europe

Yes, I know we’re called “Debating Europe”, so perhaps we’re not exactly neutral on this question. We’d love more people to be discussing Europe, not less… but is there a risk that the recent obsession with the European crisis is crowding out other items from the agenda? Earlier this month, we asked you if we in Europe are too obsessed with the economy, at the expense of issues such as environmental sustainability. More broadly, though, is Europe so self-absorbed at the moment that it’s not paying sufficient attention to any of the seismic changes reshaping the current world order?

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, described the Arab Spring as “the most significant event of the early 21st century,” but can we really say it has been receiving Europe’s undivided attention? As the international system moves from a bipolar to a multipolar order, President Obama has been busy realigning the US strategic focus towards the Asia-Pacific region, whilst Europe’s response seems to be one of retrenchment. Is the rest of the globe going to wait for Europe to sort out its business or, when we finally emerge bleary-eyed from our crisis, are we going to find that events have passed us by?

In May, we attended the annual Security & Defence Agenda NATO conference and had a chance to speak to Admiral Giampaolo di Paola, Italy’s Minister of Defence. We’ve already held several debates (here, here and here) about the rise of China, but with the US now very publically shifting its strategic attention away from Europe and towards the Asia-Pacific, we asked for Minister di Paola’s opinion on the debate.

The minister’s main point was that:

Europe needs to open up its mind. We cannot continue to look down on our belly, believing that everything happens in Europe. We have to open up… to engage, together with the US, in the world. Engage economically, militarily, politically.

Earlier this year, Protesilaos sent us in a comment making a similar point, arguing that the “crisis of the euro should not dominate political talk, marginalizing the major challenges humanity will be facing in the upcoming years. A viable climate is much more important in the long-run than a functional monetary system.”

We took this comment to Staffan Nilsson, President of the European Economic and Social Committee, and asked him to react:

His main point was as follows:

Even if we are nervous and we don’t know what’s happening just now, we need to take a stance and we need to ask the leadership to take the right decision, and to keep multiple perspectives at the same time.

This was a point Staffan Nilsson returned to when we put a comment to him from Peter about whether the eurozone crisis wasn’t an opportunity to consider a new growth paradigm:

Staffan Nilsson argued that:

Sometimes, I have the feeling that when we speak, both in civil society and at the political level, we speak only one message. We have difficulties to keep different perspectives at the same time.

What do YOU think? Whilst Europe struggles with perpetual crisis, is it able to keep the broader global perspective in mind at the same time? Or have the problems in the eurozone been distracting Europe from finding its place in a changing world order? Are civil society and political leaders able to juggle both short-term and long-term issues, or is it inevitable that short-termism will dominate in a crisis? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.


22 comments Post a commentComment


  1. Malcolm Seychell

    In Europe we do not want illegal immigrants, the EU gives us illegal immigrants. In europe we do not to bail out irresponsible countries, the eu bails out. In europe we want to reduce public spending and social services., the EU increase its spending on irresponsable people. In europe we want more tough sentences to criminals, the eu gives more human rights to people acting worse then animals, In Europe we want to keep our identities, the EU wants the sick multicultural society. Europe is lost. Politicians are doing exactly the opposite of what people want…. Soon will be civil war in some states of the EU. People cannot take it any longer

  2. J Glenn Davis

    This is the essential question of this age in time when will Europe find its voice and assert itself to help define this age.Business as usual helps nobody on this planet. We need a uniquely European perspective to all the myriad of issues confronting humanity at this time. Enough of the U.S. domination and Global overeach. Enough of the current Hiarchy of madness.

  3. David Platt

    This group should change its name to how do we dismantle the EU for the sake of the people1

  4. Albert Saxén

    The EU doesn’t give us illegal immigrants. They come (sorry to say) from N Africa, like in the case of Spain
    David -tf?

  5. Malcolm Seychell

    They come from North Africa but the EU tells us that we have to keep them and spend millions on them, while at the same time we have millions of europeans under the poverty line.

  6. nacho

    In 2025 Brazil,México and India will be bigger than the German economy. In 2035 Colombia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia…etc Germany is now a little country with a big economy, but their forecast are very very bad. In fact, Germany is in economic crisis since 15 years ago. It is not a panacea.

    Then, of course Europe doesn’t understand that the times are changing. They are discussing about the economic crisis but they don’t understand anything about the origin and the solution to fix the crisis. The “ideology of deficit” rules in Europe, and they are every day, more little, more poor.

    China, India and Latin America are the future (with USA). Europe will be a touristic place to drink, eat and discover mediterranean food and culture. Germany only a little factory…

    • Liz Pásztor

      Yes, as far as population growth concerned we are lagging behind. Is it bad? I do not think so. However, there is still an opportunity that Europe works out solutions for global problems based on its cultural heritage and diversity. Increase of the quality of scientific knowledge is not proportional to population size, is it? Give enough freedom, money and attention to scientists -natural and social- and also to the artist in the hope for badly needed creative solutions.

