External relations

In brief

The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the appointment of a High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (who is also Vice-President of the European Commission) and the establishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS) have created a new operational framework for the development of the European Union’s external relations. Against the background of ever-growing and more intense challenges on the international level, this qualitative step forward should provide the EU with a framework allowing it to act more rapidly and efficiently and respond in a structured manner to the obvious link between the EU’s internal and external policy (the so-called internal-external nexus). In this context, the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS), that was presented to the European Council on 28.06.2016, is of great importance. The EU has since taken further steps to implement the various components of this EU Global Strategy.

The European Union's external policy continues to face major challenges. In terms of content, the EU needs to provide its own response to global, regional and sub-regional challenges. The fight against terrorism, the migration crisis, the climate dossier and the situation in the Eastern neighbourhood  the broader Middle East are only a few of the important topics. The EU’s external policy must take into account an increasingly volatile international context (populism, nationalism) characterized by changes in the balance of power, as well as internal challenges such as the Brexit process, and must promote and defend a multilateral system under increasing pressure.

Objectives for Belgium

As one of the founding members of the European Union, Belgium emphasises that the EU is also a political project and that it can and must play an important role with regard to external relations. The European Union has a key role to play in the protection of its citizens and in the global promotion of its vital interests in an increasingly unsafe world.

For Belgium, the fundamental values the EU stands for - such as human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law - should remain the guiding principles for the EU’s external action. The EU has to promote these values in its foreign policy, defend them in its dialogues at bilateral and multilateral level and include them as a key element in its legal and institutional ties with other countries, regions or sub-regions in the world.

Belgium considers that, geographically speaking, the European Union should pay particular attention to its neighbouring countries, both in the east and in the south, and to the entire region of the Middle East. The developments in those regions have a direct impact on the European Union and its Member States and therefore require special consideration. Yet, the attention of the European Union can and may not be limited to this geographical area, as situations and developments occurring at one side of the planet can spread to the other side. Given its widespread physical presence in these regions, the European Union must also be aware of what happens in Africa, Asia, North and Latin America and Oceania.

The developments in today’s world show how closely intertwined internal and external evolutions are. Belgium therefore urges the EU to adopt a comprehensive approach when it comes to its external action, establishing a link between its internal and external policies and pursuing coherent and mutually reinforcing policies. The major global challenges such as climate change, migration, the fight against terrorism and securing energy supply with a view to the future are only a few areas where the EU has to take coordinated and coherent action. As a founding member of the EU, Belgium will position itself as a reliable partner and help strengthen the EU’s external action.

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