The European Union often tries to present itself as one of the major players in world politics. As a counterpart to China and Russia, as an equal partner to the United States of America. Yet there is little to suggest in recent years that this self-assertion is justified.
The European nations, and above all Germany, repeatedly emphasise how important it is for the EU states to act together in foreign policy. The tenor is that only together can the challenges of the future be mastered and Europe can become a significant factor in shaping the international order of the 21st century.
At the latest since 2014 and the crises in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, the EU has to fulfil this task, but seems to be further and further away from it. The refugee crisis in 2015 was the next event in which the European states found themselves unable to master the crisis or even to develop a halfway coherent strategy. Brexit followed in 2016, and now the EU was not only incapable of acting outside its borders, now it also had to worry about its internal cohesion. In 2017, Donald Trump moved into the White House, and in the trade conflicts between the Western leader and the European confederation, there was indeed something like a European foreign policy, albeit only in certain, closed areas. Particularly on trade issues, the EU does have a united position, although not always.
However, the EU remains divided on security issues in the belt of trouble spots that now stretches around the European continent. In Libya, where the major European powers France and Great Britain wanted to demonstrate their power in 2011, they are in danger of losing important geostrategic positions to Russia and Turkey. In the war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, Europe was practically absent; in the Middle East conflict, it has little influence. And the failure of the European Commission to deal with the Corona pandemic is likely to have permanently damaged many people’s trust in the trans-European institutions.
To end with a deeply subjective view: I personally do not believe that the European Union in its current form will be able to become a major player in foreign and security policy again. We will have to look for other ways if we do not want to lose touch.