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Europe in transition in a world in transition

Multilateralism & global issues / CONFERENCE
Ricardo Borges de Castro

Date: 28/10/2021
Can a 20th-century bureaucracy made up of intra- and inter-institutional policy silos and vertical decision-making structures, subject to 27 different national interests, manage Europe’s transition into a new decade shaped by constant crisis and resource scarcity? 

Today, the European Union’s role in the world is framed by three main elements: long-term structural changes to the international system; global trends that impact Europe’s power and influence; and the frontier domains that spring from the interplay between these structural factors and global trends. It is in these open fields – geovalues, geopolitics, geoeconomics, geotech, geoconnectivity and geosphere – defined by rivalry, competition, and cooperation that Europe’s destiny can be mastered. 

The six frontier domains bring up important questions for the EU and its member states. Managing the many parallel transitions Europe faces and navigating the different frontier domains in a state of permacrisis requires changes and reform at EU level. Tough decisions will have to be made about what the Union can or should do as a priority. Finally, it questions the role that the EU should have on the international stage. 

To make headway, EU leaders should ask what kind of actor they want the EU to be in 2030 and beyond; learn from recent experiences and reform EU institutions to make them more efficient in responding to an era of permacrisis; and recognise that a strategic Union will need to make choices and set clear priorities. The 2020s should build the foundations for an EU that is better prepared to master the challenges of the 2030s. By adapting to these tectonic changes and moving from crisis management to management through anticipation and foresight, there is a chance that the EU can stay in the global race.

This paper was written as part of the conversations happening around the EPC’s yearly Strategic Council and 2021 Annual Conference “Is Europe still in the global race?”. The conference asks the question: in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges and a changing and unstable geopolitical landscape, can Europe hold its own, or is it destined to bring up the rear in the global race for power and influence?

Read the full paper here.
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