Stanley's blog

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%

Energy: 61%

Fighting crime: 60%

Immigration: 59%

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?

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  1. Stanley,

    Your comments are interesting, but I am a little confused. You say “the world is leaderless”. Your evidence for this is that the US is leaderless and that the EU is leaderless.

    Even if both these statements were true (and that is debatable), does it really follow that the world itself is leaderless?

    The world has many organisations that can act at the global level – the most important is the United Nations (there are also the IMF and the World Bank). Within the United Nations there is the Security Council and the General Assembly.

    These are all organisations that were set up to lead the world out of difficulties and into a better future. So how can you say that the “world is leaderless?”

  2. Well… it is not about leadership de jure bur about leadership de facto.

    According to international law there are institutions set up with the mission of suggesting directions for the world to act according to (to suggest only, not to give: how many UN resolutions are applied and/or enforced on the ground? how many are not?).

    No individual country or group of countries as such has any mandate whatsoever to rule the world (given by whom in the first place?).

    But it’s a fact that some countries or groups of countries, for various (albeit debatable) reasons, have more influence on the way the world is shaped, on international decision processes – in short, more weight than others. It may be viewed as unfair and “internationally illegal”, and supported by no legal text and no jurisdiction – but nevertheless the fact is there.

  3. Interesting point of view. But I do not think that Europe,I mean EU, can be a leader. It is made of heterogeneous countries, which are very different in their “shape and form”.
    China, can be a leader, and it will be the leader. Practically all the products are manufactured in China, and that is why even the international crisis did not affect it.

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