The 'geopolitical' European Commission and its pitfalls

Ursula von der Leyen announced that she would lead a ‘geopolitical Commission’. In this policy brief, Nicole Koenig assesses what this means in theory and practice. In theory, it stands for the ambition to defend the EU’s collective interests and values in a context of ‘great power competition’. It also has concrete implications for the Commission’s objectives and working methods. A key dimension will be linking the internal and external aspects of its work. 

The new Commission will face three key challenges in delivering on its promise. First, geopolitical ambition is costly and the Commission’s ability to shift resources towards its newer priorities is limited. Second, geopolitical ambition requires power, but the Commission’s power varies greatly depending on the issue areas. Third, geopolitical ambition requires intense internal coordination. The current set-up and the number of cross-cutting priorities might lead to institutional silos. 

As the EU is a fragmented geopolitical actor, the new Commission needs to develop a clear strategy and lead the way in priority areas where it has significant power. For all other areas, it will have to spend considerable time and energy to build alliances in Brussels, Strasbourg and the capitals. 

This publication is part of the Europe’s Futures Project of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. The project is supported by the ERSTE Foundation. The Original Brief was published here.

 Picture: CC fdecomite, Source: Flickr