2. All empires fall sooner or later
Balkans Baltics Germany Europe Ukraine
*Rise and fall of Europe
This is an except from Meditations on Diplomacy: Comparative Cases in Diplomatic Practice and Foreign Policy
Membership of the EU does not oblige a state to join either the European Bank or the Eurozone. However 19 of the 28 member states did join the Eurozone, which was created in 1999, with the European Bank having been created in 1998, both to manage the Euro and to act as a provider of liquidity under negotiated conditionalities and fiscal regimes. The problem was that there was a common currency without a common fiscal policy – except insofar as the receipt of liquidity created a fiscal zone dictated by Europe; either by the Bank itself or by European leaders acting through the Bank and, often, in concert with other lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Even states that were not part of the Eurozone, but whose debts and trading relationships were demarcated in Euros, found their national economic conditions and outlooks heavily influenced if not determined by the value of the Euro and policy decisions of the Bank. The sheer weight of Euro reserves and capacity also made the currency and the Bank impossible to avoid. The Euro is the world’s second largest reserve currency, and there are more Euros in international circulation than US dollars.
Thus, almost all European states, in one way or another, were caught up in the Greek financial crisis that peaked in 2015. Total European Bank and IMF bailout funds for Greece were Euro 110 billion, a huge sum to be outstanding even against the combined liquidities and reserves of European states – themselves for the most part still recovering from the banking crisis of 2008.
What the Greeks found was that they no longer had any fiscal sovereignty of their own. The conditionalities of the bailout meant an austerity almost no sovereign government, answerable to an electorate and public opinion, would by itself impose. The Greek situation was unique, in that few other European states could contrive to mismanage their economies to such an extent, and require the assistance of so many billions. However, the situation was illustrative of a fundamental European reality. Even if political union is still resisted and contested, the economy of Europe is increasingly being seen as a single unit. It is not yet a fully coherent unit, and independent parts of it, e.g. the British and German economies, still have huge command on their own – but they have still greater command and international economic leverage together.
Europe has external security threats, but also those closer to home – or within the precinct of home. Two current member states, against one hoping to become a member, were at war as recently as 1991-8. These were the Yugoslav wars, in which Slovenia and Croatia were at war with Serbia. The question of Kosovo, a country that achieved a highly contested independence from Serbia in 2008, is being ‘managed’, but is not resolved; and nor is the future of a bitterly divided Bosnia, with its Serbian enclave administrations, and which was the site of the terrible siege of Sarajevo – at its worst a throwback to the medieval assaults against cities by strangulation and slaughter.
The European Union does have a Common Foreign and Security Policy. It has a Foreign Affairs Council and a High Representative, a ministerial-type figure who acts as spokesperson on joint European foreign policy. Part of the overall apparatus, since 1999, is the Common Security and Defence Policy.
It has very limited military capability and, basically, the specifically European and EU-related security mechanisms extend as far as forms of peacekeeping. For actual military projection, the EU depends upon an intimate association with NATO. The relationship between the two organisations has been described as “separable but not separate”, and the ratification of the Lisbon treaty in 2007 virtually merged the European security system with NATO.
It was NATO forces that were involved in the end-games of the Yugoslav wars over Kosovo. Aspiring members of the EU, all now from the old East European buffer and Warsaw Pact states, under the Eastern partnership programme, if they are to sign an Association Agreement with the EU, must make a deliberate and articulated choice between maintaining close ties with Russia and integration with the EU. A state cannot have both. What this means is not only integration with the EU, but an accommodation if not association with NATO. From a Russian perspective, this can only seem threatening; the mobilisation of an oppositional bloc.
Europe also has an anti-terrorism policy. It has a list of designated terrorist organisations. It is far from an exact list. One of the listed organisations, the Kurdish PKK, is in fact a military ally of NATO in the war against ISIS. Its presence on the list is largely a sop to Turkey, who certainly regards the PKK’s quest for Kurdish independence – or even autonomy – as a terrorist threat. Turkey has long sought some kind of closer link to the EU, if not eventual membership.
The list is one thing. Doing something about it is another. And the very existence of a list presupposes, somewhat naively, that terrorism proceeds via formal organisation – whereas a group that functions via secret and separate cells is something very different.
Keeping track of such cells, or even knowing about them, certainly defeated Belgium’s fractured security agencies before the attacks on Brussels in 2016; and earlier did not provide warning to France that the same cells would attack Paris in 2015. Al Qaeda was not even on the list for some time. It, ISIS, and other terrorist outfits almost certainly smile at the European bureaucratic endeavour to counter terrorism.
However, an area where European unity has been very important is humanitarian assistance. The European Community Humanitarian Aid Office, devotes about Euro 1 billion in annual emergency aid. Together with the contributions of individual member states, the combined humanitarian emergency capacity is greater than anything else on earth.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at : e-ir.info