All posts by Anika Welter

European Politics outside its Borders – What does the EU mean to the rest of the world?

By Cami Murgu, Assessor to the Board of the MEF e.V.

In the case of EU domestic affairs, all the media channels and most European voices approach matters such as Brexit, the migration crisis, the latest laws the European Parliament voted on and much more. However, there is another side which is not tackled as much as the previously mentioned EU internal aspects, which speaks of the EU as a global actor. When approaching this aspect of European politics, there is a clear reference to its foreign policy and how the EU projects its interests outside of its borders. As the Union has diplomatic corps all around the globe, the article will offer a short insight of its relationship with CELAC (The Community of Latin America & Caribbean states). So, what does EU mean to CELAC?

European Flags

A strong pillar of EU foreign policy is the Common and Foreign Security Policy, established in 1993. It’s the European instrument which aims to preserve peace, strengthen international security, promote international cooperation and to develop and consolidate democracy abroad.[1] Within this framework, the EU projects its core values on other regions by helping various countries and their populations to confront natural or man-made disasters as well as support the rule of law and human rights. Another vital key tool is foreign trade. As such, the EU has created and continues to craft foreign strategies specifically tailored to the CELAC, a region with a different and complex historic, political and economic background to that of the EU itself.

Under the Trump administration, the US created policies of political and economic isolationism and increased tensions with Mexico and China. The latter continuously attempting to shift the global order through efforts of investing more in other regions. Therefore, it is a strategic time for the EU to step in and revive the relation with the CELAC countries. For the EU it is the right time to set an outstanding example of both how to project your own standards and policies in the world and to have a strong positive impact on other societies. One example is the endeavor of the EU and Chile to craft a deal facilitating trade with organic food products, an agreement envisaged to be the first of many in a “new generation” in Latin American countries, addressing issues like tariff liberalization, customs cooperation, and sanitary measures.[2]

Another such example is included in the strategic partnership between the EU and CELAC, where regional bi-annual summits are organized and the EU gains a new partnership. Within this framework, different initiatives were crafted, such as: The Joint Initiative on Research and Innovation, Cooperation of Higher Education, The EU-CELAC Structured Dialogue on Migration and the EU-CELAC Coordination and Cooperation Mechanism on Drugs.[3] Therefore, the European Union aims to promote its core principles in the foreign affairs, and shaping sustainable strategies on various fields. While providing funds and political support, a Common Research Area was settled on three key priorities: increased mobility of researchers, access to research infrastructure of global nature and jointly addressing common challenges; 3,500 Erasmus+ scholarships for CELAC students and extra funds for 100 capacity-building projects in the region; a policy structure aimed at tackling the world’s drug problem; and the list can continue as EU’s efforts and actions in the region are numerous.[4]

Concluding, this is a short answer to what does EU mean to CELAC. The EU proves to be an indispensable partner, maintaining the role of international promoter of the rule of law, equality, protection of human rights and cooperation. Consequently, the EU’s role in one of the most troubled and volatile regions in the world contributed to achieving greater integration for CELAC. Also, it offered a purpose and a clearer sense of direction for EU28, as sometimes standing up for common values as a unity can help refocus efforts, even during times of internal struggles, like the one of Brexit. In addition, even though the EU sometimes loses its priorities and focus, external policies contribute to maintaining its values.

South America

Please note that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Munich European Forum e.V.


[1] „Foreign policy: aims, instruments and achievements | Fact Sheets on the European Union | European Parliament”,, last accessed at: 14th April 2019.

[2] Gabrielle Rocha Rios, „Explainer: Trade between Latin America and the European Union”, AS/COA,, last accessed at: 14th April 2019.

[3] „Latin America and the Caribbean”, EEAS – European External Action Service – European Commission,, last accessed at: 14th April 2019.

[4] Ibidem.

The resignation of James Mattis: The first minister to stand up to President Trump and the last connection to his allies leaves the administration

by Franziska Spindler, participant in the FAC at the BEF 2018

International cooperation with the U.S. has become significantly more complicated in times of the Trump administration. Frequent changes within the cabinet1 forced the international diplomatic actors to constantly readjust their strategies relating to the U.S. This made it hard to assess their reactions and to carry on consistent negotiations. Within the NATO – an international organization valued by most of its members but viewed with distain by President Trump – collaboration has always been of utmost importance. This cooperation seemed secure with James Mattis as the American Secretary of Defense and the international community was granted an ally and competent strategist. He views international alliances as the core reason for the strength of the United States2.

Yet on December 20, 2018, James Mattis decided to resign in protest by releasing a public letter addressed to President Trump in which he explains his decision with the missing alignment of his and the President’s views3. The consequences of his resignation for both the U.S. Security Policies and the NATO members are yet to be bided.

