Monday, 2 November 2009

Europe in Denial of a Changing World

The European Council on Foreign Relations came out with an interesting report today on the US-EU relationship, concluding that Europeans “remain in denial about how the world is changing, making a fetish out of the transatlantic relationship.”

In essence the report concludes that Europeans remain stuck in a ‘spectator’ mindset, harbouring damaging “illusions” acquired over “decades of American hegemony.” The result, the authors conclude, is “an unhealthy mix of complacency and excessive deference” to the United States, which has a “rapidly decreasing interest” in a Europe as it fails to speak with a strong united voice in the world.

The report is not just a rebuke of the nationalists and isolationists spread across Europe, it is also a rather grim summary of how the US views the prospects of the EU actually rising to the challenge. Though the US badly needs a strong partner to counter the rising influence of China and would like to see a more united EU, the consensus in Washington since 2005 has been that it is unlikely to see that materialise. So it now essentially takes a piecemeal approach to treating Europe as an equal partner. When Europe is strong and united in trade issues, Washington listens. When it is split in foreign policy however, it ignores them. In the later scenario, where different national governments act individually, the report concludes, “Europeans are asking to be divided and ruled.”

The result of all this, the authors concludes, is “a frustrated US and an impotent Europe.” The situation manifests itself, for example, in the Afghanistan conflice – where Europe has 30,000 troops yet virtually no say in strategy. They write:
“European governments need to get over the mistaken belief that their individual ‘special relationships' matter in Washington, and learn instead to act together and speak to the US with one voice.”
Reading this report, I can’t help but feel that it is in large part addressed to the UK in particular. The British public should keep these things in mind when they head to the polls next year. As I’ve written about before, Cameron’s Europe policy will have important ramifications for not only the future of the UK, but the future of Europe as a whole. As the report points out, the danger of ‘damaging illusions’ in policy-making are no insignificant matter.

1 comment:

Frank said...

It's about time Europe lived up to its responsibilities instead of just sitting back and letting the US take care of it. Those days are over, but they don't seem to realize it. There are many in Europe who are very irresponsible, who would rather sit back and condemn the US than sit up and do anything for themselves.