On 26 and 27 October 2023, heads of state and government of the European Union will convene a European Council in Brussels. The agenda will focus primarily on the Israel-Hamas war and the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, as well as the growing tensions in the South Caucasus and in the Western Balkans. Moreover, EU leaders will also address the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), migration and the European economy.
The discussions are not expected to go very smoothly. So far, the EU institutions have lacked a common, coordinated response to the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel. Divisions remain between Member States on the course of action to take. On 23 October 2023, EU foreign ministers reiterated their condemnation of Hamas’ brutal attack against Israel and called for the prevention of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and for the supply of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian civilians displaced and trapped in the Gaza Strip. EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell stated that the European Council could call for a “humanitarian pause” rather than an actual ceasefire, while the humanitarian situation and the bombardments along the Gaza Strip are destined to get worse and worse.
These geostrategic challenges in the Middle East, paired with the ongoing war in Ukraine and EU’s support to the war efforts, have shown that the EU needs closer integration and a more effective foreign policy. To be able to speak with one voice in foreign policy matters, from security and defence to arms procurement, changes are required to the Union’s decision-making processes and institutional arrangements. Treaty reform is even more necessary in light of the increasing calls to accelerate the enlargement process as a stabilising tool for our continent.
- European Council: Remarks by President Charles Michel after the video conference of the members of the European Council
- European Commission: Proposal for a Regulation on establishing the Ukraine Facility
- European Parliament: Draft report on the role of the European Parliament and its parliamentary diplomacy in the EU’s foreign and security policy
European Movement International’s Position
The European Movement International (EMI) has set forth several recommendations° calling for the European Union to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its decision-making so it can manage geostrategic challenges and play a stronger role in the international arena.
Firstly, maintaining unity among Member States proved to be crucial and simultaneously challenging in providing support to Ukraine in the ongoing Russian war of aggression as well as in the recent Israel-Hamas war. Therefore, we underline the imperative to follow up on the citizens’ recommendations from the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) and reform the Treaties to overcome unanimity in the areas of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
Switching to qualified majority voting (QMV) will facilitate the establishment of a fully-fledged European Defence Union (EDU). Featuring integrated armed forces overseen by the European Parliament and the Council and capable of conducting peacekeeping, humanitarian, and peacebuilding operations globally, the EDU will make the EU stronger, more coordinated and capable of dealing with crises autonomously when needed.
Secondly, the EU needs to provide a credible enlargement perspective for Western Balkan states, Ukraine, and Moldova in full respect of the Copenhagen criteria to strategically counter destructive external influences in Europe. Consequently, Member States need to advance the process of reviewing the Treaties, identify areas where competences must be conferred to the European Union and reform decision-making mechanisms, both as a prerequisite to the accession of new members and to enhance the democratic functioning of the Union.
Finally, the proliferation of conflict and violence in the EU’s neighbourhood only accentuates the need to reach a swift agreement on a human-centred European Commission Pact on Migration and Asylum to ensure solidarity and provide adequate resources to fairly distribute responsibilities among Member States responsibilities for the handling of mass population movements.
°Our recommendations stem from a variety of policy positions produced over the past two years in consultation with our diverse network of member organisations from across Europe.