Is European Union on the decline?

Discussion in 'Europe and Russia' started by ppgj, Dec 3, 2009.

  1. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    The Hindu : Opinion / Lead : Is European Union on the decline?

    Is European Union on the decline?
    Jorge Heine December 3, 2009

    [​IMG]
    THE 'MEEK' SHALL INHERIT THE EU: The newly appointed European Union President Herman Van Rompuy, centre, talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker at the European Council building in Brussels, on Nov. 19, 2009.. Photo: AP

    The EU is the biggest market in the world, but its politics is all about divvying up the enormous amount of money on hand, rather than about anything else, "a supersize Switzerland," as Simon Hix of the London School of Economics put it.

    Henry Kissinger, always ready with an apt turn of phrase, once quipped: “if I want to speak to Europe, which number do I call?” Thirty-five years later, the European Union has made some progress, and there is now an EU President. The question today is a different one — who is this gentleman? How do you spell his name? Where exactly does he come from?

    The election of a President is a step in the right direction, and will help to create a more perfect union. The same goes for an EU Foreign Minister. One cannot but wish them well. Yet, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this election is a prime exhibit as to why the EU has been declining. The choices made by the 27 heads of government reflect precisely what is wrong with Europe today, best summed up in the motto, “Think small, and carry a small stick.”

    The notion that Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, the sum total of whose experience in prime time politics is a scarce 11 months in one of Europe’s smallest countries, could defeat Tony Blair, for 10 years British Prime Minister and the only Labour Prime Minister to win three elections in a row, is so counter-intuitive as to be numbing. I do think Mr. Blair made a serious mistake in Iraq, and I do have many misgivings about the intellectual cover he provided to President George Bush’s wrong-headed approach to the so-called “war on terror.”

    But the fact remains that Mr. Blair is one of the great political figures of our time, a giant among the candidates for the EU presidency (a close contender was Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg; I am not making this up). Mr. Blair’s profile was also ideal for the job. A man from the centre-left, he gets along with the right — so much so that at one point both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw their weight behind him. He knows the United States well, and is widely respected there; he has recently launched his “Faith and Globalisation Initiative” with Yale University. He would have opened many doors in the Global South, where people know his incisiveness as a policy wonk, his eloquence as a communicator and his ability to get things done.

    As a Brit, he could have been an honest broker between the two European heavyweights, France and Germany, while also considering the interests of smaller states. With Britain not being part of the Eurozone, Mr. Blair was also a compromise between the all-out federalists and the Euro-sceptics. In this age of fraught relationships between religion and politics, he is that rara avis in secular Britain — a politician who takes his religion seriously, so much so that he recently converted to Catholicism. At 56, he is still young, with plenty of energy and adrenaline for building up the EU. Mr. Blair was also available, something which cannot be said of another outstanding potential candidate, Felipe Gonzalez, former Prime Minister, who ruled Spain for 14 years.

    Mr. Blair will thus continue to deploy most of his enormous talent as Middle East envoy, as well as at his Faith Foundation, his African Governance Initiative and at making obscene amounts of money at Tony Blair Associates — all endeavours which, though enough to keep a dozen men busy 24x7, still underutilise his capabilities.

    Was the election of Mr. Van Rompuy merely a fluke?

    Hardly, since his main competitors were mostly like him, unknown quantities from small member-states. In fact, one of them, when asked to come up with a job description for the new EU President, volunteered that what was needed was a chairman of the board rather than a president per se (he would, wouldn’t he?). But assuming that the European heads are so insecure as to be intimidated by the possibility of having a genuine peer at the helm of the EU, one could have thought that, at a very minimum, they would have settled for an experienced and knowledgeable EU Foreign Minister, in the tradition of Foreign Affairs EU Commissioners like Christopher Patten and Javier Solana. This position will, after all, be the face of the “new” post-Lisbon treaty Europe to the rest of the world.

