How Europe can learn to stop worrying and love power

Aug 15,2018 – JORDAN TIMES – Zaki Laidi

PARIS — US President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker may have averted a trade war last month, but the challenges confronting the European Union are far from resolved. In today’s increasingly Hobbesian global environment, the EU can survive only by increasing its capacity to project power, no easy feat for an entity that was formed precisely as a repudiation of power politics.

With the 1957 Treaty of Rome, Europe shed what remained of its militaristic impulses and focused on building a sprawling and peaceful single market. From then on, Europe’s only means of projecting power would be its trade policy.

Yet, that policy has never been guided by strategic thinking, leaving the EU with only limited global influence, despite its tremendous success in world markets. The time has come for Europe to reestablish itself as a true global player, not by attempting to emulate a classic superpower, but rather by consolidating and deploying different types of power.

Europe already has considerable normative power, that is, the capacity to create global standards through the so-called Brussels effect, which can be seen in its efforts to rein in technology companies. The recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation, for example, set guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information of individuals within the EU.

Now, digital platforms, including powerful American companies, are scrambling to adjust. The “Big Four” US tech firms, Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company), Apple Inc., Facebook and Amazon, are also facing pressure from the EU stemming from their dominant market position.

Yet, the EU has often failed to recognise its normative power, let alone take full advantage of it. This both reflects and reinforces weakness in three areas: Self-esteem, risk awareness and the capacity for action.

Self-esteem includes the belief that the EU is a worthy undertaking, the confidence to express that publicly and recognition of the EU’s true potential for power projection. Such a dispensation is severely lacking in many parts of the EU, beginning with Germany, which, despite having regained confidence in its own future, jealously guards its resources.

As Trump berates Germany for accumulating surpluses without contributing sufficiently to transatlantic defence, the country should be all the more motivated to use its capabilities to strengthen Europe. But while the discourse in Germany on resource-sharing has begun to shift, concrete changes will take time.

Europe’s unwillingness to nurture and deploy its clout contrasts sharply with America’s assertive use of its market power to advance its interests and preferences. For example, since Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, and reinstate sanctions on Iran, many European companies, fearing loss of access to the US market, have decided to withdraw from the country


1 reply

  1. On a side-note: Innocent Europe did not realize when the US created the ‘SWIFT’ banking system, that they will be able to control all financial transactions world-wide.

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