COVID-19 and foreign policy: EU must defend its interests and values
- MEPs concerned about a lack of transparency related to the global outbreak of COVID-19 and disinformation campaigns
- Governments using pandemic to pursue political agendas
- Need for a strong global sanctions regime to address serious human rights violations
MEPs call for the EU to be more assertive on the global stage and move to a qualified majority vote in decisions regarding foreign policy.
In Wednesday’s resolution on the effects of COVID-19 on foreign policy, MEPs described the pandemic as a “game changer” in the international environment and warned that Europe must defend multilateralism, with a more assertive and coordinated foreign policy.
They voiced concerns that governments and political leaders around the world are using the pandemic as an opportunity to pursue their own political objectives by limiting human rights, undermining democratic standards, and weakening the rule of law, while politicising humanitarian aid.
Political vacuum in multilateral system
In the resolution adopted by 467 votes in favour, 80 against and 148 abstentions, MEPs expressed concerns about the political vacuum in the multilateral system created by “a more isolationist US”. This, MEPs say, is exploited by China who is trying to position itself as the dominant global player while Russia – following its own geopolitical agenda – supports authoritarian regimes and continues its aggressive foreign policy.
MEPs are particularly worried by Russian attempts to undermine EU unity and create mistrust between the EU and its partners through disinformation campaigns. They also urge the Chinese government to cooperate fully with an independent international investigation into the origins of the pandemic.
Defending European values and interests
MEPs believe that more effective and proactive EU foreign and security policies could be achieved by moving to a qualified majority vote in certain foreign policy areas, at least on issues related to human rights and sanctions. Other effective measures would include a stronger mandate to the High Representative in speaking on behalf of the EU, and . They also support the idea of Europe developing its strategic autonomy with the support of credible military capacities.
Finally, MEPs call on the Commission to ensure that the consequences of COVID-19 do not undermine EU values and commitments to human rights. They stress the urgent need for a global sanctions framework to combat human rights violations. A US bill, known as the Magnitsky Act, has been cited as the example that the EU should follow.
The rapporteur Hilde Vautmas (Renew, Belgium) said: „Post-COVID-19 is a different world in which the EU needs to secure a role. Only a reformed Europe will be able to promote its values, defend its interests internationally and rebuild the multilateral world order. My report is a rallying call to the HR/VP, foreign ministers and heads of state. Let’s start the Conference on the Future of Europe as soon as possible to make the EU more decisive, dynamic and resilient. It is high time to put Europe on the map, not as a power with geopolitical ambitions but as a geopolitical power.“