    Some of the names on the table certainly fitted that bill — Massimo D’Alema, the suave former Italian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister; Joschka Fischer, the brash, Green former German Foreign Minister; David Miliband, the brainy U.K. Foreign Secretary; and Carl Bildt, the experienced former Swedish Prime Minister and current Foreign Minister.

    Any of these candidates would have sent the right message about the EU being genuinely interested in reaching out to the world, rather than being consumed by internal squabbling and petty infighting. The spectacle presented by a number of the EU’s smallest members — most prominently the Czech Republic’ s delay in giving the go-ahead for the EU Constitution, haggling over exemption from the EU rules, including compensation for property expropriation — has been such that outside observers find it difficult to take the EU seriously. The EU is the biggest market in the world, but its politics is all about divvying up the enormous amount of money on hand, rather than about anything else, “a supersize Switzerland,” as Simon Hix of the London School of Economics put it.

    Most people had never heard of Lady Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, currently EU Trade Commissioner (a position she has held for a little over a year), who has now been chosen next EU Foreign Minister. She is a protégé of Prime Minster Gordon Brown, who tipped her for the job once David Miliband declined. She may very well be talented, and is apparently an effective negotiator, but no one claims that she has any foreign policy experience. The lack of name recognition and of foreign policy credentials does not bode well. This is the person President Barack Obama is supposed to call when addressing a U.S.-EU issue (will he?). This is not her fault. The “lowest-common-denominator” decision-making process the EU has adopted feeds on itself. Once you elect an obscure EU President, you may not be willing to put a star next to him as Number 2 (or such a nominee may not be willing to take it), so you keep going down the ladder.

    Who should be blamed for this? Why is it that the great promise of European regional integration, one that raised so many hopes around the world and has been so widely emulated, has boiled down to this? Why is it that institutions that have taken eight years to build at great cost — whose very purpose, in Valery Giscard D’ Estaing original design for a European Constitution, was to allow the EU to project itself more effectively on the global scene — are handed over to newcomers whose appointment signals that the intention is to keep Brussels in the hands of Eurocrats (it has been said the real winner of all this is EU Commission chairman Jose Manuel Barroso) rather than established political leaders? Aren’t Europeans aware that the first incumbent of any senior political office sets the tone and pattern of how the powers of that office will be exercised long after he or she is gone?

    It is easy to blame the small European countries, always worried about being trampled by the EU “elephants.” Yet, they can hardly be faulted for defending their interests. The British Tories, in Opposition and true to form, took the lead in opposing Mr. Blair’s candidacy, though their leader, David Cameron, has largely modelled himself after Mr. Blair, and his party fully supported the Iraq war. Saying the election of the latter by the EU would be “a hostile act,” the Tories are already showing how they are likely to rule — with the fiercest and narrowest of partisanships.

    Yet, in the end, it would be silly to blame the bit players for this outcome in the Great Game of Europe, though it is somewhat puzzling to read an editorial in the Financial Times lamenting the EU’s small-mindedness and “minimalism,” when the same paper editorialised against Mr. Blair’s candidacy (“Beware of what you wish for…”). The EU was originally born out of the need of France and Germany to bury the hatchet of war. When all is said and done, it is still Paris and Berlin that call the shots. Unfortunately, on this occasion the successors of General Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer did not show either the grand vision or the fortitude of their predecessors. They let themselves be intimidated when they should have stuck to their guns. Europe is all the worse for it.

    (Jorge Heine holds the Chair in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, is Professor of Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University and a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, Ontario.)
     
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  3. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    The European Union is a monetary union. It did not try to project any political power which it could have using the clout it had. If it had tried doing that, it would have grown quite a lot in the international scheme of things. The problem is that its a union of countries which have their own interests in mind as nations than as a union.
     
