Should Europe fear the Pacific century?

Delphi in Greece marks the centre of the world. Greenwich near London is the point zero of time. The original meter is stored in France. Europe sets the standard for the world. Its affairs are world politics. Or, that’s how it used to be. The centre of gravity is shifting. Delphi has been replaced as navel of the world by islands in the South China Sea. Thus, Asia with rising China in its middle is moving to centre stage. US is reconfiguring its policy to reflect that. It is pivoting towards Asia and the Pacific. This is where economic growth is. This is also the centre stage for the sometimes cooperative sometimes confrontational power play between the US and China. Europeans are currently preoccupied with the euro crisis and there is little bandwith for thinking long-term and beyond the crisis. Still, some embryonic strands of thinking about Pacific Century are distinguishable. More Asia for the US could spell less Europe and less security in Europe. That’s what some Europeans fear. Such attitudes can be discerned among Baltic states and Eastern Europeans. Other Europeans see Asian power politics as remote. Europe should stay at it’s current level with strong economic and trade engagement (East Asia makes up 27% of EU trade larger than with the US) but a restricted role in Asia on security. That could be designated Europe’s splendid isolation. World politics would have moved on to Asia but without Europe as an engaged security actor. Affinity with this can be discerned in Germany strongly and almost purely commercial approach to the opportunities of Asia. Others would like to see the EU take a larger stake in Asia’s security. In the last decade, the transatlantic alliance was, for good and bad, forged by the joint undertaking in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That era is closing. The US new focus is Asia. UK has realised that and undertaken its own mini-pivot and is keen to see the EU follow suit. The EU still has to sort out what role it can and will play in a world where Asian politics are world politics. Just as Asian nations in the 1990s chased access to European-based organisations like the OECD, the EU is now scrambling for a seat at table in Asia. Europeans aren’t getting an invite for East Asia Summit where the US and Russia are now invited along. I would argue EU has genuine security interests beyond trade in Asia and could raise a stronger voice. The shared values with US is one such foundation. Still, the EU also has its distinct identity on genuine commitment to multilateral solutions and international law (that could make it a credible interlocutor on South China Sea issues for ASEAN and China alike). Other areas of particular EU-strength could be civilian crisis management and conflict resolution (with one success in Asia in Aceh) and counter-piracy operations. A role for EU will not be a pre-ordained element in rising Asia’s architecture. Europe has to work on its relevance: its current irrelevance remains the likely default scenario, along with a lack of joint policy that will secure Europe’s splendid isolation from the new theatre of world politics. (source: Jonas Parello-Plesner – ECFR – 28/06/2012)


Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional


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