ANN CAHILL: To have its say, the EU must unite politically

THE European Union faces into a new year with the Lisbon Treaty in force intended to give it the institutions it needs to accomplish its goals.

However the goal of the EU has yet to be clearly defined and, more importantly, accepted by each member state.

The global shift in the balance of power is well under way as was clearly evident in Copenhagen.

All the theory that appeared to be distant and academic about bi, multi and non-polar worlds has became a reality. The Chinese manipulated the Africans, the Americans tried and failed to manipulate the Chinese and, in the end game, the Chinese found common cause with other emerging nations to win the day.

The Europeans were two hours later still wondering what happened to their plan to save the world and work with mother nature. They may have had right on their side, but they did not have might. And neither did the US as they simply acceded to the will of China.

The handing over of the reins of global power from the west to the east is well underway with positions in powerful international institutions like the IMF and the World Bank being shared out while the G20, that includes the developing countries, shapes the economic changes.

The west’s wealth has moved east through the purchase of oil, debt and now the economic crisis. China has been planning for its future, purchasing the raw materials and increasingly scarce minerals it needs for development from where ever they are available, such as Africa and South America. As was clear in Copenhagen, it can then use the influence such links has gained it to political effect.

Europe’s emphasis on soft power, on encouraging countries to become more democratic and look after their people is in danger of looking old fashioned and out of date in contrast to the way China gains clout. It is not democratic and is happy to deal with dictators and strike deals that give it the resources it wants. It does not concern itself with consequences, as we saw from Copenhagen where there was no acknowledgement that mother nature could not be bargained with to eliminate the ills of global warming.

The European ideal of changing the world for the better could be abandoned very quickly as the need for survival takes over. Old allies fall away as power shifts – something we see daily with the US. The American President failed to consult the EU over his deal with China in Copenhagen. NATO is no longer a joint trans-Atlantic military alliance but rather European support for US military.

In the meantime the economic crisis is robbing the EU of its wealth and nature will bring about other changes to vital necessities such as food production.

Anybody looking at China and India should understand that size matters and if the EU is to have any say in its future it needs to band together.

Unfortunately there is no sign that this is about to happen because first and foremost there is no agreement on what the EU is.

It should be clear now that it cannot be just a purely commercial enterprise – in order to do deals, maintain markets and have any say in the new world order the EU needs to be politically united. Hopefully the new EU president, its foreign minister, its more powerful Parliament and its deeply political Commission president can achieve this – but time is not on their side.


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