Europe: The empire of emptiness

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire,” stated President José Manuel Barroso recently. Even though there is no “imperialist temptation” in the EU, this statement reveals a number of tensions that are pressing the EU to rethink its organisation, nature and overall strategy, argues Jean-Thomas Lesueur.

The author examines certain “breaches” in the current organisation of the EU that reveal its incapacity to address a number of political, geopolitical and geoeconomic issues. 

The political crisis in Belgium, the deterioration of the relationship between France and Germany and the EU-Russia crisis raise a number of questions:

  • Has the time finally come for the EU and its member states to adress existential issues? 
  • Does the EU-27 still need the Franco-German engine as its motor? 
  • Are we entering a period of competition between projects: eastward glances versus the Euro-Mediterranean dream? 

The EU-Africa relationship is characterised by a lack of values and projects as well, the author adds. The next EU-Africa summit in Lisbon on 8 and 9 December 2007 is being prepared without any conviction, he notes. 

Despite the fact that many Europeans are waiting impatiently for the end of US President George W. Bush’s mandate, this will not suddenly provide miraculous solutions to the issues of security, global terrorism and sharing western values, Lesueur says. 

The Commission’s statement continued: “Yes, Empire. Because we have the dimension of an empire. But there is a great difference. The empires were usually made with force, with a centre imposing diktat, a will on the others. What we have is the first non-imperial empire.” 

The statement shows that contemporary Europe is a kind of “anti-Narcissus” as “Europe contemplates in water the reflection of its empty image”, the author concludes, with the EU seeming set to condemn itself to remain a “spectator rather than an actor in the world”.

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