BRUSSELS – The only clear thing to come out of the recent European Union-China summit was the scale of the EU’s fallen reputation. From being the world’s most widely admired political experiment and enjoying widespread respect and a degree of leadership on policy issues with global impact like climate change and fighting Third World poverty, the Union’s standing among the world’s emerging powers has been brutally downgraded. Its new image is that of a low-growth zone whose member governments have turned away from cooperation in favor of short-sighted beggar-thy-neighbor tactics that are imperiling the euro.
It would be wrong, of course, to suggest that Europe has suddenly become a political backwater. But it is true that Europeans need to take a long, hard look at themselves and at where they’ll be in 40 years if current trends continue.
What is needed today is a clear definition of Europe’s interests – and its responsibilities. Europe needs a sense of purpose for a century in which many of the odds will be stacked against it, as well as a statement of the moral standards that will guide its actions and, one hopes, its leadership.
The first step towards a narrative capable of replacing earlier rallying cries like “no more war” and “a single market and a single currency” is to set out Europe’s interests. And because we are living in a world of accelerating change, it is useless to think that our goal must be to fight a rearguard defense of what we have and what we stand for.