In the 21st century, Europe must strengthen its voice in other regions of the world. Our task is a commitment to democracy, human rights and prosperity in the neighbourhood and wider world. Europe can only face the challenge by acting together, improving deeper political integration and finally by developing synergy between internal and external policies. Nevertheless, how far has the European Union become a strategic actor in the global arena? We observe, there is a big demand for more European engagement across the world. The answer to the EU’s role in international relations lies in China, undoubtedly a key player in this century.
We should change the paradigm and orientate more significantly our policy towards China. Building good and friendly relations with the country of Middle Kingdom is a long term policy; however, we Europeans possess a very good starting point. This year, we have celebrated 40 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between the European Union and China. Importantly, Europe does not have divergent interests towards China, it is our advantage because we do not have to treat the country as a potential rival, but truly as a partner. By 2030, China’s GDP is expected to represent 20% of the world’s total GDP, overtaking that of both the EU and the US. Certainly, without China, it is impossible to overcame the negative results of climate change, implementing a new global energy policy or rebuild security in many recently affected areas. Europe needs to seize the opportunity presented by Chinas multifaceted connectivity drive- from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to China’s Silk Road Economic Belt and New Maritime Silk Road.
Strong China and better relations with this country would help us to balance our relations with the USA. Europe should not loosen up our transatlantic relations; we just need two equally important strategic partners. Leading on from this Europe must redefine also our policy towards the USA and make it, without primus inter pares actor, a real win-win relationship. The TTIP Agreement can be an instrument of rethinking our economic relations. But there is a need to transform profoundly NATO, where Europeans should be at least majority actors. Europe must be more independent elaborating a future international agenda.
This balance policy between two strategic global partners can help us improve the relationship with neighbouring countries, especially with Russia. Indeed the conflict over Ukraine has shaken our confidence but we must make efforts towards practical policy-making with Russia and “it should not let this be something decided by Washington”, as said by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Passau this month. Therefore, Russia must be a part of our Eastern Partnership, a key player of this programme.
Finally, the EU must be surrounded by a safe neighbourhood in the Mediterranean, so that would avoid the immigration crisis. Only by rebuilding the political and economical stability we can create democratic societies and assure our borders. In relation to deeper integration, we could look back the the idea of a Mediterranean Union, proposed by France in 2010.
These are the pivotal dimensions of the European external actions. It should be remembered that the world new order in the 21st century will be no longer bipolar, unipolar or even multipolar. Therefore, only when Europe speaks consistently and comprehensively with one voice, we could realise the full potential of the opportunities of the 21st century.