It turned out to be a rather good discussion in Brussels yesterday as Commission President Barroso brought together three supposedly experienced outsiders with the group of Commissioners most responsible for dealing with the outside world.
As usual, there was an element of the Balkans in it all.
Arriving at the Berlaymont building, I find some TV crews outside interviewing someone. That turned out to be Christian Schwarz-Schilling – the new High Representative in Sarajevo – and since I hadn’t seen him since his appointment I had to stop and congratulate.
The result was a TV interview with both the first and the last High Representative in Bosnia.
And before leaving the building we had some further Balkan discussion. Barroso is heading to the region during the next few days, and will then as well obviously take a personal look at the possibilities of moving the countries closer to the European Union in the next few years.
But the topic of the afternoon was how the external policies of the Union could be made more effective, more coordinated and more visible. And there was certainly no disagreement on the fact that there is room for very substantial improvement in all of these respects.
Increasingly, the European Union is a key actor in shaping the future of globalisation. It might even be argued that it has the potential of being the most significant global actor in this respect due both to the fact that it is the by far largest trading entity in the global economy and that it is the by far most significant example of building a network of integration and cooperation across old borders.
That will then be both an issue for the more classical external policies of the Union, but increasingly also for those policies hitherto seen as primarily internal. I stressed that the Union should increasingly design its policies also with the view that the should be able to inspire and influence corresponding policy developments both in adjacent and further away areas.
Our focus was on the more near-by areas, and there was agreement that there has to be priorities. It was Chris Patten who stressed the importance of India and Brazil – easily forgotten with all the attention that is nowadays given to China. We dealt with the future of the policies in the Mediterranean region as well as towards the East, although there wasn’t enough time to dig as deep as is necessary in the issues of Russia.
Out of all of this will eventually come a paper for the June meeting of the European Council.
On the other side of the Rue de la Loi, Javier Solana’s office was empty. He had left for an extended tour of the Middle East, trying to take us more into a dialogue mood with the Islam world after the emotional outbursts over the famous cartoons in Jyllands-Posten.