The EU and its international approach have always proposed many questions with regards to how Europe operates and tackles global issues. The well-known international threat aka terrorism, has been responsible for the biggest bombings in Europe back in 2004 in Madrid, in 2005 in London and the most recent attacks in France (2012). Thus the EU was pushed towards a more coherent and constructive response in relation to counter-terrorism. However, ambivalent thoughts are being generated by considering particularly EU’s approaches and actions, whether it is actually defeating a threat successfully.
Recently, the EU has been seen to promote “soft” rather than “hard” power emphasising diplomacy, negotiations and other peaceful methods, by particularly focusing on peace through opportunity, cooperation and the rule of law. It especially refers to counter-terrorism, which is perceived from a criminal angle by the EU, where the criminal and judicial cooperation is fostered between member states. However, as the reality demonstrates, fostering coherent, unified actions sometimes can turn to be one of the biggest challenges that most member states face (especially the big ones that exercise a bigger competence in the EU). Indeed, EU states have to provide a coherent and comprehensive response to the matter not only within, but also outside Europe. Hence, one of the major obstacles that divides Europe and makes it less legitimate is the divergence between member states, and the disagreement in responding to some issues emerged. One of the major and specific examples would be EU-US cooperation in relation to counter-terrorism and ways it affects states and their cohesion in actions, especially considering the data protection, the intelligence and surveillance services. As stated by many scholars, there are divergent views on US’s involvement and how far the EU should go in relation to the US and even in relation to its own integration. On the other hand, it is evident that Europe manages its work quite well, despite these challenges. However, like any other system, it has some obstacles to tackle and conquer.
Recently another significant question aroused with regards to whether the EU stands a chance in responding to global threats independently without the US military support. Some desperately claim that EU barely stands a chance in dealing with major issues, since it does not exercise military power which is still significant in the 21st century. Considering the shifting global agenda and the rising importance of economic and political relations, it is highly questionable whether EU’s “soft” power is wrong and ambiguous. After all, so far it managed establishing strong and tight relations with many countries. As a result, the establishment of tight relations serves to be a key point in comprising a mutual dependence, where terrorism or any other coercive acts are less favourable in order to maintain the global economic and political importance and remain “attractive” for other global players. Does that suggest that military ground is not needed at all? Again various answers are suggested, but considering EU’s approach to military assets, it seems to be rather negative than positive. As a matter of fact, most states wish to maintain their sovereignty and be responsible for their own foreign policy as much as they are able to. Due to this fact, common defence policy has always been the biggest challenge since states do not wish to merge and become a one complete unit, which causes the main disputes around Europe. As for now, EU and US share history and common core ideas such as diplomacy, democracy, liberalism. On the other hand, the undeniable fact remains: the actions they implement and put into work highly differs.
Considering the information above, the fact whether the EU is successful enough and manages well the international threats is indeed challenging and requires enough time to assess adequately. However, it is obvious that EU’s rather “soft” and non-military approach plays along the 21st century international arena’s rule, where economic and political relations push aside military hegemony and the game of threatening.