European Union senior diplomat Pierre Vimont stressed the need for the region to come together and establish a unified political vision during a talk at the Center for European Studies on Tuesday.
Vimont, a longtime official in the French government, is currently serving as the executive secretary general in the EU’s External Action Service, a department launched last year with the goal of developing centralized foreign policy positions.
Vimont emphasized that common political goals will be critical to the long-term stability of the region. He hopes the External Action Service will play a key role in unifying the member countries’ disparate interests.
“We have a large role, but we don’t know exactly what we want to do with this role,” Vimont said.
According to Vimont, the EU currently uses “a patchwork approach” when responding to foreign policy issues. He said the body lacks a strong political “espirit de corps” that supports the EU’s collective interests.
“We do not always see eye to eye across the 27 European states,” he said.
Vimont said the External Action Service’s unique skill set is best suited to deal with some of the issues facing the EU today, such as security and economic uncertainty.
“The External Action Service has the great advantage of having at its disposal many instruments that national services do not have,” he said.
According to Vimont, the EU has consistently faced difficulty crafting long-term foreign policy in part because its central leadership rotates every six months.
Vimont believes the External Action Service has the potential to bring unprecedented stability to the EU, as Catherine Ashton—the EU’s first high representative for foreign policy—will be the consistent face of EU foreign policy.
Improving relations with strategic partners such as China and the U.S. is one of Vimont’s priorities for the External Action Service’s second year of operation.
“It would be great if the External Action Service could be the branch that comes out with a few of these new ideas, pushes initiatives, and shows its innovation,” Vimont said.
“With all the hurdles, uncertainties, skepticism that we have been facing, the External Action Service is alive and kicking,” Vimont added.
Pietro Rabassi, an Italian graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School, said he attended the lecture to get a better understanding of the politics in Europe.
“The lecture was a very good was to understand what the EU is doing in the long term. It was interesting to see the point of view from the inside,” he said.