Yannos Papantoniou: European Integration and Global Responsibilities

Integration is a key theme of the global era in which we live. Perhaps the single most important example is the process of European integration, which dates back on 1957 with the treaties founding the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community signed in Rome. Prior to this (in 1952) the European Coal and Steel Community had been successfully created.

The merger treaty of 1965 brought these three Communities together, and since then this body has been referred to as the European Community. This became part of the EU in 1993. After several institutional developments and enlargements, today the EU represents a quantum leap in European integration, with 27 members, a common currency, a single market, new policies – which go well beyond the original idea of a simple customs union. With a total population of nearly 500 million, which is more than the combined population of the United States and Russia, we remain diverse in culture, language and traditions. Ηowever, our unity rests on common values: freedom, democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and equality.

The EU did not set out to become a world power. Born in the aftermath of World War II, its first concern was bringing together the nations and peoples of Europe. Sixty years ago the likes of Churchill, Monnet, Schumann, et.al. were taking the first small fitful steps on a journey to a Europe unrecognisable from the carnage and destruction they surveyed around them. It was a Europe that emerged from a determination that never again would the Old Continent collapse into self-destruction. A Europe that had to withdraw into itself to re-build itself but, having successfully recovered, now faces a fundamental dilemma – what role should it play in world affairs?  

For more than 40 years, the Cold War divided much of the world into two camps. Its ending led to a more complex and fragile world order, requiring greater EU involvement in preventing conflicts, keeping the peace and combating terrorism. The EU helps pay for the UN civil administration in Kosovo, provides ongoing financial support for the Palestinian Authority and is contributing to the reconstruction in Afghanistan. Today, Europe is certainly in a position to influence world affairs. There are occasions when the history or geography of individual Member States will mean that they have particular resources or diplomatic influence which it is most useful for them to deploy themselves, but a collective EU effort is generally more than the sum of its parts. Through its common trade policy, the EU already wields considerable economic clout. Increasingly, moreover, the EU speaks with a single voice on foreign policy and security issues to exercise political clout. Since 1993, under the Maastricht Treaty, it has been developing a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) to enable for joint action when the interests of the Union as a whole are at stake and to promote and maintain stability around the world. In the last 15 years, the Union has intensified efforts to play an international political and security role more in line with its economic status. Attempts have been made to streamline the way CFSP decisions are taken. But key decisions still require a unanimous vote – hard when there were 15 EU members, and now even more difficult with 27. Despite their commitment to the CFSP, member governments sometimes find it hard to change their own national policy in the name of EU solidarity. Just how difficult this can be was illustrated by the deep divisions among EU member states in spring 2003 over whether the UN Security Council should authorise the US-led war against Iraq. 

The EU’s position in the world also gives it a responsibility for sustainable development, poverty eradication and peace beyond its borders. The EU spends some 9 billion EURO annually on development aid, humanitarian assistance, technical support and peacekeeping. The Union holds a unique status on the international stage and among the donor community, as it accounts for 60% of the world’s official development assistance. This assistance is provided to more than 160 countries, territories or organizations worldwide in order to fight poverty and promote economic development and democracy. 

EU’s neighborhood is a priority. This includes countries which will one day become members of the EU, and its other immediate and close neighbours around the Mediterranean, and in south-eastern and eastern Europe. The EU works with these countries to dovetail their policies with those of the EU in trade, environmental and business regulation, energy, communications, education and training, and immigration. Helping reform their economies and consolidate democracy and the rule of law is in the interests of stability along the EU’s borders while economic expansion will benefit trade. The EU’s agreements with these countries cover not only trade and traditional financial and technical assistance but also economic and other reforms as well as support for infrastructure and health and education programmes. They also provide a framework for political dialogue and contain a clause which enables the Union to suspend or cancel trade or aid if the partner country violates human rights. By helping to create security and stability in the wider world, the EU also helps to make life safer within its own borders.  

Europe is today rich and powerful and as such is a global political actor. Global power breeds global responsibilities and demands Europe’s engagement in world security, not just in and around Europe. Several new challenges are emerging all of which demand of Europeans the ability to engage security anywhere in the world:

Geopolitical Change: For the first time in five hundred years Europe is neither the source of conflict, nor the centre of power. The Asia-Pacific region is the most dynamic place on Earth. However, its combination of rapid growth and strong nationalisms demands of Europeans a long-term understanding of the security implications of change therein.

Technology: The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and associated technologies, driven by states and other groups with extreme belief systems, represents a challenge for Europe.

State Failure: Europe now faces state failure in neighbouring regions with profound social, political and economic consequences for Europeans. The Caucasus, Africa and the Middle East face challenges ranging from pandemic disease, religious radicalism and failing governance. Europeans will have no alternative but to manage the consequences of such failure.

Strategic Partnerships: European security rests on strong partnerships involving Russia and the United States. The role of Russia in European security remains unclear, neither partner nor adversary. The United States, committed as it is the world over, seems unsure as to the role it wishes to play in the world and the value of Europeans as partners. Only by being strong will Europeans convince Russians and Americans alike that partnership with Europe is essential to their own security needs.

