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The EU must become capable of geopolitics

Friday, 16 April 2021
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
© Belga

The events of the past few weeks show that the EU must become stronger on the world political stage. The pure desire to do “good” is exploited by global players. Europe must learn to actively formulate its own interests.

In Moscow, Ankara and the Western Balkans it became clear that the geopolitical image of a united Europe needs to be sharpened.

During his visit to Moscow, the EU foreign affairs representative Borrell wanted to show goodwill – and was presented on the open stage by Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov, arguably the most astute and experienced politician in international diplomacy.

In Ankara, either the Turkish President Erdogan demonstrated what he thinks of women in presidential offices (not much), or the EU top officials were not able to demonstrate unity. Whatever it was, the disavowal of the high-ranking female guest was a deliberate affront.

The race for vaccine diplomacy

Change of scene to the Western Balkans. The EU is by far the most important and largest partner and investor in the region. It provides money to the states, sent medical equipment, paid doctors, and medical staff. But while Brussels, adhering to contracts, had millions of vaccine doses exported to Canada and Mexico, the global players Russia and China sent their vaccines to Southeast Europe.

Good intentions does not count in geopolitics

These three examples show: “The EU” acts driven by the desire to do “good”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that simple.

It starts with the fact that global players, who act themselves from an understanding of strength, also have to be encountered in a strong position. Only that creates the necessary respect.

And when “European vaccine” is delivered to Canada, but Chinese one to European countries in the Western Balkans, then Europe has a problem.

The united Europe faces pressing challenges

Migration, unstable political situations at the borders, necessary economic recovery after the pandemic, digitization or even the reorganization of international trade flows. But while self-confident powers not only clearly formulate their interests, but also actively implement them, Europe too often gets tangled up in small and small.

Be it disputes over representative competences (as at the Conference on the Future of Europe) or the discrepancy (certainly existing in 27 countries) between common European and individual national interests. This includes the blockade of the accession process in the Western Balkans as well as the issue of energy, which carries geostrategic potential for conflict.

A united Europe is a nuisance to some

The question of which “EU President” is allowed to sit in the chair may sound amusing, but it relentlessly reveals construction sites in the process of maturing the EU into a geopolitical player.

Situations like Brexit and the Trump era have brought Europe closer together, but the Union is completely divided again when it comes to migration.

An easy game for forces for whom a strong and active EU is a thorn in the side.

No political vacuum

It must be clear to everyone that there is no such thing as a political vacuum. Wherever Europe withdraws, other forces advance. That can’t be in our interest. Anyone who is convinced that democratic and market-based access is better must also strengthen and construct the structures and responsibilities in the EU so that it can also act globally in this sense.