A historian of the future writing about the decline of the West should include a few lines on the events of October 2010. The EU gave up some privileges at the IMF, but it’s not clear that the rising powers will now play by the West’s rules.
The EU’s place as an international power depends more on its actions than on its status at the UN. If Europe concentrates on tackling real-world challenges through the UN system it can keep the United Nations relevant; concentrating on matters of status only makes the EU look irrelevant itself.
Barack Obama is addressing the United Nations General Assembly. His approach to the outside world is markedly different from that of George W Bush, but he is certainly not an unconditional believer in the UN. As he deals with domestic pressures, rising powers and challenges like Iran, he is ready to sideline or ignore the UN when he feels it necessary.
Pakistan’s floods; Haiti’s earthquake; Russia’s fires. What did the EU do to help? Richard Gowan argues that the EU must improve its political response to crises and not just its ability to deliver aid.
Europeans need to respect what non-Western powers think, and that includes their militaries. Europe’s Asian, African and Latin American counterparts are already playing a more vital role on the world stage; once Europe’s defence budget cuts start to bite, this role will only increase.
The EU needs to go beyond the standard “wait, react, peacekeep!” approach to handling looming crises. Instead, Richard Gowan argues, the EU ought to focus on early diplomacy. Given the strains on national budgets, this may be a job for the EU-Team (aka the European External Action Service).
At a time of constrained budgets, getting the EU to invest more in conflict prevention and human rights protection in faraway places like Sudan and Kyrgyzstan may be a hard sell. But, as Richard Gowan argues, the alternative is another generation of Kosovos.
Before the euro crisis, Europe’s leaders talked up the EU’s global role. Now they are emphasising Europe’s weaknesses and turning their backs on important foreign and security issues. In the meantime, crises continue to bubble in places like Sudan and the Middle East. Richard Gowan argues that weakness is not an excuse for inaction, but a reason to work in coalition.
In its advisory opinion of 22 July 2010, the International Court of Justice said that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in February 2008 “did not violate general international law”. But is statehood the real question hanging over Kosovo? Richard Gowan believes that corruption, rather than statehood, is the biggest issue facing Kosovo.
Fifty years after gaining independence, the Democratic Republic of Congo remains deeply unstable. The help of China and the EU is needed to limit the dangers. But one is more likely than the other to lend a hand.