The hawks are taking over

Until now, EU foreign policy-makers have been considered good-hearted but lame doves. But now the hawks are taking over – with the “language of power” and new, worldwide sanctions based on the US model.

“We want to build a global sanctions regime,” said Josep Borrell, the new Foreign Affairs Commissioner, at his first Council meeting in Brussels. He presented his plan as European counterpart to the “Magnitsky Act”, which the USA already enacted against Russia in 2012.

The EU’s Foreign Service has been mandated to work out appropriate sanctions. The focus will be on travel bans and the freezing of assets. In this way, the Union wants to punish politicians all over the world who are guilty of serious human rights violations. Borrell did not give any details.

The EU has been discussing its own “Magnitsky Act” for years. It is no coincidence that it is now being launched – shortly after the launch of the new EU Commission. Both Borrell and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have spoken out in favour of a tougher approach to foreign policy.

“We must speak the language of power more often – not to conquer, but to contribute to a more peaceful, prosperous and just world,” was the invitation to the meeting of foreign ministers on Monday. Host Borrell, a Spanish socialist, took up a formulation by the German CDU politician.

In a speech on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, von der Leyen had already called for the EU to learn “the language of power” and to act more decisively against China or Russia. She also announced a “geopolitical commission” in which Borrell would play a central role as vice-president.

So far, the EU has played an emphatically diplomatic and balancing role in foreign policy. In 2012 it was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee then paid tribute to the “successful struggle” of EU politicians for peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights.

But now a new era has dawned, Borrell wrote in his letter to EU foreign ministers. The world is experiencing the rebirth of geostrategic competition, in which China, Russia and the USA in particular are facing each other in a major power game.

According to Borrell, the EU now has the choice as to whether it wants to be a player or a playing field. He did not ask the decisive question – which game is actually played here. Is it the old USA versus Russia game, should the Europeans be hitched to the game or do they determine the rules themselves?

Translated with