The EU's Future Role on the Global Stage

The EU's Future Role on the Global Stage

What role will the EU play on the global stage? The struggle of some of its members in the current economic crisis, its apparent inability to punch its political weight in international negotiations (e.g. the climate summit in Warsaw in 2013) or play a dominant part in international crisis management (the Arab Spring, Syria) cast doubt on the capabilities of the EU as a global player. In order to regain its strength, the EU has to deal with pressing economic and political questions. It has to provide a credible and feasible road map for economic recovery and social cohesion. At the same time, it has to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of European governance without risking its legitimacy. To preserve its actor capacity, the EU must make sure that the (presently unequally distributed) growth potential stemming from research and development serves the economic recovery of the union as a whole. At the same time, successful efforts to make European governance more efficient must be accompanied by additional safeguard measure to ensure its legitimacy.

Policy Implications

  • From technocratic to democratic federalism: Governance reform has increased the efficiency of European economic governance. Strengthening intergovernmental decision making and surveillance and sanctioning has damaged the legitimacy of European governance. Menaced by a looming currency crisis, policy recommendations concern all aspects of domestic politics (especially social politics) and are more likely to interfere with national sovereignty. Restoring legitimacy is vital for the European project. Power should be transferred from the European Council (where strong members can impose their will on weak ones) to the European Parliament.
  • Towards a European research union: The ‘Europe 2020’ strategy provides a useful economic road map for some member states. It demands investment in research and development (R&D) education and high-tech industries but promises considerable medium-term growth in return. Findings indicate an ‘innovation gap’ between middle and Northern European member states and those in the South. Countries that are able to invest and spend on product and process innovation will gain the economic capabilities to generate growth, while those members that are currently unable to do so are threatened with falling behind even further. Structural funds of the EU should be used to replace shortcomings in domestic investment in R&D and help to develop tailored, country-specific road maps for sustainable growth.
  • Increasing the EU's actor capacity: In order to re-establish itself as a global player the EU must increase internal cohesion (autonomy) on key topics and communicate its key agenda in international relations (authority).
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