Six things we like about Federica Mogherini, the EU’s candidate HRVP

7 October 2014

Federica Mogherini faced the European Parliament yesterday for her hearing to replace Catherine Ashton and become the EU’s Foreign Policy chief – the official title is High Representative for EU Foreign and Security Policy and Commission Vice President.

While the format of the auditions could be better – a prepared 15 minute statement, short questions from MEPs, short answers (all under the pressure of a big stop watch above the rostrum) – at least we got a first impression of how the future High Representative feels about important topics.


Read our Vice President Laura Sullivan‘s take on Mogherini’s hearing yesterday in 6 points:


1. She’s about prevention, not just cure: MEPs yesterday pushed her on how she would react to various security issues. She responded that she wouldn’t just be reacting. She would be focusing on prevention. Whilst this might seem obvious, the sad reality is that you do not hear that many people at her level of leadership saying this. Now let’s see if she does it!


2. She’s got a retrospective perspective on Europe’s values (and that’s a good thing): one of her opening comments was about her recent visit to Lampedusa, one year after the death of 366 migrants who were trying to come to Europe by boat. On this she said ‘it’s clear that we have a moral and humanitarian duty to protect peoples’ lives. That is Europe and our values There are better ways to act than to just wait till people cross over.’ Federica gave us a sense yesterday that under her leadership the EU might remember and apply its core values.


3. She wants to develop a new vision on foreign policy. This could of course go different ways. But it could just bring the EU together towards progressive change in the world, especially if it puts people and human rights back at the centre. As part of the new vision, CONCORD would like to see a reorientation of how the EU’s current development strategy is rolled out, to refocus on the real target: poverty eradication, justice, human rights and equality. Whilst the topline narrative of the EU’s ‘Agenda for Change’ is difficult to disagree with, the proof is in the pudding. Is the EU really prioritising rights through its external action? Does that stop with EU development cooperation or is it also about the even bigger picture issue of stopping the harm done to communities on the ground by other EU policies such as tax, trade and energy, which are currently having a negative impact around the world, as our report shows.


4. She wants to consult far and wide: she opened her speech by talking about what EU citizens want from the EU (first, tell us what you are for!). She committed to travelling across the EU and consulting the broad foreign policy constituency on the new foreign affairs vision.

We have two hopes here:

– First that she will include development NGOs working for years in developing countries to link up rights struggles on the ground with opportunities for change in Europe and beyond.
– Second, we hope that she will speak to civil society in partner countries. On the latter, we know (and DG Devco knows) that there is so much great potential to increase the value of the EU delegations by engaging local civil society in discussions that go beyond the programming of aid, to fair EU policies in general, doing no harm, reinforcing peoples’ rights, supporting civil society to prise open space for action. Mogherini said that she wanted to ‘work with Africa not just in Africa’. She would do well to remember African civil society within that.


5. She emphasised the need for coherent EU policies that support human rights and acknowledged that all internal EU policies (energy, tax etc) have an external impact. This was later confused by MEPs who started quoting her commitment to coherence ‘between security policies’. People often mix up consistent policies (a worthy goal in itself) with policy coherence for development, which is the crucial business of ensuring that the positive impacts of aid and development cooperation aren’t entirely undermined by the negative impacts of other policies like energy, which has acted as an incentive to food price volatility and land grabbing in the South in recent years. Both Mogherini and Commission-designate for Development Mimica have cited tackling this, the awkwardly titled but crucial business of ‘policy coherence for development’. This gives us great hope for the future.


6. She’s got a good sense of humour: she arguably has the most heavy portfolio of the whole gang, but she’s still managing to crack the odd joke. Her reference to the ‘famous German flexibility’ of Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Elmar Brok elicited a laugh from the crowd and even a flicker of a smile from the Chair. We hope she holds on to that sense of humour!


What advice from CONCORD?

When engaging with the EEAS in the past, discussions tend to start with security as the starting point: we will tackle security and thereby create the conditions for development. But hold on a second.

We need to go a step back to the kind of conditions that contribute to insecurity in the first place.

What about the massive inequality of opportunities and inequality of access to resources, fuelled by the commodification of resources like land?
What about the role of those land conflicts in generating wider insecurity? What about failed governance which doesn’t uphold rights?
What about the massive capital flight, the many billions in Euros escaping developing countries each year through corporate tax dodging which could be tackled through tax reforms?

And the list goes on…We would like to start the conversation with a new leader on the level of supporting people and their rights inside and outside the EU.

And we have a good feeling she’ll be listening….

Read CONCORD’s reports on the EEAS

CONCORD EEAS review 2013

CONCORD report on EEAS in 2012