  7. Liz Pásztor

    There probably will be no solution for Europe’s present problems without having a vision about the global future. And this vision should be honest otherwise it will not be shared by the people. I often feel that the major problems are not even addressed and the goals to be achieved are far from reality.

    Yes, I cannot agree more: “keeping different perspectives at the same time” should be essential on each scale.

    There are huge regional differences also within Europe that should be kept in mind. Health standards that are included inherently in Western life may lead to e.g. the disappearence of traditional cattle raising in the Eastern part (e.g. Transylvania, Mountain region) even without any serious intention or even consideration. Only those processes should be regulated on an all European level whose possible major consequences had been properly studied and can be forseen on each: local, regional, global scale. This can be a sort of generalization of the “precautionary principle” to social, political issues. Of course, being in a serious crisis asks for prompt actions, short term solutions. Here it would be important to avoid those solutions that makes more difficult to get nearer to a sustainable society in the long run.

  8. Nikolai Holmov

    Some European institutions maybe navel gazing exclusively over internal issue but only yesterday, Sweden, Spain, Italy and others at the European Council meeting attempted to set out the foundations for a long term (25 years +) “Grand Plan” for the EU as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

    An entirely reasonable thing to do considering the US has had a Grand Plan for the world for almost a century, China due to its political model is also in a position to have a “Grand Plan” as a one party State, as did the USSR prior to its collapse.

    In short, powerful political players and influential nations/institutions have very long term global plans rather than short term, one election cycle (possibly two) micro-plans.

    Let’s be honest, even oil and gas ventures going from “upstream” planning to “downstream” delivery have plans that envisage a longer term existence than most election cycle driven plans.

    Quite obviously as the Swedish led “Grand Plan” initiative unveiled yesterday proves, there are certain elements within the EU organs that do look outwards and way off over the horizon.

    The questions are what foundation will such an EU “Grand Plan” have? The core themes? The ultimate goal? The strategy? The enforcement? The leadership? The political will? The global recognition and understanding of the EU “Grand Plan”? The timescale? How will it be benchmarked? Who will win and who will lose from such a “Grand Plan” if it becomes a reality? (There are always winners and losers.)
    Will such a “Grand Plan” bring more, or less, stability to the world when other “Grand Plans” are in existence and acknowledged to be in existence?

    There are many, many more questions to ask, the more the causal effects of any unveiled plan are examined, but even at a foundational level (something the EU seems to fail upon time and again) there are some profound questions to ask and answers to get.

  9. Sue

    “Discuss YOUR ideas with Europe’s leaders” – Who? Who are you, Barroso, van Rumpy?

  10. Christos Mouzeviris

    well doesn’t it make sense, when your house is on fire, to try to put out the fire in your own house first, before you focus in anything else?

  11. Christos Mouzeviris

    Well it is easier for countries that haven’t been so much affected by the crisis to be able to have a vision for the future of Europe… For others that are engulfed by it, how can they see beyond it, if they do not know what tomorrow brings for them? Sort this mess up and we can all start working together in other most creative and far reaching projects….

  12. Peter Schellinck

    We need to find a new balance in our evolving Europe before we can pretend to be a benchmark for a global equilibrium. Make Europe truly “ONE”, before it’s too late, so that the outside world can see what we are capable of. At the moment we are making fools of ourself. Start by transferring national sovereignty and handing over regions to the care of the EU parliament.

  13. Peter Schellinck

    At the moment we should be obsessed with sorting out Europe! Short-termism does not only dominate in a crisis, the risk is that it actually perpetuates the crisis at the expense of vision. A determined political vision and action is required from the EU Council proving that Europe has its matters in hand. By showing the outside world what we are doing to solve our issues effectively and efficiently only then can we count on their respect and have a plausible voice they will listen too.

    At the moment only the US and Russia seem to have a global long-term agenda. The financial mechanics are smartly applied by the US to even manipulate the European financial crisis. After all we are at the mercy of US rating companies. So, who’s controlling who and what? At the same time Russia is smartly maneuvering the upcoming green economy.

    As long as our top politicians have not come up with a clear road map to recovery, we will have no significant roll to play on the international scene, except for filling the chairs. We need leaders with vision, not wooly nationalist.

    Significantly strengthening our monetary mechanism will force the world to take us serious again. A few years ago the Euro was heavily competing with the Dollar for world dominance. But like a bunch of school children the EU members preferred to fight each other rather then claim a world position for the Euro. The way we are acting now we could loose it all and become a bunch of rogue states.

