In an exclusive interview, the former European Commissioner and Italian minister for foreign affairs talks about the foreign affairs objectives that will underline the foreign and security policy of the European People’s Party; including widening relations with the EU’s southern and eastern neighbours, and strengthening relations with NATO and the US.
Former Italian Foreign Minister and Vice-President of the European Commission Franco Frattini has outlined the five major principles that will be discussed by the European People’s Party’s (EPP) ad-hoc working group on foreign affairs
In an exclusive interview Frattini explained: “There are several main priorities which one of them is the eastern dimension of EU foreign policy, and that is also to increase the focus on the western Balkans and have a greater role of supervising its development.”
“There is also the southern dimension to consider of the European neighbourhood, and how to ensure that Europe is a major protagonist considering the Arab springs, and the situation with Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and of course Syria and the emergency situation that exists there.”
The working group also wants to strengthen Europe’s relationship with the US, with cooperation over NATO roles on the agenda.
“Another main pillar of the working group will be to relaunch our relationship with the US, and we are particularly interested in implementing a new NATO strategy, where we should be looking to broaden the scope of our operations, but this will be discussed at the next NATO summit.”
“We should also think about how we can extend the cooperation between the EU and the US in how we can face the international economic crises together, and also how we can overcome obstacles in trade agreements to achieve a smoother path of commerce.”
Religious and human rights along with more controlled immigration complete the list of policy areas that the EPP wishes to concentrate on.
“There are issues related to human rights and we need to discuss, and how to better protect human rights even outside of Europe.” Frattini continued.
“For example in Christian communities like in Nigeria, we should make it a priority in to protect the rights of Christian minorities, and Europe need to do more than it has done.”
“Immigration where it is illegal should also be looked at, they gain employment in industries such as agricultural, and we need a strategy for this issue in a human way.”
Frattini is also confident that the working group can be of influence and produce results.
“The working group will have several eminent personalities there, and there will be members of national and European parliaments from 16 different member states.”
“Although what is special is our consultation with civil society, in September there will be exchanges of ideas where different proposals will be presented and part of a consultation process. We have also invited the community of bloggers who have been approached for the first time by the party, so we have a broad range of opinions to be discussed.”
Without pointing the finger towards any parliamentary group, Frattini feels that Brussels has not been proactive enough on foreign affairs, with a more muscular approach needed.
“I think that Europe needs to take more stronger positions on international affairs. The weaknesses from Europe have included how it has dealt with the Arab developments; the Mediterranean sea is what Europe, Africa and the Middle East all have in common, and we need to be more proactive.”
“Also in particular religious rights need to be protected more, and Europe needs to take the initiative more in the emerging countries such as the BRIC nations, Europe’s foreign policy should be stronger.”
Despite several different countries and organisations taking part Frattini believes that the EPP can pull together, and present a united front in attempting to solve foreign policy issues.
“The EPP will be in the condition to present some original ideas to have a improved strategy in the international arena.” He concluded.
In October the party will convene in Bucharest for their next annual congress, where the final conclusions of the working group are expected to be revealed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Taberner has previously written for Financial News, Investment and Pensions Europe, Utility Week, EGOV Monitor, European Pensions, Suite101.com, PPP Bulletin, Global Pensions Weekly, Tobacco Journal International, IPS and Seeurope.net