Josep Borrell once lamented that EU foreign ministers’ meetings were a “valley of tears” strong on expressions of “condolences and concern” but weak on effective action. He has the chance to start to change that on Monday, as he chairs the first such gathering under his watch as the bloc’s top diplomat. Member states will come with their own ideas on the long-vexed question of how to give the EU more foreign policy clout. All but six of the 28 have signed a document sketching plans for how the bloc can “better defend its interests and values and help shape the new global environment”. It should make for a lively debut for Mr Borrell, a former Spanish foreign minister who succeeded Federica Mogherini as the bloc’s foreign policy chief on December 1. The lunch session at the foreign affairs council in Brussels is billed as an informal discussion on working methods, at which the new senior plenipotentiary will “share his perspective on the next few years”.
Mr Borrell said on taking office that he would be guided by principles of partnership, unity and realism, with the aim of producing “faster and more effective decisions”. Beneath the platitudes lie hints of a genuine strategic shift towards paying more attention to crises in the bloc’s neighbourhood, notably the Balkans and eastern Europe.