In the introduction to the first edition of the Scorecard, we wrote that in 2010 Europe had been distracted by the euro crisis. In the introduction to the second edition, we wrote that in 2011 Europe had been diminished by the crisis. By the end of 2012, the crisis had become less acute but still not been solved – far from it. In fact, for the third year in a row, European leaders continued to devote more time to worrying about Europe’s financial health than its geopolitical role. Europe’s image and soft power continued to fade around the world (though this is difficult to quantify), while its resources for defence and international affairs kept eroding. But European foreign policy did not unravel in 2012. In fact, the EU managed to preserve the essence of its acquis diplomatique as the EEAS, which did not even exist two years earlier, continued to develop and consolidate its role.
The Scorecard’s granular assessment of European foreign-policy performance in 2012 shows timid signs of stabilisation and resilience. Across the range of issues that the Scorecard assesses, Europeans generally performed better than the previous year (see Figure 1). Europe improved its score in relation to Russia (from C+ to B-) and to China (from C to C+), and continued to perform solidly in other areas (United States (B-) and Multilateral issues (B), and adequately in the Wider Europe (C+) and the Middle East and North Africa (C+). Thus, although the EU had no high-profile successes comparable to the military intervention in Libya in 2011, it put in a respectable performance in its external relations – especially given the deep crisis with which it continued to struggle. In particular, it seemed to perform better when it continued to implement policies for which the foundations had been laid in previous years.
Clearly, whether the EU can turn a positive year against the odds into an upward trend in foreign-policy performance will depend to a large extent on whether it can overcome the crisis and restore growth and therefore increase its economic power. In that sense, European leaders are right to focus on solving the crisis even at the expense of a focus on foreign-policy issues. But it will also depend on whether Europeans can overcome their internal divisions and improve coordination and coherence in foreign policy. In particular, it will depend on whether Europe can turn the EEAS into an effective diplomatic service as envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty that is able to convert the EU’s huge resources into power.