Friday 17 Aug 2018 | 15:14 | SYDNEY
Friday 17 Aug 2018 | 15:14 | SYDNEY

Europe whole and free


Sam Roggeveen


16 October 2009 16:07

Judah Grunstein at World Politics Review says nice things about my op-ed, which appeared in last Saturday's Herald. I'm grateful, but I'm not sure I share Judah's tone of resignation about the propects for greater European unity:

I've come to accept that some of the faultlines, flaws and weaknesses in the European model are insurmountable, if for no other reason that, although European construction remains a priority for the political elites, popular support for it has lagged behind. What's more, some of the historically determined aspects that limit the EU's ability to develop into a global "power" -- its antipathy to the use of military force, for instance -- are the very things I find most hopeful and inspiring about it.

It's not that I think Europe should be more unified as a military and diplomatic entity; there seems no urgent need for it at present. And like Judah, I'm also inspired by the EU's example as a unified entity that allows its members to maintain a modicum of foreign policy independence, yet has banished the prospect of war between them.

But Hugh White's piece about Europe's strategic weight leads me to think that the insurmountable barriers to further integration which Judah identifies may just be circumstantial, and therefore not permanent. In the present circumstances, the European popular attitude is understandable: why would Europeans want the EU to be a unified and activist global power when the existing distribution of global power works tolerably well? As long as Russia is weak and the US maintains its current role, there's little incentive for the EU to do anything other than free-ride.

The real test for the EU would come if that order were challenged, perhaps by a revived Russia or a declining US. European voters might then change their minds about further integration, and they might even surprise those who laughably regard Europeans as pacifists.