FT: The EU’s post-elections future and Relative decline of Europe

11:37 26.06.2024 •

Pic.: RIA Novosti

Hard choices await the 27-nation bloc over the next five years — and there’s always the risk of an unanticipated emergency. Flags fly in support of Ukraine, but defence spending — and myriad other challenges — will face the EU over the next five years…

The European parliament elections have been taking place in an international environment that is more threatening than at any time since the end of the cold war. What should Europe’s priorities be in the five years up to the next EU elections in 2029? – asks ‘The Financial Times’.

Erik Nielsen, global chief economic adviser at UniCredit, the Italian bank, says: “The past five to eight years have been a slippery slope, and the past couple of years have seen such a rapid descent into geopolitical near-chaos that nobody can harbour any hope of a return to the golden years of globalisation.”

Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at the Eurasia Group consultancy, adds:

“To argue that Europe finds itself in a moment of the utmost insecurity is an understatement… Geopolitics is back with a vengeance and will inform the EU’s political and economic priorities over the next five years.”

Some risks are clear. Russia might defeat Ukraine. Donald Trump could return as US president. Relations with China might deteriorate further. In Europe, political disunity and threats to democracy might grow.

Finally, it’s easy to imagine an inadequate response to climate change, and a failure to halt or reverse Europe’s eroding business competitiveness and global economic influence.

The backdrop to our unsettling times is the declining political and economic weight of Europe, and to some extent western democracies as a whole, relative to the rest of the world.

This is the theme of a new book, Westlessness: The Great Global Rebalancing, by Samir Puri, a scholar and former British diplomat who wrote a well-regarded study of the worldwide legacies of western imperialism.

“Back in 1992, the EU was a geoeconomic giant. With 29 per cent of global output and a strong position in leading technologies, it could set many world standards.

“By 2022, the bloc’s share of world output had shrunk to only 17 per cent, while the US share was stable at 25 per cent over the same period. What’s more, the EU now has only four of the world’s top 50 technology companies.”

One priority for the EU, then, is economic revival. Jean-Dominique Giuliani of the Robert Schuman Foundation, a think-tank based in Paris and Brussels, sets out the problem:

“…the economic gap with the two great continent-states, the US and China, means that we have to break with traditional budgetary and monetary policies. These transitions call for risk-taking, huge capital-intensive investments and, possibly, borrowing for the sake of growth.”

However, he adds: “An almost philosophical problem plagues Europeans: they prefer regulation and constraint to freedom and incentive.”

A similar message comes from the European Round Table for Industry, which groups chief executives and chairs of 60 leading European companies:

“[Europe] has fallen behind on constructing key infrastructure and created a regulatory environment that lacks coherence and incentives for investment.”

To maximise the efficiency of EU defence programmes, there’s some talk of creating the post of defence commissioner in the next European Commission. But, as Giles Merritt comments, the job would need to have extensive powers to be of any use:

“Europe’s defence sector is a political minefield in which member states’ rival national champions collaborate on some projects and are cut-throat competitors in others.”

All told, it promises to be a tough five years ahead.


…European youth – the Green Party members of German Parliament. They will overcome any difficulties!

Photo: feministpost.it


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