Summaries — Heft 1/2007
Dirk Messner: The European Union: Protagonist in a Multilateral World Order or Peripheral Power in the »Asia-Pacific« Century?

We are currently witnessing a transition from the quasi-unilateral »Western world order« dominated by the USA to a multipolar power constellation in which China and India – the most populous powers in the world – will play a central role. While the USA has been concerned with dynamics in Asia for some time, German and European thinking is ultimately still strongly shaped by a transatlantic world order. For example, in the European Security Strategy of 2003 Asia, China and India are only of marginal concern.

What is certain is that in future all European nation states, in comparison with the USA, China and India, will be minor actors with quite limited power resources. The EU will therefore end up at the periphery of world politics if it does not find common solutions to these challenges. In this context Europe should make strong efforts to fulfill its role as the most important and influential protagonist of a multilateral political approach – given that the USA, China, and India will probably pursue a very classical approach to international politics that could weaken the multilateral system over the next two decades. If Europe managed to be effective in this demanding arena the EU could assume a key role in the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar power constellation, and contribute to limiting conflict and ensuring stability in the international system.

From this perspective three elements are of particular importance: 1. Europe’s role could be to act as the catalyst of a fair and effective multilateralism which will increasingly come under pressure from the threatening »competition of the great powers«. Alliances with anchor countries like Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa could be important in this process. 2. Europe must test and adapt its strategies in the global-governance arenas particularly affected by the rise of the Asian powers. 3. Europe must develop strategic partnerships with China and India without neglecting relations with the USA. However, at the moment the relative weaknesses of European foreign policy are only reinforcing the vacuum left by the USA in international organizations.

© Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung   Redaktion/net edition: Gerda Axer-Dämmer | 01/2007   Top