Strategic alliances between the European Union and third nations foster international collaboration in a variety of sectors, including the economic, security, and the environment.
Special Partnership Agreements are mutually beneficial agreements that allow governments to collaborate to accomplish common goals and aspirations.
Because the nature of each bilateral alliance varies by country, it is impossible to provide a precise definition. Rather, various strategic partnership projects can be investigated to determine the nature of the agreement with a specific third country.
EU Strategic Partnerships (SPs) are constantly evolving to address contemporary concerns. For example, on July 15th, 2020, the EU and India had a conference to explore the building of the EU-India strategic cooperation based on common concerns about COVID-19, climate change, and digitalization.
This article examines the essential areas for collaboration between the EU and its primary strategic partners, as well as the goals of such bilateral agreements. It also looks ahead to prospective EU partnership and cooperation agreements in the coming years.
WHO ARE THE EU’S STRATEGIC PARTNERS?
The European Union has ten bilateral strategic partners in the Americas, Africa, and Asia:
- The United States of America
- South Africa
The United States, Japan, Russia, and Canada are considered ‘established partners,’ although this was not always the case.
Following the development of the 2003 EU Security Strategy, the Commission formally proposed and the Council of Member States approved partnerships with China (2003), India (2004), Brazil and South Africa (2007), and Mexico (2008).
The agreement with South Korea did not go through this process; the partnership was announced in 2010 without any formal procedures.
HOW DOES THE EU CHOOSE ITS STRATEGIC PARTNERS?
One of the requirements for building strategic relationships is the sharing of common aims and beliefs. In the case of Russia and China, however, it is more true to say that the SPs are built on shared interests and the belief that the relationship is mutually beneficial.
When considering special partnerships, the European Union also considers a country’s influence on global issues. As a result, all third-country G8 and Outreach 5 members have special partnership agreements with the EU.
STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS WITH GROUPS OF COUNTRIES AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS
Aside from SPs with individual third countries, the European Union is thought to have strategic partnerships with five groups of countries and international organizations:
- Africa and the African Union
- the Mediterranean and the Middle East
- Latin America and the Caribbean
- the United Nations
KEY FEATURES OF EU PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS
The nature of a bilateral partnership between the EU and a third country is determined by specific factors such as the extent to which shared values exist.
Overall, the many strategic partnership initiatives promote international cooperation on global issues, such as:
- Human rights
- Security and defence
- Trade and investment
- Culture and education
- The environment
Because each EU Member State has its own foreign policy, these established partnerships contribute to a more integrated approach to such critical issues.
Some of the EU’s Strategic Partnership Agreements (SPA) with third countries are examined in greater detail here.
EU-CANADA STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT
An example of an all-inclusive agreement is the EU-Canada strategic partnership. Canada, like the United States, is seen as a ‘like-minded’ partner with deep ties to EU member states.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement agreed by Canada and the EU Member States on October 30th, 2016 was moulded by the two sides’ common values and objectives.
The following are some of the most important concerns addressed by this SPA:
INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY
This portion of the agreement acknowledges terrorism as a shared issue and declares that Canada and the EU would collaborate to strengthen counter-terrorist measures.
Other subjects discussed in terms of peace and security include the need to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and a commitment to the International Criminal Court.
ECONOMIC AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The EU-Canada SPA seeks to encourage free trade and investment between the two countries. The parties also pledge to sustainable development, which includes resource management and environmental awareness.
Climate change is a key factor in the SPA, as Canada and the EU emphasise the necessity for quick action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
JUSTICE, FREEDOM AND SECURITY
This includes critical concerns such as collaboration against illegal drug usage, organised crime and corruption prevention, and the threat of cybercrime.
By collaborating in this manner, the EU and Canada can be more effective and efficient in tackling the aforementioned obstacles.
The connection between the EU and the US is the strongest of all, with both sides’ ideals aligned. The United States and the European Union place a premium on security, justice, and freedom.
CHINA AND RUSSIA AS EUROPEAN UNION’S STRATEGIC PARTNERS
In contrast to the other partner nations, there is frequently a substantial gap in the ideals and perspectives of the EU and its key allies Russia and China.
Cooperation in these instances is more restricted and motivated by self-interest. Different perspectives on several international problems have hampered the formation of deeper strategic alliances.
The comprehensive EU-China strategic relationship includes a wide range of problems, but human rights remain a source of contention.
COOPERATION BETWEEN THE EU AND OTHER STRATEGIC PARTNERS
While not as comprehensive as the SPAs between the EU and the US and Canada, the European Union has established substantial cooperation with Japan, South Korea, and Mexico.
Agreements between the EU and nations such as Japan, who are also regarded like-minded and have comparable aims and values, address similar topics such as terrorism, corruption, and money laundering.
Citizens of South Korea, Japan, and Mexico can stay in European Schengen nations without a visa for up to 90 days; however, after the new system goes live in November 2023, an ETIAS visa waiver will be required. The same benefits are available to US and Canadian citizens.
BRAZIL AND SOUTH AFRICA
Brazil and South Africa have limited agreements with the EU based on shared ideals.
The India-EU strategic cooperation was previously limited in scope, but it is poised to grow in the future years. On July 15th, 2020 leaders endorsed the “EU-India Strategic Partnership: A Roadmap to 2025” during a meeting.
CULTURAL COOPERATION BETWEEN THE EU AND ITS PARTNERS
The EU has formed cultural strategic partnership programmes with various third-country special partners, most notably China and Brazil.
EU-BRAZIL JOINT PROGRAMME ON CULTURE
The EU and Brazil agreed in the 2011-2014 Joint Cultural Programme to:
- Promoting and implementing the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of diversity of cultural expression
- Evolving the cultural and creative economy
- Boosting cooperation on cultural heritage and museums
EU-CHINA CULTURAL COOPERATION TAKES VARIOUS FORMS
In 2012, the EU and China signed a Joint Declaration on Cultural Cooperation. Several initiatives and programmes have also been established:
- The Special Action of the Culture Programme funded 10 EU-China projects from 2008 to 2010
- The EU-China Year of Intercultural Design in 2012
- Joint Mapping of the EU-China Cultural and Creative Landscape in 2015
There are also Joint Declarations on cultural cooperation signed by the EU, India, and Mexico.
THE FUTURE OF EU STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS
The European Union should prioritise the creation of strategic relationships, it is widely accepted. Such collaborations strengthen the EU’s worldwide standing and assist the organisation in achieving some of its most critical goals.
Any future strategic alliances should be founded on common ideals and interests. They should strive to address the world’s most pressing issues.
Some analysts believe that focusing on a small group of high-priority partners would be more beneficial, whereas others believe that a more broad-reaching approach would be preferable.
There has recently been discussion about the UK-EU relationship after Brexit, and many people believe that existing SPAs provide the best preview of what the alliance will be like after the transition period.