Commentators argue endlessly about whether the EU’s foreign policy is a success or a failure. Vaïsse, a foreign policy analyst at the Brookings Institution, and Kundnani, a former journalist working for the European Council on Foreign Relations, assembled a team of researchers in an effort to get beyond such “glass half empty or half full” debates. They assign numerical ratings to the annual performance of EU foreign policy and intend to update them every year. The strength of the exercise lies in the details: 80 separate issues are rated on the extent to which EU member states agree on a policy, the resources committed to the issue, and the outcome. Its weakness lies in the media-friendly aggregation of scores into a single number and a letter grade (A to F) for each issue. This oversimplifies. Is unity is a component of success, or are some issues better handled by a vanguard of leading countries? Does grading Europe down for failing to devote massive resources and political will to difficult areas with nearly intractable tradeoffs, such as climate change or Chinese human rights, simply penalize politicians for setting sensible priorities? Readers should ignore the grades and focus on the subtler virtues of this pioneering experiment in foreign policy analysis.
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