, the global balance of power is shifting. The economic and political significance of new global players has grown at breakneck speed. Emerging economies make up the majority of the G20. The financial and economic crisis has accelerated this process: As the U.S. and Europe weathered a severe economic blow, China, India, and Brazil proved themselves as engines of growth.

One of the fundamental tasks of international politics is to shape globalization responsibly. If Europe hopes to remain among the key global players, it must not squander its potential. No European country on its own possesses enough political and economic leverage to have a lasting impact on the future course of the world.

The postwar generation reinvented Europe as a response to the all-consuming catastrophe of the two World Wars. Continuing the project of European integration is now just as important as ever, but for different reasons. Whereas after the War the establishment of balance, peace, and prosperity lay at the heart of European integration, today's Europe is a project devoted to asserting itself in a globalized world. Only when it is internally stable and capable of acting effectively in the wider world can the European Union ensure prosperity in Europe, safeguard economic competitiveness, and maintain our influence in shaping international relations.

The currency union was a political project. But the financial and economic crisis showed that the economic foundations on which the euro rests are also in urgent need of strengthening. A stable currency and a stable internal market require joint efforts in economic and budgetary policy. What we are currently experiencing in Europe is not a euro crisis but rather a debt crisis. That is why we Europeans need to work intensively in two areas of internal policy: First, we must consolidate our budgets to make both the individual euro-zone countries and the euro itself less vulnerable. Second, we need to increase our competitive strength on an international scale. Only by succeeding at these tasks can we create an enduringly strong and stable internal market.

Internal stability and consolidation are the basis of our ability to act effectively in the world. Only a European Union with a stable internal market will have the strength to act as a persuasive player on the world stage.

We also need better coordination in external matters in order to be able to throw the full collective weight of Europe behind our plans. In foreign and security policy, too, we must move in the direction of greater integration. We stand at the beginning of a decade that will set the course for managing the formative challenges of this century. This applies to the creation of suitable structures for global governance as well as to dealings with the powers that seek to influence this process to their own benefit. In order to safeguard European opportunities for our own development and to influence and shape the world, the EU must develop into an actor with global leverage, broadly capable of effective action.

But the EU will only become a full-fledged global player if it harnesses the foreign policy potential contained in the Lisbon Treaty. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the European External Action Service that supports her give, us the chance to speak with one voice. They provide the foundation for implementing European interests through focused diplomacy. It is up to the member states and the Commission to provide the support that the High Representative and the instruments of her office need. All sides must be prepared to act together and to put their national sovereignty to the service of shared interests.