Moisés Naím: ‘More Europe’ needed to strengthen EU

Moisés Naím [Wikimedia Commons]

“Europe has been losing its clout and its voice has diminished,” Moisés Naím told EURACTIV Spain in an interview, as well as highlighting his desire for “more Europe” so that “the predominant voices are not those of autocracies and dictatorships like Russia or China”.

Moisés Naím is a Venezuelan author, columnist and political thinker who previously served as Venezuela’s Minister for Trade and Industry and is a former Executive Director of the World Bank. He has been widely published by international media and has been named as one of the world’s leading thinkers on international relations.

Naím spoke to EURACTIV Spain’s Catalina Guerrero.

To address and resolve the problems it is now facing, the European Union must go for “more Europe, a more integrated, coordinated Europe, working in harmony and synchronising its proposals,” said Naím, who is currently based in Washington and has recently published a new book entitled “Repensar el mundo (DEBATE)” (Rethinking the world).

Subtitled “111 surprises of the 21st century”, his book brings together articles published in the international press between 2009 and 2015, divided into eleven thematic categories and united by four factors: surprise, connecting, rethinking and informing.

“It is important for the world that Europe’s voice carries weight and that it can use it to bring its values to high-level negotiating tables where the future of humanity is decided,” said Naím.

He added that the EU’s main problem at the moment is that it is being “shaken by too many crises at once: the refugee crisis, Islamist terrorism, unemployment, labour and economic insecurity, and 21st century Russian imperialism”.

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The member states also face the added problem of “lack of leadership” and loss of enthusiasm on the part of everyday citizens for the European project. Naím added that he is “perplexed by the election of certain European leaders”.

On economic matters, the author warned that Europe “will not recover significantly or return to being an engine for growth until it is integrated and goes further in deepening economic integration.”

To avert this European, and perhaps global, paralysis, Naím defends the concept of “minilateralism” as “it is very difficult for a large number of countries to come to any sort of agreement and the result is always agreements that are simply empty phrases that do not come to anything”.

“In each situation, we must identify three or four countries that are important to the problem or part of the solution,” he said.

It is a strategy that may be needed more than ever in a world where power has become “easier to obtain, more difficult to use and easier to lose,” argued the Venezuelan, denouncing the “ideological necrophilia” that he believes is present in all walks of life.

Among the many examples he used to illustrate his theory on the volatility of power, Naím cited the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC): “Before, their decisions made the world shake, now they meet and the world yawns.”

Another prime example is the situation in Brazil, where President Dilma Rousseff faces a fight for political survival after the country’s lower house voted to impeach the embattled leader.

The third and perhaps most topical example Naím referred to is the Panama Papers, which shed light into the shadowy world of offshore bank accounts and tax evasion, and has cost Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and Spanish Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism José Manuel Soria their jobs.

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“What do Donald Trump’s presidential run in the US and Podemos in Spain have in common?” Naím answered his own rhetorical question: both are recent political phenomena that have achieved more than what was expected of them and that today have less power than they had at their respective peaks.

Another phenomenon that goes hand in hand with the above is the constant creation of “more tension” as more “actors and protagonists gain enough power to play a role and block or veto initiatives, but they cannot impose their own agenda or their own decisions”.

This bottleneck can be seen both in the US and Spain, where the politicians in Madrid are struggling to form a government.

This, Naím continued, is associated with another trend that he has called “political or ideological necrophilia”. A term he has coined to signify “a passionate love for dead ideas, ideas that have been proven time and time again to not work, and which always give bad results”.

However, political players continue to drink from this particular well, as they know that such ideas remain attractive to voters and are a viable route to power, despite “knowing that they promise things on which they cannot deliver”.

Naím added that it is “unfortunate” that “no one has the antidote for political necrophilia, which appears both on the left and the right” and in all areas of society, from politicians to business people, journalists and intellectuals.

Regarding his worldview, Naím said that “Latin America is coming to the end of a party after living through one of its best periods, which saw the creation of the largest middle-class in history.”

The region is now having to deal with sporadic economic shocks, but in his view, those who are suffering most are Venezuela, “which is already a failed state”, and Brazil.

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Finally, Naím lauded the legacy that President Barack Obama leaves behind him, adding that the outgoing commander-in-chief “will be remembered not only for what he did but for the mistakes and tragedies he managed to avoid”. He concluded that Pope Francis “is good news” for the Catholic Church and for the world.