This year 2007 the EU celebrates its 50th anniversary. European integration is overall an unprecedented success on a grand scale – achieving both lasting peace on a traditionally war-prone continent, and high levels of prosperity thanks to the progressive creation of a Common, then Single Market. With the recent accession of Central and Eastern European countries Europe is, finally, united. Except where it really matters in today’s world. What is more, Europe at 50 is brooding. Brooding over its relative “decline”. And it suffers from a sense of not really performing on the world stage as it could.
Recently, a powerful product was put onto the market of ideas on how to make things move forward for our good old Europe. Europe is above all an economic power – it is the world’s biggest economic entity and the first trading nation. Whatever moves it undertakes on the economic front has very important consequences for the outside world. And for itself. Europe as global economic power is what Bruegel, the Brussels-based economy think tank, has set itself to tackle. It just published a book entitled “Fragmented Power: Europe and the Global Economy”. The Economist has a small piece on it as well. It is a quite comprehensive survey of Europe’s position in the world economy. And it is a rare occurrence of an integratated, all-in-one research on EU economic diplomacy. The topics are: Europe’s position, role and policies in the global economy, the decision-making processes, Europe’s trade policies, development aid, migration, monetary and financial relations, competition policy, external energy policy. The text is available for free online. Each chapter is dense and runs deep. So be prepared for slow, selective reading.
In the book’s first chapter, Andre Sapir, famous for a widely publicised report in 2003 on EU Budget reform calling for money allocation away from agriculture, summarizes the main policy proposals of the book. He reminds us the three main stated foreign policy objectives of the European Union:
• “contributing to stability and governance in Europe’s immediate neighbourhood”
• “helping build an international order based on ‘effective multilateralism’”
• “dealing with security threats”
Sapir’s diagnosis is clear: Europe is not effective in achieving its stated goals. It punches below its real weight. Its main problem is, obviously, policy-making fragmentation. The big changes proposed to tackle these structural problems are unifying policies where it really matters today:
• In the global financial architecture: create a unified seat within the IMF (and World Bank) boards. This would have two beneficial effects: put an end to a much-resented EU-over-representation in those institutions, while representing Europe’s real (massive) weight in the global economy
• Energy policy. Create a common energy policy in order to solve the current dilemmas linked to the security of energy supplies
• Immigration. Create a real EU-level migration policy
The proposals are nothing really new. But in today’s context they have a particular salience. All three areas are very sensitive and hurt national sovereign sensitivities. But given the challenges the EU is facing – serious sidelining in the global economy, risking being the fooled around with by Russia, and mishandling immigration – one only needs to say, like the Germans Wo in Wille ist, ist auch ein Weg. Also: the EU integration process is all about the progressive relinquishing of formerly unrelinquishable national symbols and policies. Even strongly established national currencies, such as the Deutsche Mark, were dropped and not many mourn its loss.