Continuing the Discussion: The Next Superpower: Europe Flattered But Not There Yet

Rupinder Kaur Rai
Guest Contributor
SAIS Washington

In the past years, it has become somewhat fashionable to view emerging economies such as China and India as competitors to the US’ position in the international system. Andrew Moravcsik, guest speaker at SAIS DC, chose to add another player to the game: Europe.

As a European, I listened carefully to his flattering praise of Europe’s strengths and its potential to become a second superpower. After all, who does not like comforting words in the midst of a prolonged period of negative headlines?

Mr. Moravcsik did well on emphasizing Europe’s effective use of soft power and its growing influence on international issues. He defined military capacities, trade volume and economic growth as preconditions for a successful superpower – all of which Europe meets. He also emphasized Europe’s prominence in supporting multilateral institutions and international development.

Nonetheless, Mr. Moravcsik left a number of important factors out. Europe’s declining population and hesitance in handling immigration in a sustainable manner pose a threat to its future. Moreover, Europe’s military power suffers from an uncoordinated foreign policy. We all remember Europe’s paralysis after the outbreak of the Arab Spring and its subsequent negligible actions, which is proof that it may not be able to take military actions as a unit. Most importantly, Europe lacks the will to act. It is accustomed to hide under the umbrella of US military protection.

Worse still, Europe tends to become less unified and more fragmented during times of crises, and the present is no exception. The economic recession has prompted massive anti-EU sentiments and criticism of the European Stability Mechanism. A number of European cities experienced violent anti-austerity demonstrations. The division between the north and south of Europe has become more evident, since the North accuses the South of squandering northern taxpayers’ money, and the South resents the North for enforcing tightened monetary policy. Europe not only fails to act as a whole on the world arena, it also bogged down by internal conflicts.

It seems that Americans are often more enthusiastic about the EU than Europeans themselves and Mr. Moravcsik did well in presenting Europe’s potential. Yet, solidarity and cohesion are of utmost importance in times of instability. Europe is still in the process of fighting its maladies and has done so in a passable manner. However, superpowers are not known for their passable performances. Not until Europe proves its capabilities in all respects can it be considered as a potential superpower.

1 Comment

  1. A well written argument: I’d tentatively add, however, that without German leadership Europe cannot act – and Germany doesn’t want to act, doesn’t want to take on responsibility and doesn’t want to be doing things that superpowers do…

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