Europe is facing significant challenges when it comes to making decisions in the complex world of global politics. Dark times lie ahead in terms of achieving tangible results. For instance, during the recent Mediterranean migration crisis, the European Union found itself trapped in a lengthy political process to reach an agreement on the distribution of migrants among member states. Months went by with commissions, votes, and negotiations, while the problem only worsened. This political weakness prevented Europe from taking decisive action and created divisions within the EU. It also left room for influential global actors like the United States and China to exploit the situation to their advantage, to the detriment of Europe.
Will we ever have a more streamlined European decision-making process with fewer internal divisions? One of the biggest challenges for Europe lies in its complex decision-making process. It involves multiple steps and requires the involvement of various institutions, commissions, and member states. This can take a long time to negotiate and reach compromises, thus weakening the effectiveness of the actions taken. This question becomes even more relevant in light of recent events. For example, during the negotiations for the European Union’s budget for the period 2021-2027, a prolonged deadlock occurred. Member states were divided on crucial issues such as fund distribution and agricultural policies. Discussions dragged on for months, slowing down decision-making and compromising the effectiveness of actions taken. This once again highlighted the difficulties Europe faces in reaching quick and cohesive agreements due to internal divisions and divergent national interests.
We risk being left on the sidelines in the competition between the US and China. A recent event that emphasizes this point is the United States’ adoption of the Clean Network Program in 2020. This program aims to safeguard global telecommunications security by excluding Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE from US and allied 5G networks. It is a program driven by American political interests, as no concrete evidence has been found regarding the alleged national security concerns. Some states continue to use Chinese 5G technology while others do not. This decision, whether right or wrong, was swiftly made by the United States, thanks to its concentrated decision-making capacity. In contrast, Europe found itself entangled in difficult internal discussions and failed to achieve a unanimous consensus on the issue, leaving member states with divergent positions on the use of Chinese technologies. This puts Europe at a disadvantage as its political weakness hampers a timely response to emerging challenges in telecommunications and other sectors, undermining its ability to influence global policies effectively. The United States, with its influence and powerful economy, and China, with its rapid growth and global ambitions, can move more swiftly on the international stage. This puts Europe in a disadvantaged position, and as previously emphasized, its political weakness hinders a prompt response to emerging challenges.
There will be severe consequences for Europe:
This European political weakness could have negative effects on member states. A recent example that highlights this situation is the issue of taxing big tech companies. While the European Union sought to adopt a common position and introduce a digital tax for multinational corporations in the sector, efforts were hindered by a lack of unanimous agreement among member states. Meanwhile, the United States proposed a global tax on digital companies, gaining broad international support and threatening to impose tariffs on imports from countries implementing unilateral taxes on tech companies. This example demonstrates how Europe’s political weakness can put member states at a disadvantage, preventing them from fully defending their interests and effectively influencing global decisions. China, on the other hand, has seized this opportunity to further develop its technological industry, becoming a global powerhouse in this sector and surpassing Europe in terms of innovation and competitiveness. Europe risks falling behind and being unable to fully defend its interests. Decisions made by other global actors can influence European policies and economies, putting Europe in a dependent position.
The political weakness of Europe represents a significant challenge when it comes to competing with the United States and China. The complex European decision-making process and internal divisions weaken the EU’s ability to act decisively. While more powerful global actors make rapid decisions and act with determination, Europe risks falling behind. However, it is possible to consider adopting new measures to strengthen Europe’s decision-making capacity and address the global challenge involving China.
One possibility worth examining is the establishment of a special commission with a representative possessing special powers for the medium to long term. This representative, holding a long-term position, could be responsible for guiding European policies towards China and global geopolitical competition. This would enable greater coherence and cohesion in the decisions made by the EU, avoiding delays and internal divisions.
Furthermore, this special commission could be tasked with formulating a clear and consistent strategy to address challenges posed by China, such as economic competition, technology security, and the protection of human rights. This representative would have the authority and necessary resources to negotiate bilateral and multilateral agreements, protect European interests, and promote a common European vision.
At the same time, it would be crucial to actively involve member states and European institutions in defining policies and implementing strategies. This would ensure broad support and greater legitimacy for the actions taken.
To make it better, it would be important to consider the possibility of adopting a multidimensional approach, which encompasses not only economic and commercial aspects but also security, technological innovation, environmental protection, and human rights. This would enable Europe to address the global challenge holistically and coherently, ensuring that European interests are defended on all fronts.
My wishes: Europe has the opportunity to strengthen its decision-making capacity and address the global challenge posed by China. The establishment of a special commission with a representative possessing special powers for the medium to long term could provide stable and cohesive leadership. However, it would be necessary to involve member states and adopt a multidimensional approach to ensure an effective response and defense of European interests on all fronts. Only through concrete actions and greater cohesion can Europe play a significant role in the global geopolitical context and defend its interests in the competition with the United States and China.
What does the immediate future hold? In the present and future, some issues may remain trapped in the slow European decision-making process. These include:
Emerging technologies: Technological innovation requires swift decision-making. The complex European decision-making process may impede the regulation and implementation of policies in areas such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, leaving Europe behind compared to other markets.
Foreign policy and security: The EU’s response to international crises necessitates quick decisions, but the divergent opinions of member states can hinder cohesion and slow down the EU’s response. However, it is worth noting that this topic has recently seen an emergence of greater readiness in decision-making, particularly with the specter of war on the horizon.
Climate change and energy: The transition to clean energy remains a contentious issue, requiring timely policies. However, the harmonization of energy policies among member states can take a long time, impeding Europe’s response to the climate crisis.
Economy and single market: Decisions on structural reforms and economic matters also require swift action, but divergent opinions and national interests can slow down the decision-making process and limit Europe’s competitiveness.
Europe is striving to demonstrate a willingness to improve its decision-making process. However, the complexity of the political system and internal divisions still pose significant obstacles that could restrict the EU’s ability to act swiftly on these crucial issues.
Closing the post I express my concerns and doubts about the capacity to speed up and be more competitive as a whole, will be imperative for Europe to address these challenges and find ways to strengthen its decision-making capacity, promote cohesion, and defend its interests effectively. Only then can Europe effectively compete with the United States and China and secure its position in the global arena.
Daniele Prandelli, Ningbo China.
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