Ashton: EU's position precarious in new world order

European security affairs chief warns countries with weak governance are pulling their economic weight, creating "geopolitical ramifications."

catherine ashton 311 (photo credit: AP)
catherine ashton 311
(photo credit: AP)
BRUSSELS — The European Union must do more to defend its interests and values as power seeps from the West to emerging economies in the eastern and southern hemispheres, Catherine Ashton, the EU's security affairs chief, said Wednesday.
She said the new world order holds prominent spots for rising economic powerhouses such as China and India and energy-rich nations in Africa and the Caucasus.
"If we pull together, we can safeguard our interests," Ashton told the European Parliament. "If not, others will make decisions for us."
Europe must not believe it can remain "an island of stability and prosperity in a sea of insecurity and injustice," she added.
Ashton took office in December as head of the EU foreign policy office. She was selected by the EU leaders whose choice — Ashton was EU trade commissioner — has been criticized as weak in her first three months in the job.
Ashton scoffed at that, saying she already has visited Washington, Moscow, Kiev, the Balkans and Haiti and will go to the Middle East next week.
Her lengthy address to the EU assembly in Strasbourg, France, was the first in which she outlined a vision for the EU and the risks the 27-nation bloc runs in the new world order.
Ashton said globalization means the EU must deal with countries that have weak governance across the board yet brim with self-confidence because of their new economic weight.
"You feel it everywhere," she said.
"From negotiations on climate change to Iran, to big energy deals in Africa or Central Asia. Think of the rise of China and others as major political players. Or consider the political impact of the financial crisis. The debts are in the West, the surpluses in the East."
Ashton said China's new financial clout is shaping political relations with Beijing. Similarly, she said, climate change is not just an environmental problem but one with "security and geopolitical ramifications."
She said the EU must use all its "levers of influence" from politicaland economic outreach to development aid and, as a last resort, crisismanagement through peacekeeping troops.
She suggested it create its own headquarters for military missions —that today involve 70,000 troops worldwide. The EU now uses NATO ornational military headquarters.
Key to more EU engagement with the world is a new EU diplomatic serviceAshton is currently shaping, but that has become a source of friction.The European Commission, the EU executive, fears it will take away someof its roles.
"This is a moment to see the big picture," Ashton said. "If we get itright ... we will be able to shape a European foreign policy for the21st century with an external service designed to achieve that."