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20.05.09

Must Europe wither?

The point of Roger Casale, which I highlighted in my last post, seems all the stronger in light of an observation made by Martin Wolf today.

“The relationship between the US and China will become more central, with India waiting in the wings. The relative economic weight and power of the Asian giants seems sure to rise. Europe, meanwhile, is not having a good crisis. Its economy and financial system have proved far more vulnerable than many expected. Yet how far a set of refurbished and rebalanced institutions for international co-operation will reflect the new realities is, as yet, unknown”.

It is towards global institutions, like the IMF, the World Bank and the UN, that we must first look for the refurbishment that our Chinese century requires. However, Wolf’s comment – along with the criticisms of Charles Clarke, Wolfgang Münchau and Helmut Schmidt that my last post also noted – would seem to suggest that the EU too is also ripe for some refurbishment.

In absence of such refurbishment – or at least an improved claim upon output legitimacy – Europe can expect to drift ever further from the real crucible of global politics as this century progresses. The seeming addiction of Europe’s body politic to navel-gazing and nation-centric politics – exemplified by the current EU elections in which anything other than EU issues are being discussed – is corrosive in its inability to rise to the bigger global picture as set out by Casale. The longer Europe persists with this inward-looking, complacent, arrogant attitude the more likely this global picture is to take a form that is displeasing to European values and interests.

China is ascendant and hardly seems to have an excessive respect for the Copenhagen criteria. India may be closer to satisfying such criteria but Russia and Iran seem likely to increasingly feature amongst the global picture and the stuff of the Copenhagen criteria are as much of a joke to them as the idea, pace Francis Fukuyama, that history has ended.    

History moves on. But the EU seems increasingly left behind, as its poor response to the economic crisis well illustrates. The Copenhagen criteria embody the kind of values with which Fukuyama presumed that history had ended and so, in this sense, they seem more univeral than European values. Nonetheless, the way that history has developed since Fukuyama made this claim would suggest that, perhaps, these values are not necessarily quite so universal after all – at least not yet. The EU needs to raise its game if these values are not to become not so much universal as the preserve of Europe and north America.