The EU's diplomacy skills need to be kick-started to reflect a geopolitical shift towards the East, writes Grigory Nemyria, former deputy prime minister of Ukraine.
The following contribution is authored by Grigory Nemyria, former deputy prime minister of Ukraine.
"The world's centre of gravity is heading eastward so fast that we Europeans can almost feel the ground moving beneath our feet. Because almost all major actors on the international stage are redefining their roles in response to this tectonic shift, Europe must do the same. So it is right that the EU Council of Ministers is meeting to grapple with this challenge.
For decades, however, Europeans have been more concerned with unification and constitutional arrangements than with traditional diplomacy. Europe's historic rivalries have, of course, been civilised into a political model that European diplomats often see as applicable across the international arena.
To be sure, consensus, compromise and a pooling of sovereignty are the only ways to resolve many of the great issues – climate change, nuclear proliferation – that bedevil our world. But on the great issues of war, peace and the balance of power, Europe seems trapped between an insufficiently cohesive foreign policy and uncertainty among individual countries about how to define and secure their national interests.
By contrast, the world's rising powers – Brazil, China, India, and Russia – insist not only on the primacy of their national interests, but, as the failed climate negotiations in Copenhagen last December demonstrated, on sovereign freedom of action as well. To them, geopolitics is not anathema; it is the basis of all their external actions. Defending the national interest still rallies their publics; the exercise of power remains at the heart of their diplomatic calculations.
In the face of this new/old reality, Europe must not merely make itself heard on the great global issues of trade and fiscal imbalances, important as they are. Instead, Europe must recognise which of its strategic assets matter to the world's rising powers and leverage those assets to gain influence.
Unfortunately, one of Europe's key strategic assets – the European countries, in particular Ukraine, that straddle the great energy corridors that will deliver more and more of the fossil-fuel resources of the Middle East and Central Asia to the world – is probably its most neglected. Indeed, ever since the Russia-Georgia war of 2008, Europe has mostly averted its eyes from developments in the region".
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(Published in partnership with Project Syndicate.)