Where will Europe be in a decade from now? In terms of both its place in the world and the European Union’s integrity as a political and economic force to be reckoned with, Europe’s future seems less clear than ever. It’s a sentiment shared by many contributors to this latest issue of Europe’s World, although none of them were invited to write on that specific theme.
It is hardly surprising, though, that Europe’s uncertain outlook should be such a preoccupation of policymakers and analysts. Last year’s meltdown in world financial markets and the ensuing global economic slowdown have brought to a head many of the structural ills that Europe, and to no little extent the United States too, had hitherto been able to ignore.
Whether it concerns worries about Europe’s shrinking industrial base, inadequate training and educational standards, dwindling youth population or continuing inability to forge a common approach to global challenges, Europe’s shortcomings seem to outpace all of the EU’s achievements.
From all corners of Europe there looks to be a growing consensus on the new determination with which EU leaders must address these problems. From Poland, former president Aleksander Kwasniewski looks at the steps needed to overcome European nations’ cultural and historical differences, and from Greece former EU commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou sets out her agenda for a Europe that could take a leading role in structuring global governance rules.
On the economic front, the OECD’s Pier Carlo Padoan outlines his thinking on a global formula for tackling the recession, and making the world economy more resilient, while his fellow countryman Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Italian board member of the European Central Bank, warns that effective global rules remain elusive, citing the fact that a number of these were agreed some 10 years ago, but never used appropriately.
Turning to international security, Jolyon Howorth outlines the major strategic re-think that Europe must now undertake, and from the Netherlands Rob de Wijk warns of the “greater honesty” now required of Europe’s political leaders in alerting public opinion throughout the EU to the geopolitical shift towards Asia.
Other Europe’s World contributors look far beyond the EU’s immediate frontiers to Africa and the Middle East. Mo Ibrahim, the Sudaneseborn business tycoon who launched his own foundation to improve governance in Africa, argues that what African countries need above all else is a fair deal from Western countries’ governments and major corporations.
And in this journal’s new and rapidly-growing Arab World section, the main focus is on the more proactive role Europe should be playing in the renewed Middle East peace process. At the same time, Richard Youngs writes from Madrid that the EU’s relations with its No 1 energy supplier, the Gulf states, are being badly mishandled, while Jim Sillars suggests how the long-deadlocked EU-GCC trade pact with those countries could be rescued.