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"The profile of the Union is not tainted because others are threatening it or advancing alternative, more viable political or economic models. What chiefly dents the credibility of the EU is that Europeans have not been practicing what they preach as consistently and effectively as they committed to do, at home and abroad." (Giovanni Grevi, in the introduction)

This is a 100-page book brought out earlier this month by the Spanish-based think tank FRIDE, which is producing better and better material these days. It is a good global review of the political situation in various parts of the world, with some policy ideas for how Europe could deal with them. "Europe" here is writ pretty large, with an emphasis on collective action by member states rather than tinkering with the Brussels machinery, and this is no self-indulgent back-slapping exercise of misty-eyed idealism about peace and harmony. It leads upfront with three areas of foreign policy where the EU has not delivered on its rhetorical commitments - promoting democracy (by FRIDE director Richard Youngs), fighting climate change (Bernice Lee and Diarmuid Torney), and developing a security/military capability (Daniel Keohane) - and takes a hard look at why the EU is failing in these areas and what could be done to reverse the drift. Of the other chapters, I particularly appreciated the ones on supporting democratic transition in the Arab world (Kristina Kausch) and on crises in Africa (Damien Helly).

This is not a book about the problems of the Euro or how to solve the economic crisis, but it lurks behind every chapter; the fact is that EU leaders have been too absorbed with fixing the finances to look outside over the last few years. In addition, internal leadership on this issue is, to be charitable, weak. In my own opinion the EU is actually a less powerful foreign policy actor now than it was ten years ago. In 2003 European peacekeeping troops were deployed to Macedonia. Now a civilian mission is securing an airport in South Sudan. It's rather a drop in scale of ambition and effort. FRIDE's analysis is a good starting point for discussing both how to try harder and if it s even worth trying.

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