  4. Vladimir79

    Vladimir79 Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    With the signing of the Lisbon Treaty the EU will be a more centralised state. Soon there will be an EU wide income tax. Italy is now calling for a national army. If this came about, it would push out the influence of NATO and drive the EU even further to becoming a Super State. Why Tony Blair would be a good candidate when the EU is voting centre right is beyond me. People all across Europe see him as a US sellout getting the UK forces into international quigmire of Iraq and Afghanistan. His appointment as the ME envoy is seen as a joke as well. Klaus finally conceded because with the US withdrawal, he needed stronger security guarantees NATO can't provide. The EU is getting stronger, you see it come with the legislation month by month. The ratification of Lisbon is the catalyst people needed to get this train going... just watch it.
     
  5. Flint

    Flint Senior Member Senior Member

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    The biggest threat to Europe is demographic changes. The "native" Europeans are not having any children, while the immigrants are reproducing at much higher rates. The effects will become apparent in the coming decades.
     
  6. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    Asian giants can imbibe Europe's values

    Asian giants can imbibe Europe's values - All That Matters - Sunday TOI - Home - The Times of India
     
  7. badguy2000

    badguy2000 Respected Member Senior Member

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    EU does not decline. it is just those EU states that are busy quarreling with each other.
     
  8. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    The EU presidency never had any real power, it is just a bully pulpit and mediator to push forward the EU agenda. The only way it would make any difference who held the position is if they were able to gain more power and make it a true executive post. As far as the decline of the EU, it hasn't declined at all. Member states are giving up soveriegnty every day. France is eliminating huge redunancies in military R&D and procurement as part of the reshuffling of the defence sector. More and more projects are being placed on JVs with member states. The procurement from the US has greatly declined since past decades with the EU relying on her own developments. The consolidation of major national defence companies into major entities like MBDA, EADs and huge JVs with giants like Finmeccanica and Thales have enabled Europe to overcome a disjointed effort when it comes to R&D and procurement. Nations will always argue over cost and funding which slows JV projects, it would be easier if there was one EU national defence policy.
     
  9. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    it would push out the influence of NATO and drive the EU even further to becoming a Super State-------------------------------------- It's very doubtful i.e. NATO phasing out
     
  10. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    Well, US has withdrawn many bases out of the EU. With the threat of Russia gone, there really isn't any need for it. Europe just liked having the US spend most of their money on our defence but that time is passing. Trying to get troop commitments from NATO into Afghanistan has been like pulling teeth. With EDA and EUBG forming a framework of common defence, and EUFOR being deployed constantly, it makes our NATO mission redundant. There is going to come a day when a new alliance treaty will be drafted to meet the Post-Cold War climate.
     
  11. badguy2000

    badguy2000 Respected Member Senior Member

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    as for EU.

    even if EU were really to become a confederate, EU would just be one of global tripolar(USA, EU and CHina) at most.

    If EU member were to keep state quo, then EU major powers such as UK, German and France would have to stay in the second class coach with Japan,Russia and INdia.
     
  12. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    EU is already a confederation, we are watching it become more like a Federation day by day. A federated Europe would dwarf any other entity.

    EU isn't keeping the status quo. France, Germany and Italy are calling for a Federal Army. UK has given it tacit support with the inclusion of of an EU force HQ. It is US that wants to keep the status quo, once we have had our fill of Astan things will move more rapidly.
     
  13. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    The Chinese like to think they are number two after USA in their arrogance forgetting the EU which has a GDP 5 times the size of China.
     
  14. GokuInd

    GokuInd Regular Member

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    Yep, the EU is totally a force to reckon with when it comes to economic power. It is still the largest exporter of finished goods and has so far the biggest share in the service sector compared to the US and Japan.
    Ironically the bonhomie within the EU with emphasis on economic relations is excellent, whereas issues on security, foreign and defense policy formally enshrined in the CFSP and CSDP are still superimposed by national egoisms. Progress in this field has been somewhat sluggish still.

    Edit: If the Chinese are so bent on acquiring Global Power Status (and they don't seem to lack confidence), why are they still asking the EU to lift the arms embargo?
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2010
  15. nrupatunga

    nrupatunga Senior Member Senior Member

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    Eurosceptic Parties Gains in European Parliament Elections
     

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