28 February 2021

Internationale Politik Quarterly: “Von der Leyen’s Not-So-Geopolitical Commission”

These two embarrassments, coupled with a vaccination roll-out slower than in the UK and US (though faster than most developed countries) and an ongoing inability for the EU to stop the dismantling of the rule of law in Hungary and Poland, has prompted the renewal of an all-too-familiar narrative in the Anglo-American media: an EU facing the most serious crisis in its history. This, of course, is an absurd exaggeration—particularly given the euro crisis a decade ago. But it’s not an exaggeration to say the EU seems to be failing to meet the expectations it set itself to transform into a more geopolitically powerful entity.

The problem is that while leaders like Macron have tasked the Commission to make the EU more geopolitically strong, he and others still refuse to give the Commission the tools that would make it strong. For the last decade, the European Council has consistently opposed measures that would strengthen the Commission, because it would mean diluting the power of national governments. And they have purposefully put weak people into positions of power in Brussels, then expressed surprise when the outcomes were weak.

Dave Keating

This article reminded me of a scene from the excellent TV series Borgen, where top Danish politicians planned to remove a competitor from their own party by… assigning him a position at the European Union! That series was filmed around a decade ago, so the problem seems as old as the European Union, and still unresolved.

I support the concept of a unified foreign policy at EU level, but I recognize how difficult it is to find a common strong position among almost 30 different countries, with different local agendas and priorities. And I would image these would be even harder to reconcile if the UK had stayed in the EU, given their strong internal rhetoric around ‘sovereignty’. A similar dynamic is apparent in relationships between countries and international institutions, such as United States’ refusal to join the International Criminal Court. And unfortunately this reluctance to cede authority to a supranational institution could damage global initiatives, such as pandemic readiness and addressing global warming.

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