The European Union's global strategy: Putting sustainable development at the heart of EU external action


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    Background The drafting of the European Union (EU) Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy is a unique opportunity for the EU to reposition itself as a global leader. Against the background of multiple crises within and outside the EU, the strategy will have to carefully balance considerations of security threats with global sustainable development challenges. Amidst the consultation on the EU Global Strategy, Svea Koch (DIE), Christine Hackenesch (DIE), Mikaela Gavas (ODI), James Mackie (ECDPM) and Simon Maxwell prepared this latest European Think Tanks Group briefing. It points out the challenges and opportunities in aligning actors in Brussels and in Member States behind a strategy that guides not only the EU’s security policy, but also wider EU foreign policy and external action. Key Messages (1) The EU Global Strategy should be an umbrella document for all EU external action - including development, trade, humanitarian aid and climate action. It must refer to all policy fields dealing with interdependent global challenges and set out a new foreign policy for the EU that aims for sustainable solutions. As an overarching policy, the Global Strategy can push for greater coherence and improved collective action - something individual strategies (e.g. the European Consensus on Development) cannot achieve alone. (2) The Global Strategy and the SDG implementation process need to go hand-in-hand The transformative ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals requires a ‘whole-of-government’ approach from the EU and an implementation strategy that coordinates domestic and external policies. Linking the Global Strategy to the Sustainable Development Goals is therefore a strategic opportunity to enable coherent policy-making and to reduce the frictions and barriers between EU institutions. For this to happen, the implementation of the agenda will have to be driven not only by environment and development policy makers, but also by a coherent overarching policy framework. (3) The likely adoption of the EU Global Strategy by the European Council in June should be combined with a joint European statement promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to be presented at the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2016. The leadership for the EU's implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals should also be assigned to Vice-Presidents Timmermans and Mogherini, rather than assigning it to individual Directorates-General. In particular, Federica Mogherini's mandate to coordinate all EU external action is an institutional asset that should be fully deployed.

    The European Think Tanks Group (ETTG) The group brings together four leading European international development think tanks: The Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) The European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) The Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) In 2010, the European Think Tanks Group published a report addressed to a new leadership in the European Union (EU). In 2014, welcoming a new team of European leaders, we again call attention to the importance of a global perspective in European policy-making. Our report, entitled ‘Our Collective Interest: Why Europe’s problems need global solutions and global problems need European action’ was presented to the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs on Monday 1 September 2014. The key message is that the EU’s ambitions for its own citizens – for prosperity, peace and environmental sustainability – cannot be divorced from its global responsibilities and opportunities. As the title of the report suggests, Europe’s problems need global solutions, and global problems need European action. A shared collective effort is in our common interest. For more information, visit
    Image courtesy of Håkan Dahlström For more information visit our Dossier on the European Think Tanks Report
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