Federico Bordonaro: 1-European Union – Global position and political integration

Introducing Federico Bordonaro

Federico BordonaroDr Federico Bordonaro (1972) has studied in Rome and Paris, where he achieved his Ph.D. in European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

He is professor of geopolitics at COESPU (Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units, Italy) and at various Master courses in Italian universities. Mr. Bordonaro is also Europe Editor with PINR and Equilibri.net. He currently works on a study on the Anglo-American geopolitical thought.

This interview with dr Federico Bordonaro addresses his views on European Union, focussing on its global position, political integration and relationship with China. Other parts are:

Interview

In his book “The second world”, Parag Khanna calls the European Union an empire. How powerful is the EU on the global stage?

Khanna’s point of view has been heard many times in the last two decades. Many scholars, observers, and decision-makers have called the EU a rising world power, and a polity that will challenge the US as a “peer competitor”. I don’t share that view. Europe lacks political unity because it is a complex compromise between a federalist and an inter-governmental model, and because of the persistence of its nation-states. Moreover, if compared to the US, Europe suffers from a severe demographic crisis, that is even made worse by the enlargement in the former Warsaw Pact area. In addition, immigration is no solution to that – at least for the moment – because most of EU states have already a high population density and because they are culturally challenged by such a phenomenon. Briefly said, if it’s possible for a foreigner to “become American” in a relatively short time, the same is not true for those who want to “become French”, “become German”, let alone “become European”.

But there is more. The current dynamics in politico-military affairs speak against Khanna’s hypothesis. France is about to re-enter NATO’s integrated command. This is a sea-change in French defence policy, and will have important consequences for Europe. Paris has been the champion of Europe’s strategic autonomy from the US and NATO, but now it has abandoned its Gaullist orientation. France’s opposition to US foreign policy in the 2000s (see the Iraqi war) has not brought about the formation of a European strategic core in the sense that Paris hoped; instead, it has caused deep divisions within Europe, and therefore a malfunctioning of Europe’s political engine.

Moreover, Europeans don’t spend much on defence. Only the UK (that is, a staunch US ally) spends about 2% of its GDP for defence; the average defence spending in the EU is 1.7%, which does not allow Europe to live up to its previous ambitions and expectations.

Therefore, the emerging trend is that Europe wants NATO to be reinforced, and ESDP to be developed in coordination with NATO and the US. European elites want a new era of Trans-Atlantic cooperation in strategic matters, although different perceptions will continue to cause misunderstanding or malaise at times. One of the most difficult issues to solve is that the US wants Europe to spend more on defence and to get more involved in Afghanistan. Europeans have much trouble in satisfying such requests.

But one thing seems clear to me: the EU is not becoming a world power in the true sense; it is becoming an increasingly important diplomatic player, but it will continue to need the US and NATO to project power.

Does the EU have room for further political integration?

Yes, it does, but only if it agrees about the form of such integration: a European super-state or a confederation? Conventional wisdom holds that Europe must become a federal super-state, so that nation-states will dissolve into a new polity that should resemble the United States of America. Such a pattern will hardly ever work, however. Europe’s history is way too long and complex to enable the EU to rapidly subsume its 27 (soon to be more) states into one entity.

Europe could function better if it accepts reality, that is, if it accepts diversity and “variable geometry” inside, and the fact that it is part of the broader Western civilization. Against the official “ideology” that underpins European integration, the EU will continue to rely on NATO for strategic-military matters, while building up its ESDP for Petersberg-type missions and limited operations. Europe will also continue to have Atlanticist and “Continentalist” members. As usual, EU’s political integration will progress only in those years when France and Germany will get along well with London and Washington. In other words, EU’s political integration depends on the broader Euro-Atlantic integration process that began with the Atlantic Pact. When a Euro-Atlantic split will occur, Europe will fracture along the lines of the Atlanticists vs. Continentalists rivalry, just like it occurred in 2003.

What factors will influence the relationship between EU and China during the next decade?

The single most important factor will be the US-China relationship. Europe may play a crucial diplomatic role as a mediator in Sino-American relations, and it could therefore expand its influence with positive implications for European economic interests in China and in the Asia-Pacific region. The Americans will likely continue to build their diplomatic-strategic web around China, with Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and Australia as key players, in order to contain China’s military ambitions; at the same time, China and the US will continue to be at least partially interdependent from an economic point of view.

Should the US-China relationship be characterised by severe strain and the risk of military confrontation in the next decades, then Europe will be forced to side with the US, even if according to a traditionally softer approach.

Another important factor will be China’s internal development. Rapidly changing economic conditions inside China will likely cause social and political turbulence in the Asian country. I expect China to enter a difficult politico-social phase during the next decade, and to be forced to introduce political pluralism (that will hardly resemble Western one, however). China’s “exit strategy” from such a period may be a dangerous one, predicated upon nationalism and an aggressive foreign policy.

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