The European Jubilee and the current state of Europe
2007 will the year that marks the European Jubilee, and already the EU has grown considerably from a six member organization in 1957 to an intergovernmental conglomerate of 27 members, spreading from offshore Middle East (Cyprus) to the Western land borders of Russia (Finland) and up to Latin America (French Guinea).
The EU can be considered as one of the positive consequences of WW2, and the dynamic of the Union has helped to consolidate peace and prosperity across the Continent.
Nevertheless, as the 50year celebrations are about to begin, one has to wonder if Europe has any capability and possibility of ever becoming a global counterweight to the established world order powers such as USA and Russia, or the newly expanding Asian forces of India and China. Nowadays the EU has one of the major world currencies, namely the EURO, a forceful point of view in the World Trade Organization, higher GDP than any other entity in the world, larger population base than either USA or Russia and it is still the largest donor of developing aid towards the so-called Third World. Moreover the EU military forces are numbering more personnel than the American ones and the annual spending of the EU states for their military budgets is much larger than the combined Russian, Indian and Chinese ones. On overall it seems that the forecasts by many Europeans as early as the 1960’s seem to become a reality and the EU is truly a global power with a firmly established role and a future full of positive prospects.
Despite all the above positive facts, Europe is not a world power, nor will it ever achieve such a role. European military forces might be in combination a tremendous force, but the antagonist internal factors based on national aspirations and perceived interests, render towards the national power model, that ultimately prevails any communal esprit de corps. For instance UK and France are the main European military forces and nuclear ones that still perceive European defense as means of further enchasing their role in the world and it seems unlikely they will abandon their centuries old posture in order to share power and know-how with other European states such as Estonia or Cyprus that view the EU as a guarantee force of their security. One has to remember the war in Iraq in 2003 that clearly illustrated the flight of the imagination that the European common defense is nowadays. Continuing, the preparations for the European Constitution seem unlikely to seriously reverse the above reality. The proposed election of a European President, the reaffirmation of a “Secretary of State” role for the Higher Representative, will prove ineffective. As long as every state has the Veto right for issues of national security, and most importantly the security apparatus and intelligence services of every nation remain guarder by every respective government; the European Constitution will prove to be another high profiled document of little historical importance.
International relations have pointed the dictum for all global actors to master political will along the use of military force. In essence you can’t have one without the other. In EU’s case, the Union lacks its own Armed Forces, therefore its political and administrative resolutions are basically useless, and the role of the national governments –Especially for the larger states- is the decisive factor for every necessary action to be taken. In contrast to the USA or Russian decision making process, the EU is still merely a composition of antithetical political units that rarely agree for common projects and consequently cannot be accounted as a single voice in the world arena.
Continuing, the EU is by all means not a nation, nor it has a sense of a unique identity. During the past decades a plethora of surveys have showed a segment of the European population to respond in the question: “Do you feel more European or a national?” positively European. That of course is without any importance because none has ever confronted the real question and that is: “What is European?” In their everyday life any national of any European state can feel, Italian, Greek, Dane or even Eskimo, Martian and an Alien. The notion of self-identification is futile, unless it is combined with a wider understanding of the cultural and historical heritage of each corresponding individual.
The technocratic elite –Short to speak- in Brussels has dramatically failed to cope with the realities of the world regarding to the importance of nationality, religion, culture, language even the ones of “Collective archetypes” as Carl Jung has already found out decades ago. The result was the alienation of the European Commission in Brussels from the everyday realities across the continent, a sentiment that has grown considerable over the past decade and already it has promoted the creation of reactionary anti-European forces in several states.
Another element that clearly points out towards a null sense of European power is the issue of energy security and independence. The EU is mostly dependent on Russian natural gas and Middle Eastern oil, without having in effect an influence in the aforementioned regions. It mostly follows events rather than creating them and the caricature of an old European lady –Very popular during the mid-War period” can be said to represent realistically the current situation. Despite the ongoing trial times for the whole of the Middle East, which is a vital area for the energy needs of Europe, the latter does not have a vision or a pragmatic plan that can be used for the progress of that region. Moreover the ever present ecological catastrophe in Northern Africa, coupled with overpopulation, poverty and extremism is receiving low attention in the daily European agenda and instead visions of further enlargement that will include Turkey, other Balkan states and perhaps Ukraine are greatly affecting the European political process, with no practical value for the European societies. The modern perils of organized crime spread of WMD, and mass illegal immigration –In relation to the issues of N. Africa- receive much less attention that it is needed, despite the fact that they surely affect negatively the current social structure in the Union and could become factors of destabilization within Europe over the coming years.
The EU has crossed a long way since 1957 and the then post war era. The 1980’s and the drive towards monetary union seemed like the golden years and the end of the East-West division in 1989-91 was a unique opportunity of enlarging the Union and establishing a Pan European order based in the values of freedom, Democracy and the virtues of security and prosperity. It seems that at the present time, the dynamic of the EU has considerably slowed down and the vision had faded to a great extent. The post-2001 world is a whole different one that requires flexible, agile and spirited administrations and governments, qualities lacking in the modern day European political environment.
It is likely that the EU will become soon enough, a free trade zone –Along with a complex of bureaucratic regulations- and its national antagonisms will sweep its hardcore base of communality and cooperation. If ones adds the inability or lack of will to deal with highly important concerns that encircle the Continent, such as the fate of North Africa, M. East and energy security; then all scenarios should be expected including the final disintegration of the EU long before the Centenary celebrations in 2057.
A great German Philosopher and a social historian, Oswald Sprengler, had since 1918 predicted the “Decline of the West” in his homonymous book. A sure prediction for 2007 is that Spengler’s work will be highly examined by Europeans regarding the decline of their Continent and not the West as a whole. The decline of the Greco-Roman civilization basis of modern Europe is the single most important cultural thematic of discussion in our days and most importantly the only common bond connecting Europeans in all parts of the “Old world”.
Ioannis Michaletos is Editor South East Europe of the World Security Network Foundation.