September 14, 2008
The United States is leaderless.Europe is leaderless; the world is leaderless. Russia and China are not leaderless but their world roles are very limited – and a vacuum does not remain a vacuum. The conclusion is obvious. As Charlemagne wrote in this week’s Economist, “there is a place for Europe in the new world order. But Europeans do not agree over what it should be. The world may not wait much longer for Europe to decide where it stands.”
Europe only has a year or so to get its act together. Unfortunately, the timing is not good, with the Lisbon Treaty in limbo, the Commission towards the end of its mandate and upcoming European Parliament elections. But this opportunity must be seized. The world needs, and indeed several leading countries want, Europe’s leadership – alongside the US, China and others – in a multilateral and not a multipolar system. The US is still the sole superpower but sole global leadership is beyond the reach of a single power. And Europe means the European Union. As Charlemagne wrote, “…a deal [over Georgia] was done because Mr Sarkozy holds the rotating EU presidency, not because he is president of France.”
Economic, political and cultural globalisation has blurred the line between internal and external policies. The challenges of climate change, energy security, immigration, terrorism, international crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, pandemics…cannot be met domestically. Aurope can only influence the responses to these challenges if it has a leadership role.
EU citizens realise this. In reply to the question whether they were in favour or against a common foreign policy, asked by Eurobarometer 67 and published in November 2007, 72% were in favour, with even 52% in the UK and no less than 67% in Ireland.
To the question whether decisions in for each of the following areas, should be made by national governments or jointly within the European Union, the replies were all in favour of the latter:
Fighting terrorism: 81%
Scientific & technological research: 71%
Protecting the environment: 69%
Defence & foreign affairs: 62%
Fighting crime: 60%
Thus, European leadership is needed and wanted, both by its citizens and other countries. Why don’t we have it? The only explanation is a reluctance on the part of Member State leaders to share their foreign policy activity with Brussels. This is ego, because no leader has real influence on behalf of one country, and that goes for France, Germany and the UK.
This does not automatically mean that foreign policy consensus will be reached on all issues, but that the Member States commit themselves to seeking common policies. Working together increases convergence of views.
As Charlemagne said: the world may not wait much longer for Europe to decide where it stands. Are we going to miss this opportunity?Author : Stanley Crossick