Opening Editorial: Greater Europe


The memoirs of Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the European Union, contained a poignant statement: ‘The community itself is only a stage on the more organised world of tomorrow’.[1] 

Two millennia of almost perpetual struggle, conflict and death have now been transcended in Europe as the European Union has emerged to order the continent into a realm of stability and peace. In fewer than sixty years, Europe has seen some truly monumental changes: first, the continent collapsed into the barbarism of the Second World War, then it recovered, with the help of the United States. Thereafter, it hunched under the threat of nuclear obliteration during the Cold War. It then witnessed the collapse and destruction of Marxism-Leninism and finally, the latter years of the twentieth century saw the growth and expansion of the European Union into the heart of the former Soviet bloc. It was as if history was running on fast forward.

Today, in the opening years of the twenty-first century, the European Union is very much a global power. Its ‘hard’ coercive power is as significant as its ‘soft’ attractive power. Europe is the world’s greatest economic force, containing wealth so vast that it is unmatched in world history; indeed, it generates €8.38 trillion per year.[2] Equally, the European Council has recently endorsed a principled foreign and security strategy, as laid out in A Secure Europe in a Better World.[3] This explicitly states that ‘spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights’ are key European strategic objectives. Moreover, it asserts that for the most part, such goals can be achieved through ‘assistance programmes’ whereby the target country is utterly transformed as it adopts European legislation. But, for individual countries whose regimes ‘have placed themselves outside of the bounds of international society’, the warning is stark: ‘Those who are unwilling to [cooperate] should understand that there is a price to be paid, including their relationship with the European Union’.

This ‘transformative power’[4] has been instrumental during the post-Cold War period in creating what could be described as a ‘Grand Area’ of good governance and economic openness, stretching well beyond the periphery of the European Union. As Robert Cooper has recently remarked, this newfound strength has reached such an extent that many countries on the frontier, rather than being coerced, are actually queuing up to join.[5] ‘Transformative power’ underpins the multiple expansive thrusts of the European Union and this attracts states such as Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Croatia and Ukraine to all see their destinies within the union itself. Indeed, the power of attraction coupled to assisted transformation, is power par excellence.

Of course, the European Union has many problems, such as economic and demographic malaise in some of its states, and an unnecessary tendency to see itself as a rival or counterweight to the world’s other great democracy, the United States. Indeed, the hazardous and disruptive foreign policies pushed forward by some European states have, in recent years, caused great harm to transatlantic relations. But British influence has, with great success, tried to dampen these counterproductive intentions. Equally, Britain has been at the forefront of European military modernisation and integration. Recently, the creation of ‘Battle Groups’ with world-wide reach and power projection capabilities have been spearheaded by Premier Tony Blair and the British government. These will further enhance the European Union’s ‘hard’ power and will allow it to participate more frequently in global trouble spots, helping to reduce the burden on the United States.

These problems aside, the European Union remains a leading promoter and expander of peace, economic prosperity, environmental protection and good governance. Also, with British management, the bonds that bind Europe and America together will remain strong and resolute. As President George W. Bush – the first American president ever to address a European institution – recently stated to the European Council: ‘no power on earth will ever divide us’, a point received with great applause.[6] Indeed, it is no longer the case, as Robert Kagan suggests, that Americans come from Mars and Europeans come from Venus,[7] but rather, both are now moving back to Earth.

The Greater Europe programme will, therefore, provide a web-based forum for research into, and analysis of, the considerable and growing geopolitical global role of the European Union. Importantly, it will also look into the factors that bind Europe and America together, especially the bridging role played by the United Kingdom in this important and evolving partnership.

[1] Cited in Cooper, R. (2003), The Breaking of Nations, London: Atlantic Books, p. 151.

[2] See the CIA: World Factbook. Figure converted into Euro at exchange rates on 09th March 2005.

[4] See, for a lengthy discussion, Leonard, M. (2005), Why Europe Will Run the Twenty-first Century, London: Forth Estate.

[5] See Bowley, G. (2005), ‘In Europe, a shared foreign policy too’, in the International Herald Tribune, 19/02/2005, p. 1.

[7] Kagan, R. (2003), Of Paradise and Power, London: Atlantic Books, p. 3.


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