Multitateral Institutions: Europe has always been at the very centre of institutional security. The United Nations, NATO and, indeed, the EU itself are concepts that emerged from conflict in Europe. Today, the role of institutions in international relations is vital. A strong EU will not only act as an example to others, but help stop the steady erosion of strategic institutions, such as the UN, as arbiters of a rule-based international system. 

A clear trend since the end of the Cold War is that the notion of global governance has steadily gained in prominence, due to a fast-changing environment, the surge of new economic and political actors and the appearance of new threats and challenges on a global scale. Although this is not the first wave of globalization that the world has witnessed, it is by far the broadest and deepest, driven by rapid and accelerating progress in communication and technology. Commercial competition is more ruthless, even as the opportunities multiply. Closely linked financial markets can spread turmoil rapidly. Diseases, old and new, can spread faster than our ability to combat them. Terrorists can use advanced technology in an attempt to impose their primitive world view. Rising energy demand entails less secure and sustainable energy supplies. And climate change, even beyond its environmental consequences, could have serious geopolitical and social repercussions. These challenges have no respect for national frontiers. Europe must work together, through multilateral institutions, to seize and maximize the opportunities of globalization, while managing and minimizing the risks.   

However, Europe cannot cope by itself. Strategic partnerships are required, especially the transatlantic one. Europe needs to enhance further relations with the United States, particularly in the economic field. The transatlantic marketplace is already huge, accounting for 40% of world trade. But we also need to make the partnership more outward-looking. Historically, Europe and America provided the ballast for the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the GATT and other multilateral organizations. There is now need to work with new power centers around the globe for effective institutions. The strategic effect of the transatlantic partnership, so positive in the past, will start to evaporate unless we succeed in complementing it with a global engagement reaching out for new partnerships and strategies. 

The rise of new powers is an opportunity to re-think and upgrade global governance. The EU is already contributing to this effect via its own institutions, policies and instruments. The most recent examples include the harmonization of EU financial markets, the reorganization of its budget, our trade and development policies, the consolidation and growing international role of the euro, and the enlargement to 27 Member States.  

In the last 50 years, European integration has achieved a great deal. In many ways it has been a triumph. But there are dangers in underestimating the present difficulties. Since the draft Constitutional Treaty was rejected at the Dutch and French referendums the EU has unceasingly sought to find the means to launch the initiative again. The result of this process culminated in the signing of the Lisbon Treaty on 13 December 2007. The Lisbon Treaty represents, much like previous reforms, a compromised structure among divergent, ambivalent and, more often than not, conflicting national preferences and interests, accommodating in the end the demands of the more sceptical actors such as Britain and Poland. Too many reservations, opt-outs, references to the retention of states’ prerogatives in relation to competences, weaken the drive towards a stronger political identity. 

However, some institutional changes advanced by the Treaty are crucial for reinforcing the effectiveness of the enlarged Union. These include more qualified (i.e majority) voting in the EU Council, increased involvement of the European Parliament in the legislative process, the creation of a President of the Union, and of a High Representative for Foreign Affairs to present a united position of policies.  

The EU means different things to different people. Is it a mechanism for its members to boost economic growth and living standards for its citizens? Is it a tool to spread freedom and improve political and economic structures among the newer members? Is it a global force, enabling its member states to compete more effectively in the international arena? Or is it just a source of unnecessary regulation and bureaucracy, hampering enterprise and business? The convergence of these alternatives at the present time suggests that the integration will proceed very cautiously. No great advances are likely. Rather, the consolidation of the newly established arrangements will mark the political evolution of the Union. Overall, not much is likely to change in either the borders or the structures of the Union until the end of the next decade. The present scheme will soldier on trying to secure a better future for the peoples of Europe in the rough territories of a globalized world.

Nevertheless, the EU is best placed to generate comprehensive and coherent European security capabilities that both the world and Europeans so patently need. Europeans must move quickly to renew and re-invigorate the CFSP.  

The EU has already achieved its aim of having two battle groups on standby for successive six month periods. At the same time, progress is being made in building up civilian capacities, a European Rapid Reaction Force and planning units in Brussels. Besides this, the European Defence Agency is working on long-term planning to standardise defence procurement so that European capabilities become more compatible. Once agreement is reached on the Lisbon treaty, institutional changes will substantially strengthen Europe’s foreign and security policy. 

In a crisis, the EU remains a fragmented actor which has many instruments at its disposal but lacks clear principles for using them. The European Security Strategy laid down basic guidelines for strategic thinking. Terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the prevention and containment of regional conflicts and state failure, as well as combating organized crime were identified as Europe’s strategic priorities. However, in the short to medium term Europeans will also need to focus their efforts on challenges that are themselves mutating and changing: strategic terror, re-emerging state tensions beyond Europe, regional instability and, new transnational challenges to Europe’s security. European Security Strategy must be reviewed and hardened into a strategic concept that more robustly defines the rules for Europe’s external engagement.