Finally, the European Union will leave its rather introspective phase of focus on institutional issues and start asserting itself as a true global player.
That’s the theory now that the Lisbon Treaty has finally taken effect.
Whether the EU’s practice will actually be different or not remains to be seen.
At the moment, Brussels is reminiscent of Washington in the middle of a transition between administrations. The introspective mood is worse than usual as the jockeying for positions in the new structures accelerates by the day.
But key to Europe’s ability to rise as a global player will not primarily be the wiring of the different parts of the new institutional hardware, but whether we will be able to update its “software” of policies so as to get the full effects of what we are doing.
Europe 1.0 was the old stuff in Western Europe from the 1950s until the European Revolution of 1989.
Europe 2.0 was the great enlargement and institutional innovations – as well as the introduction of the euro in a large number of countries – that characterized the years since then. This was a period of remarkable success in bringing peace, prosperity, the rule of law, and representative government to millions of Europeans.
But now we must write the software for the Europe 3.0 that really can emerge as a global player and partner.
What we can do for peace and prosperity in our own part of the world is key. If we were to be seen as faltering or failing here, our credibility elsewhere will suffer.
During the Swedish presidency of the EU the second half of this year, we have managed to unblock the integration process in the Western Balkans and get a new momentum spearheaded by Croatia and Serbia.
This momentum must be maintained in the years ahead. The road to membership will for some of these countries be long and difficult, but the alternative is to stagnate and start falling backward.
Few processes are of such strategic importance as the process of Turkish accession to the EU. That it faces determined opposition in some quarters is well known, but there is no denying that a European Union that also included Turkey would be a significantly more capable and credible global player.
The success of the Union so far has been based also on the fact that it has always been willing to enlarge both the scope and depth of its different ambitions. To close the door to new members, bunker down in the bureaucracies of Brussels, and see the outside world mostly as a threat would be an abdication of historic responsibility.
The road ahead for Turkey will to a large extent be dependent on the ongoing efforts to finally overcome the division of Cyprus. Its credibility when it comes to overcoming the divisions of the past would be seriously at risk.
Toward its Eastern partners – most notably Ukraine – the Union must continue to roll out the package of integration policies based on a deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement as well as inclusion in the Energy Community Treaty. And association agreements with the other Eastern partnership countries – Georgia taking the lead in the Southern Caucasus – will be of equal long-term significance.
During the past few months, the EU has developed the first set of policies for its more comprehensive efforts in Afghanistan, substantially updated and strengthened its policies concerning the Middle East peace process, and reaffirmed its twin-track approach to Iran. We must understand that the way in which we tackle the different challenges between Palestine and Punjab to a large extent will determine our future relationship with the Muslim world.
The “unipolar moment” of the United States immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union is long gone, as should be any illusions that one could rely only on a G-2 axis either across the Atlantic or across the Pacific. But equally clear is that serious work in a format of more than 190 delegations is near impossible.
A European Union serious about its global role and responsibilities should take the lead in trying to establish a more effective system of global governance.
Steps would have to be incremental, and there is unlikely to be one solution that fits all problems. But institutions as different as the Security Council and the Group of 20 – each unrepresentative in its own way – need substantial reform.
As Europe now enters a new phase in its development, the world is waiting for it to raise its voice and deploy its new instruments and powers. There is no shortage of tasks ahead.
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