Hearing of the Commissioner-Designate and Future High Representative of the Union

Elaine Panter

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

“As for most people of my generation, Europe is the place where I’ve grown up, my natural political endeavour. Europe is above all a space of shared values, personal freedoms and democracy, in which I believe and which I intend to foster, as a committed Europeanist, in my new capacity. This is not for me just a commitment, but the chance to make a dream come true”

With this sentence, Ms. Federica Mogherini responded to the first question posed by a member of the European Parliament during the hearing of the Commissioner-Designate and future High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on October 6, 2014.

The event, broadcasted in live-stream by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC,  was organized in collaboration with the European Parliament Liaision Office and moderated by Mr. Nicola Casarini of the Woodrow Wilson Center. Three high-caliber panelists introduced the event: Mr. Antoine Ripoll, Head of the European Parliament Liaison Office with the U.S. Congress, Ms. Wandela Moore, Director of the Office of European Union and Regional Affairs, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State, and Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, Graf Goltz Professor and Director, BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University.

The room of the conference was full, a clear sign of the growing interest in Washington DC in the affairs of the European Union and, possibly, an increasing respect for its foreign policy. As Ms. Moore noted, with the establishment of the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy by the Lisbon Treaty, the State Department now has a number to call to discuss foreign policy in the EU.

In the 15 minutes allowed to present her strategy for the coming five years, Ms. Mogherini made a passionate and arguably idealistic presentation calling for more coherent and streamlined cooperation between the EU institutions. She spoke about the need for greater ownership by all member states in shaping the Union’s Foreign Policy and listed concrete actions she plans to undertake in the first month in office, including meeting with the government representatives of the 28 Member states. A strong common vision, Ms. Mogherini emphasized, is paramount to successfully address not just the many external threats currently facing the Union but also the many internal challenges which have inevitable external implications. She also spoke of the importance of building stronger partnerships in Latin America, in Africa and in the Middle East, especially with Tunisia. She also reaffirmed the commitment of the Union to supporting the Ukrainian government in dealing with its internal crisis.

The questions from the parliamentarians which followed covered the predicable issue of EU’s stance vis-à-vis the increasing belligerent Russian policy, and the relationship with the GCC countries, the nuclear disarmament, the refugee issue, and the European External Action Service (EEAS), among others. Ms. Mogherini, responding fluently in English, French and Italian, spoke about Russia as a strategic player and not a strategic partner in the region, but also conceded that a more open dialogue will be possible if Russia were to implement in full the terms of the Minsk Agreement. With only two minutes to respond, Ms. Mogherini convincingly answered the at times vague questions of the parliamentarians proving to be, despite her short experience in the Italian Parliament, a capable politician. Her term as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will start in November. We shall see if her vision and her dedication are what the internally divided EU needs to finally shape a more coherent, effective and visible foreign policy.