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Europe has not realised its power in the world

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

Taylor Green


The stars that once shone and emblazed a tasteful blue canvassed flag of the European Union. The

stars have only now, in the contemporary, lost this shine, fading bit by bit. The EU, a bloc

emboldened by their union to realise their potential as a force in the globe. Although these dreams

are all but lost. What happened to these stars, these states lumped together with so much promise

following the end of the Cold War, now leading to this most dissatisfactory present stage?


Well, starting off with the Schengen agreement. The pact allowed the free movement of people

across the continent. Such an arrangement hinged on the already developing neoliberal ideals the

continent had become borne into through the need to deregulate and privatise, along with

international organisations, to allow this to happen. However, despite this agreement being one of

Europe's finest achievements allowing a free flow of workers across the continent and new

opportunities for entrepreneurship and collaboration, it was ultimately its Achilles heel. The

agreement led to a complete brain drain, primarily for its developing member nations such as Poland

and Romania. Once they had joined, they saw large swathes of the population leaving their nations

for work in North-western Europe.


This, in relation, saw a decline in the staffing of hospitals and students at universities as well as a

drastic rise in the age of the average population. Professor of economics Krystyna Iglicka argued that "we are losing population, we are losing young people". So, while this was able to counteract

Western Europe's ageing population, it simply re-bounded this issue back to the East. Europe

supposedly could uplift all its nations; however, this significant inequality ensures that this union is

intensely problematic and benefits unevenly. These nations truly felt the effects of this further, with

stagnation, unemployment, and deprivation rife. And this would only lead to them becoming a more

significant burden for developed nations through aid.


The attempts at fostering and projecting liberal democracy across the continent, moulding nations

as a sophisticated bunch apart of a bloc allowing cooperation and diplomacy, has now been seen to

be a failure in these states, with increased radicalisation in countries such as Hungary, France and

Italy. More people became sceptical of the EU and saw it as the arbiter of all the insecurity that

European nations were hampered with. Moreover, all the EU's numerous crises caused it to further

lose supporters.

Moreover, this shift to insecurity and nationalism and populism saw the delegitimisation of the

European Union entirely. As well as the prospect of mass migration that saw those increasingly with

amassing economic issues complications founding an ideal scapegoat in refugees and immigrants.

This sudden influx created such reactionary ideas from individuals, and the great need for migrants

economically meant it was an issue that could not be reconciled. Only leaving the EU would be

enough for such political participants as the structure of outsourcing workers was altogether far too

necessary to inhibit.


Such feelings of nationalism and insecurity led to calls for Brexit. Moreover, Britain's sudden

departure from the bloc had more significant effects from sparking and legitimising discourse for

other nations exiting. In particular, Marine Le Pen's historical distaste for the bloc could lead her, if

she is to be elected to create a new exit, a Frexit, as it has been coined, of her own making.


Although currently across the continent, this has become a less popular stance, likely in reaction to the effects

it has imposed upon the UK economy as it has been summarised that its exit has made the nation

exactly "5.5 per cent poorer" Brexit has also led to broader issues with little need to speculate upon

such as losing a key trading partner in the bloc by essentially dislocating Britain from the European

market. In 2020 "EU imports from the United Kingdom decreased by 16.4%"; It has also led to a loss

in GDP in the EU and, as well as this, has lost some global legitimacy, security, and political power

with the loss of the UK as a member that was a nation able to perpetuate the bloc further with such

its influence.


The global financial crisis was the most significant shake to the European project's foundations.

Moreover, such busts experienced economically influenced the structures for disaster. Insecurity

stemmed from this with the loss of jobs, partly leading to reactionary political alignment and

Europe's decreasing presence in the world. Moreover, it led to "soaring public debt" which created

an environment for the Eurozone crisis to take hold.


The Eurozone crisis, as well as the crashing of other currencies in Europe, only heaped on the

insecurity that was felt following the global financial crisis and hampered the ability of Europe to

recover as a continent. The EU was unwilling to bail out the banks in Greece, which led to continued

deprivation and then finally humiliation for the EU as Greece was forced to seek aid from the IMF,

implementing strategies that caused stagnation in their public amenities and even a reduction in

medical spending which saw ravishing affects for an ageing population that requires increased

spending arguably in the medical infrastructure. Ultimately Europe still suffered the consequences of

the crisis of high debts in Greece with the interdependency between nations in the trade bloc. This

was eventually a significant shock and made the Euro a little bit more insecure from "gaps and

conflicts between the surplus and deficit countries."


Another blockage to success was Europe's inability to rival other superpower nations. The US, for

example, had a hold hegemonically over other states. As a result, the EU had to comply geopolitically

with the US. Moreover, China was soon viewed as a more significant trade partner and an

increasingly more valuable and dominant power through its huge manufacturing economy and

influence in the US economy. In contrast, Europe had become reliant on Russia, remaining outside

the EU and resistant and dismissive towards its demands and growth. Moreover, the relationship

fostered a dependency on Russian gas pumped across the continent due to the fact that the natural

resource reserves of EU nations remain far from sufficient enough to support rising standards of

living.


The oil crisis in the 1970s also hit Europe hard. The tremendous financial, banking, and energy crises

of the 1970s in Europe. This crisis led to increasing crude oil prices globally, further creating an

environment for stock market crashes, inflation and economic turmoil. This further hampered

Europe's progression and ultimately shook the continent. Up until that point, Europe was on the rise,

and this seems to be at least quite tragically the same narrative for most of the EU's crises where

before the matter, they appeared booming and operating positively as a continent with maybe few

issues and then looms great disaster that seems to affect Europe in a significant way more so than

other nations that can recover smoothly.


Europe was also unable to innovate to the degree the US has. While strong in number, Europe could

never rival the US in terms of innovation and influence. The US has been able to perpetuate itself

across the globe, whereas Europe cannot say the same. Therefore, they could not enact globally soft

and hard power in a similar fashion. They, throughout time, have had to follow the foreign policy

choices of the US, and the US was, in this crucial way, the decider of Europe's fate in global politics.

Other trade blocs have become more important also in global production cycles in ASEAN and

USMCA. And in every aspect, Europe lags behind many continents in its industry, marketing,

innovation and raw material supply. The EU was also fundamentally unable to specialise in any

source of hard or soft power sources through resources or military power. For the most part, the

continent has been second best and has seen all of its states significantly declining through its

multitude of economic crises and poor recovery.


Although, in recent years, there is still hope for the EU, it is, at this point, a more significant arbiter

for ethics and welfare schemes for its population, becoming potentially a great example for others. It

is a relatively sustainable bloc with much that can ensure that in its political power and alliance with

the US, hard power and some ability to project soft power across the globe. It also harbours

environmentally-centred schemes that improve the continent's international image. However, now

the conflict in Ukraine has led to increasingly tricky relations and stagnation across Europe with a

loss of natural resource supplies from Russia, with Europe currently pounded into a crisis by the

drying up of resources. It will be interesting to see how Europe sees and navigates itself from this

conflict up against its doors and whether Europe could ever be considered once again a potential

power.


Image: Flickr (Christopher Cotrell)

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