James Rogers: 3-European Union – Foreign policy, communitarianism and civilisation

Introducing James Rogers

James RogersJames Rogers is a PhD student at Cambridge University. In the last interview in a series of three, he elaborates on the global position and foreign policy of the European Union. The first interview provides a theoretical introduction, the second interview deals with the grand strategy of the European Union.

On this page, Mr Rogers gives his ideas about the global power of the European Union, before focusing on its foreign policy framework. He then throws light on the integration of political and economic space and discusses the role of nationalism in this respect. Mr Rogers concludes by providing his views on the ‘European civilisation.’

Interview

The global position and foreign policy of the European Union

How powerful is the EU in world politics?

“In many respects, the European Union has a very strong influence on world politics, especially in the areas of finance, industrial productivity and trade.”

In many respects, the European Union has a very strong influence on world politics, especially in the areas of finance, industrial productivity and trade. It possesses the world’s most powerful technological economy, and is a scientific and technical leader in many different fields. It also wields an attractive social model that other parts of the world have chosen to replicate or copy.

“Geopolitically and militarily, the European Union still a very weak power.”

But geopolitically and militarily, the European Union is still a very weak power: it lacks internal political cohesion; it is hamstrung by its own founding myths and a mishmash of internationalist mumbo jumbo; it remains deferential to both Washington and Moscow; and it lacks the tools of geopolitical influence or the willingness to use what it has already got. And it remains to be seen whether or not this will change with the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon, especially in relation to the Common Security and Defence Policy.

How much authority does the EU foreign minister, Lady Catherine Ashton, have?

“Europeans need to think less about personalities and more about the policy they implement.”

Currently, and unfortunately, very little! And what little authority she does wield is tacit: pro-Europeans want her to succeed so have not been as critical as they otherwise might have been. The same applies to the governments in the Member States, although negative noises have been heard coming out of some capitals, as well as the European Parliament. Yet any perceived failings by Catherine Ashton should not be blamed on her but rather on a wider set of problems. After all, she is just a personality; Europeans need to think less about personalities and more about the policy they implement, which we can all contribute towards. At the moment, European foreign and security policy is still trapped in the decade before last. Until this is changed to deal with new geopolitical realities, Europeans will continue to decline relatively vis-à-vis the rising Asian powers.

How far will EU members eventually go in ceding national foreign policy authority to the EU?

“If London and Paris come to see the utility of retaining a pre-eminent voice in the wider world, the only way to do so is together through the European Union.”

It is hard to say and depends on the way in which contemporary geopolitical changes in the wider world are interpreted by Europeans. What seems very clear to me is that the strongest Member States – namely France and the United Kingdom – are shrinking fast relative to the likes of China, India and the United States, whose populations and/or economic productivity is rapidly growing. If London and Paris (and to a lesser extent Berlin, Rome, Madrid, Warsaw, Stockholm and Amsterdam) come to see the utility of retaining a pre-eminent voice in the wider world, the only way to do so is together through the European Union.

“As history has shown us, decline is often cumulative and its realisation can often provoke a logic of helplessness.”

But as history has shown us, decline is often cumulative and its realisation can often provoke a logic of helplessness. If London and Paris fall into that trap, Europeans will lose the means to defend and extend their interests, leading to a long period of decadence and stagnation, which will also harm our economic and social standing.

Do you agree with Robert Cooper that the EU is both a means and an end?

“The European Union has been a means to an end, namely unifying our continent and producing a more integrated economic and political space.”

Well, it depends on the context. I believe the European Union has been a means to an end, namely unifying our continent and producing a more integrated economic and political space, where the Member States work together on many issues instead of against one another. But I’m not sure that functional integration (i.e. the ‘Monnet Method’) will be enough to deliver ‘ever closer union’ in the twenty-first century.

“Now that we have Europe, we must produce Europeans! But forms of communitarianism (i.e. nationalism) have become very unpopular in many parts of Europe.”

Unfortunately, functional integration remains an extremely technocratic enterprise and it is hard for many Europeans to identify with it in the same way as they might identify with their own Member States (especially the myths provided by their national communities). If the European Union is to ever provide a organising metaphor to galvanise Europeans into a tightly integrated and common society, it will need to invest in other methods. That is to say, now that we have Europe, we must produce Europeans! But forms of communitarianism (i.e. nationalism) have become very unpopular in many parts of Europe, putting us all in a double bind. We need to change this.

“The European Union needs to be invested with a powerful national fantasy, which draws us all together in a common political and social project and gives all Europeans hope for the future.”

Given the rising strength of national identity in countries like Russia, China, India and the United States (which has aided their dynamism and economic expansion), it is perhaps time to begin rethinking the utility of nationalism – although, of course, not those ugly racist and ethnic varieties – to articulate powerful organising myths to provide Europeans with a sense of self-worth and self-belief again. The European Union needs to be invested with a powerful national fantasy, which draws us all together in a common political and social project and gives all Europeans hope for the future.

Does it make sense to speak of a ‘European civilisation’?

“Other than slight differences in language, dress and architecture, there is much more that unites us than divides us. And indeed, we have more in common today than any time in our history.”

In some respects, it does. If you ask someone from outside Europe if there is such a thing as European civilisation, he or she would probably respond with a firm: ‘Yes’! After all, other than slight differences in language, dress and architecture, there is much more that unites us than divides us. And indeed, we have more in common today than any time in our history: we can travel and holiday anywhere in Europe; we can live anywhere in Europe; and more and more of us have close friends from other parts of Europe.

“The EU also needs to develop a centralised and democratic political system to overcome the deep divide between our maritime and continental aspects.”

But the existence of European civilisation is not enough for us to be a singular geopolitical actor: we also need to develop a centralised and democratic political system to overcome the deep divide between our maritime and continental aspects. Only this will provide us with the means to protect ourselves and our interests from an increasingly different, unpredictable and non-European world.

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