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Research Report

The Treachery of Strategies:: A Call for True EU Strategic Partnerships

Thomas Renard
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2011
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 52
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)
    Thomas Renard

    In September 2010, the European Council discussed for the first time the European Union’s (EU) strategic partnerships, a foreign policy concept that was until then unknown to most people – including EU officials. This discussion was certainly needed in these times of geopolitical upheaval. The global shift of power from the Atlantic to the Pacific forces the EU and its Member States to fundamentally rethink their foreign policy with a strong focus on great and emerging powers; otherwise the EU is at risk of falling into global irrelevance. The 2009 Copenhagen climate conference was just a foretaste of what global...

  2. (pp. 3-6)

    A new global order is emerging from the ashes of the Cold War, in a context of growing complexity and uncertainty.⁴ The world is becoming increasingly multipolar with the emergence of new powers in global affairs. To be sure, the world remains dominated by the United States, but the American superpower is increasingly challenged by emerging powers, not only economically but also financially, militarily, politically and culturally. The emerging global order is probably more fragmented than during the previous bipolar era, in the sense that new strategic opportunities have opened for international actors searching for a new power status. Emerging...

  3. (pp. 7-20)

    Due to the paucity of literature on the EU’s strategic partnerships, this paper offers a historical overview of debates and documents related to this concept up to this day, in order to better understand where it comes from, what was the original rationale behind it, and how this rationale evolved.

    The concept of strategic partnership emerged from the post-Cold War era.⁶ Countries, particularly in Eurasia and in Asia, reacted to the demise of the bipolar order by developing new “hedging” strategies to deal in a flexible manner with the “lonely superpower” and with other regional powers at the same time,...

  4. (pp. 21-34)

    On the basis of a review of EU documents, official and informal, as well as a certain amount of interviews with European officials, this author concludes that the EU has today, in 2011, ten strategic partnerships with third countries (see Map): Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United States.55

    We have seen in which order and in which manner these partnerships were established. However, it is not entirely clear what is the exact reasoning behind this list. Some countries (e.g. the US) are considered to be natural partners of the EU, whereas others...

  5. (pp. 35-42)

    Strategic partnerships are only strategic in name, for now. A historical overview of documents and debates shows the total absence of strategic rationale behind the elaboration of strategic partnerships since the very beginning, with no definition of the concept or of its fundamental objectives, and an ad hoc selection of partners. This process of a-strategic thinking led to a repetition of past failures as the EU is now facing similar problems as it was ten years ago with the Common Strategies, from which the partnerships derived, namely the difficulty to turn rhetoric into concrete policies of strategic value vis-à-vis our...