    The time has come to be honest and realistic thus leave the national narrow-minded interest aside. Our leaders need a minute of political courage and will. The mandate the have, use it. By giving the EU parliament what we intended to with the treaties, we can smoothen out the internal malfunctions. Why can’t the Spanish regions like Catalonia, Andalusia, Castalia, etc. go straight to the EU for assistance rather then the national government?

    Our obsession should be firstly focused to get the Euro to work (stop wasting time on scenarios of dismantling), open up the internal market (pull down national boarders) and agree on a vision with a plan for a “United Europe” in the global scene.

    At least one lesson learned is that business as usual kills the business.

  14. Mona Al

    I don’t think it has. In medicine, diagnosing an illness is considered a good thing allowing to pinpoint the problem and treat it. The same applies to Europe. The economic and financial crises are not limited, affecting virtually every country in the world.

    And so naturally, the current economic and financial crisis is on the mind of every economist and decision-maker not only in Europe but throughout the world. Almost against their will, they have come to terms with the fact that a global shift is happening, the outcome of a world-turned-dependent-and-connected, where each state and country affects and is affected by all the others.

    We see these with current real life examples, the Eurozone bloc, which was meant to provide mutual guarantee among its members is experiencing the enormous debt of many countries and it’s possible domino effect demonstrating how ALL are in the same boat indeed. Compelling countries to become more involved in each other’s internal affairs out of fear for their own economies. Can then protectionism and separatism of powers maintain their economic stability? Can they disconnect their relations with other nations and truthfully become self-sufficient?

    Many agree that a change of concepts and values is required now, a shift from relationships based on power—aiming to maximize personal or national gain—to solidarity and social cohesion. Europe is literally being called upon to adjust the economic and social systems to the requirements of today’s global-integral system, and that is what requires mending and adjusting to the mechanics of an connected modern reality. The economy is meant only to support and maintain that connection among people; after all, it is we humans who create the economy, not the economy that creates a society.

    However, for Europe to realize our potential, we need to make a fundamental shift in the thought processes and financial conduct that led us into the crisis. Just as the Great Depression of the 1930s led Keynes to form a more suitable economic paradigm for his era, we must change our current paradigms and adapt them to the reality of a global and integral world if we wish to emerge stronger from the current crisis.

    And here i agree with Christos, if your house is on fire how else could you focus on anything else. Question would be, could i acknowledge that there is that same trail throughout the neighborhood? And am i willing to work with others to figure it out?

    Apologies for the LONG reply!

  15. catherine benning

    It is time Europe was obsessed with Europe. Europe has been far too obsessed with other countries and peoples outside Europe.

    The best possible policy for Europe would be to get out of the clutches of the USA and leave them to their own military intentions of colonising the world. Because that is their ultimate destination and has been since WWII. No matter what they preach.

    Surely you realise, no matter what the Americans may say to deny it, that it is American policy that bankrupted us all. Along with your collusion and with the heavy weight of the British government under Blair. Gordon Brwown simply played to the same drum. Blair was the Judas who happily took the 30 pieces of silver and impoversished us all by his greed. You will see in this article he pays very little tax. As do the rest of those greedy movers and shakers.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2083827/The-12m-tax-mystery-Tony-Blairs-earnings-soar-42–pays-315-000-HMRC.html

    Take a look at where all our money has gone. how much of it is held by the EU commisioners and their friends and family?

    £13 trillion in off shore tax havens. This is our money. The tax payers were robbed by these people and yet they walk free.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jul/21/global-elite-tax-offshore-economy

    Is it that you are quite blind to this fact? How can that be?

    Concentrate on making Europe fit for a European lifestyle and culture. See how that pans out, and if it goes as we expect, then you will see a difference in the attitude of the peoples and in the people of that union.

    Presently, you are betraying our nations and our culture. Which is not what any European country wants. And if you do not believe this, have a referendum on it for all of the people of this union to tell you what you appear to be blind to.

  16. catherine benning

    Moderator, what has happened to the post I put up here yesterday? Olease will you be kind enough to tell me.

    Thank you.

    • Avatar of Debating Europe
      Debating Europe

      Hi Catherine,

      Your comment was accidently caught by our spam filter, but we’ve published it now.

  17. juan pedro marín arrese

    How could Europe expect to remain forever a main player in global policies when it proves quite unable to overcome its economic woes? When your house is on fire saving your life comes first.

  18. Rolando

    The EU is based on an ideology that is not shared with its citizens. The idea that political power should be transferred from national states to Europe and that Europe should become one giant state, is not shared by its citizens. This leads to negative views on Europe, and even can lead to nationalism. I fully understand the criticism the UK has about Europe. Cooperation is needed for budget disciplin and for arranging things nations can not do alone, like the environement, facilitate trade between countries. But rules like what kind of shoes barbers should wear, are a waste of time and money……

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