Before James Mattis became the Secretary of Defense under President Donald Trump, he built a distinguished career in the U.S. Military and the NATO forces. As Defense Secretary, he became well known and respected by his colleagues and allies within the NATO for his tendency to ignore the President’s skeptical views regarding the alliance and his ability to foster stable cooperation between the member states and (European) allies. Even though he failed to stop President Trump from withdrawing from the nuclear treaty with Iran, he did manage to support the NATO’s determined stance against Russia regarding the conflict in Ukraine and he influenced the air strikes against Syria in a way that didn’t provoke Russia, which could have further fueled the ongoing conflict 4. In reaction to earlier comments like “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet”5, the press gave James Mattis the nickname “Mad Dog Mattis” which was used until the end of his tenure by President Trump despite Mattis’ efforts to prevent it6. Regarding his work ethics, Mattis acted to the contrary of this nickname – his constant efforts to shape the U.S. defense policy in a moderate and ally-friendly way stabilized the transatlantic collaboration.

After President Trump’s announcement to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria, James Mattis resigned by releasing a public letter addressed to the President in which he clearly took a stand on the importance of international alliances for the strength of the United States, saying that “one core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships”7. He clarified that the differing views of him and President Trump regarding the value of those alliances caused him to resign from his position.

While Russia welcomed the resignation of Mattis claiming that he supported (Anti-Russian) policies of the Democratic Party despite being a Republican 8, European leaders stood united in their reaction to Mattis’ resignation: many of them declared their dismay with his decision. Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister described James Mattis as “the remaining strong bond across the Atlantic in the Trump administration” and Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the German Bundestag, even went so far as to call him “the last voice of reason” of the Trump administration9. Beyond that, the resignation also sparked reactions in Australia, China and Japan. Peter Jennings, executive officer of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and former government defense strategist, reported that him and other government officials were left asking “which adult is left in the room?”10. Japanese officials on the other hand don’t see their relationship to the U.S. endangered and Chinese officials even assess the resignation of the China-skeptical Secretary of Defense a chance to improve their relationship with the Trump administration11.

In order to guarantee a smooth transition and to maintain the office’s work efficiency, James Mattis had planned for his resignation to take effect on February 28, 2019. On December 23, 2018, President Trump surprisingly announced that Mattis’ successor, former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan, was going to stand in from January 1, 2019 on but the search for a final successor continues. According to senior administration officials, the negative news coverage following Mattis’ clear words caused the President to remove him from office two months early. Some even suppose that President Trump along some of his advisers suspect Mattis to be involved in a campaign to display the President negatively12.

It remains yet to be bided what the actual consequences of the resignation/removal of James Mattis will be for the U.S., the NATO members and the international power structure. A huge influence on future power switches will be Mattis’ final successor, whose views and policies will most likely be way more compliant with those of President Trump. America’s allies will probably have to brace themselves for a Secretary of Defense who follows his President’s ways of disregarding the rules of alliances and diplomacy, and find a way to defend the values and use of organizations like the NATO regardless of President Trump’s skepticism.

Please note that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Munich European Forum e.V.



1 Keith, T. (2018). ‘Trump Cabinet Turnover Sets Record Going Back 100 Years’. National Public Radio. [online] Available at: [30 December 2018].

2 CNN (2018). ‘Read: James Mattis’ Resignation Letter’. CNN. [online] Available at: [30 December 2018].

3 Ibid.

4 Ross, A. (2018). ‘Schlag in die europäische Magengrube‘ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. [German, online] Available at: [30 December 2018].

5 Tatum, S. (2018). ‘Mattis: ‘Mad Dog‘ Was A Nickname Given By The Press’. CNN. [online] Available at: [3 January 2019].

6 Ross, A. (2018). ‘Schlag in die europäische Magengrube‘ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. [German, online] Available at: [30 December 2018].

7 CNN (2018). ‘Read: James Mattis’ Resignation Letter’. CNN. [online] Available at: [30 December 2018].

8 Maza, C. (2018). ‘Russia Welcomes Mattis Resignation, Says He Shared Democrats’ Policies, But Europe’s Leaders Panic’. Newsweek. [online] Available at: [30 December 2018].

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 Perlez, J. and Mullany, G. (2018). ‘Mattis Resignation and Afghan News Alarm U.S. Allies’. The New York Times. [online] Available at: [30 December 2018].

12 Rucker, P., Lamothe, D. and Dawsey, J. (2018). ‘Trump Forces Mattis Out Two Months Early, Names Shanahan Acting Defense Secretary’. The Washington Post. [online] Available at: [30 December 2018].