June 30, 2010 / 2:49 PM / 9 years ago

EU president seeks bigger global role for Europe

* EU president wants to focus on key international partners

* Summits on world governance, climate, energy to be held

By Julien Toyer

BRUSSELS, June 30 (Reuters) - The European Union should focus on cultivating ties with major partners such as China and India if it wants to gain influence in the world, and spend less time and resource on smaller nations, senior diplomats say.

With the EU in the process of setting up its own diplomatic service, with missions in more than 100 countries, attention needs to be paid to major trading partners with geopolitical clout, they say.

“We’ve got political dialogues covering almost any country of the world, but most of these dialogues have become purely formal, are time-consuming and bring very poor results,” said a senior diplomat close to Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council of EU leaders.

“What he (Van Rompuy) wants now is to choose a few of them and give them clear content, detailed objectives and more clout,” the diplomat said this week. President Barack Obama’s cancellation of an EU-U.S. summit scheduled for May was taken as a wake-up call in Europe, he said.

Diplomats say the EU want to send the message to China, India and Russia that when it comes to climate, terrorism or energy issues, it is better to speak to the bloc as a whole rather than cherry-pick individual member states.

“We ought not to be naive because the Chinese know perfectly well how to take advantage of this situation,” said an ambassador to the EU from one of its 27 member states.

Although Germany, France and Britain have indicated they are ready to back the move, EU officials say it remains to be seen whether they will be willing to subordinate national foreign policy agendas under an EU banner.

The success of the strategy will depend on Van Rompuy’s ability to speak on behalf of the 27 member states and to coordinate with the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton of Britain.

Both agree on the need to focus on the EU’s relations with its biggest partners, where it hopes to translate its global trading power into diplomatic influence, and concentrate less on ties with smaller, third countries.

Van Rompuy will hold a series of meetings with EU leaders in the coming months to gauge which relationships need developing and which can be put on the back-burner.

One meeting will take place in mid-September, a few days before the United Nations general assembly, and will focus on the rise of China and India.

Another is being prepared ahead a new round of global climate negotiations in Cancun starting in early December and will be used to agree a strong EU position before the meeting.

A third is scheduled for January 2011 to tackle questions of energy security, with European supplies of energy from Russia affected by gas crises in the past two years.

editing by Paul Taylor

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