December 29, 2007
2007 has been another grim year. The many problems with which the year began are still unresolved. We end the year with serious troubles in Afghanistan, Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine and Sudan, to mention only the major ones. We have to cope witb a Putinesque Russia and an increasingly assertive
China. Worst of all, we have a United States which has lost its way but is led by an Administration that does not admit – and maybe does not believe – that its policies have been disastrous and may shape the international scene for a generation. Finally, there is the grave challenge of climate change, with our political leaders fiddling while the world burns.
Other storm clouds are gathering: The US and
China defy the law of economic gravity, one with an unsustainable, rising current account deficit and the other with an unsustainable, rising trade surplus. Economic recession could be around the corner, triggered off by a deepening of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, a sudden curtailment of exports from a major oil-producer or simply a loss of confidence within the
US. There is not an effective international economic and monetary mechanism to cope with such a crisis.
The world is rudderless. No single country can provide the necessary leadership. In
Europe, the egos of national leaders and domestic politics stand in the way of a common foreign & security policy, something which has widespread public support.
It is taking far too long for everyone to accept that we all have a common interest in today’s major problems – from global warming to water, from AIDS to terrorism – and that they are common problems which require common solutions.
Am I being unreasonably pessimistic? After all, we can now travel from Valetta to Helsinki and from Warsaw to
Lisbon without border controls. This is nothing short of a miracle, only 60-odd years after the end of WWII and 18 years since the lifting of the Iron Curtain.
The EU has its Reform Treaty which looks likely to be ratified and come into force in 2009. Provided that the right President of the European Council, President of the Commission and Foreign Policy Chief are chosen, The Union will have a clearer and better representation on the international stage and the mechanism to develop a single voice.
Until the EU takes a lead and reminds itself and the world of what happened when nations pursued beggar-thy-neighbour policies and played balance of power and containment games, these polices will continue, whether pursued by China, Russia, the US or indeed Europe itself.
The privatisation of warfare and the increasing encroachments on personal liberty in stemming terrorism will stay with us. National autonomy has its limitations if there is to be a functioning civilisation. The two strongest proponents of absolute state sovereignty – the US and
China – should note this.
Jean Monnet’s had a simple message to overcome the fact that human nature cannot be changed. Strong institutions have to be created in order to change human behaviour and make it possible for people to work long term in common and not for a narrowly defined national interest. Over the course of a half century,
Europe has built itself into a state of law and created a better context for life. This is now in danger.
2009 could be the year of the European Union. Other countries wish for European leadership. 2008 is the preparatory year. Let’s not miss the opportunity. Together
Europe can succeed. Together we can return to a world of hope from a world of fear.
On, a personal note, I have valued our contacts in the past and look forward to a continuing relationship in 2008. I wish you and your family a Happy, Healthy & Successful New Year.
Stanley CrossickAuthor : Stanley Crossick