The main objective of this volume is to examine the extent to which Western Europe, meaning the European Union (EU) and its member states, has been able to respond as a coherent and strategic actor towards the countries in its immediate neighbourhood or periphery since the end of the Cold War. From a broader perspective, this is clearly a partial and incomplete picture of the full scope of the EU’s foreign and security policy. As most accounts of EU foreign policy highlight, the EU is most clearly a coherent international actor when dealing with economic and trade issues; the EU is also an influential actor in many more distant parts of the world, such as Asia and Latin America; and the EU is a significant development body and aid donor, with a particularly involved relationship with the former colonial countries of Africa and the Caribbean. 1
Nevertheless, the EU’s engagement with its immediate neighbourhood over the past decade can justifiably be considered a highly distinctive and dynamic feature of Europe’s foreign and security policy, the engagement which also most clearly differentiates EU foreign and security policy from the Cold War period. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of Soviet hegemony after 1989 quickly created the demand, not only from the newly liberated countries but from Western capitals including Washington, for Europe to assume the responsibilities of engaging decisively in the economic and political stabilization of the region. 2As a consequence, this dimension of Europe’s foreign and security policy has gained a new centrality and significance since the end of the Cold War, partially overshad-owing the other dimensions. The strategic challenge was for Europe to fill the vacuum which had emerged with the withdrawal of Soviet power and the widespread expectation of US reorientation of its interests away from Europe.
The challenge represented, though, something more than a traditional geopolitical opportunity. It also had a more fundamental and even existential quality to it, reaching into the very heart of the European project. From its origins, the ideal or ‘vocation’ of Europe has been to ensure peace between former warring European nation-states and to provide theconditions for geopolitical stability built on the foundations of a