Stanley's blog

Europe: Leader or Follower?

Philip Stephens, in today’s Financial Times writes that European leaders have a better opportunity than for some time to “stop asking what Washington can do for them and start thinking about what they might do for themselves.” The Lisbon agenda should be ratified and the new leadership is not tainted by the fall-out over Iraq. Merkel, Sarkozy and Brown regard themselves as Atlanticists but are “no poodle”.

I agree. It is time Europeans stop defining their foreign policy against that of the United States. The next American president is likely to be closer to Europe in political culture, but all leading candidates are ‘exceptionalists’ and multilateralist only to the extent that others can be persuaded to agree with them. The next president will rightly forge a foreign policy in the US’s own interests. Many countries would welcome European foreign and security policy leadership – and so would the majority of EU citizens, according to opinion polls. And there is no doubt that European leadership is badly needed to fight today’s biggest challenges, namely climate change, environmental degradation and energy security. Only with a single voice can Europe seriously influence the US.

A single voice can only be achieved by national political leaders who must understand that the Union is divided into two groups: countries who know and accept that they are small, and those who don’t know or don’t accept that they are.

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