When the EU began its big enlargement, many people thought it was rising the new superpower, also in military terms. USA was not going to be the only policeman on the block. However, leaders of the EU have preferred to maintain the influence in the field of soft power. As Charles Grant, Director of the Centre for European Reform, says, «although the Union is respected for its prosperity and political stability, it no longer loooks like a power in the making».
Grant makes his reflection in the essay Is Europe doomed to fail as a power?, which also includes a response by Robert Cooper, member of the staff of the EU’s High Representative, Javier Solana. The Director of CER argues that the difficulty of setting up an agreement betweeen the 27 members states is one of the reasons which explain why the EU never will become a superpower. EU members are devoted to multilateral approaches. They conform a community of interest that is not able to give up their individual objectives. They have a minimum of common rules for the foreign policy, but they are not oriented to act as the United States, Russia or China, which usually apply a unilateral focus to the international relations.
So a crucial task for Europeans is to try and convince these powers that they can best achieve their national objectives through multilateral institutions. However, if the EU is weak and divided, Europeans will have little scope to shape the new global system.
The author asks about the capabilities of the soft power. We should not minimise the attractiveness of the model the EU shows. Europe leads the world in many ways, but may be its example is only valid in peaceful times. What happens if the environment turns bad, even very bad? Mr Cooper says that the European Union is not a state and cannot behave as a state. Therefore, he cannot make unilateral decissions as soon as possible. You have to make an agreement between 27 and it takes time. This weakness is patent in crisis situations, when decisions have to be made very fast or when it is necessary to set up a big amount of military resources. Perhaps we must be happy enough with the current status of soft power. It is almost impossible to conquer another position, at least while we need a complete consensus.
However, both authors think it is possible to work for better scenarios. According to Charles Grant, it is convenient «to implement the foreign policy provisions of the Lisbon Treaty and stop trying to build the EU Defence with 27 countries». There are also different speed in military matters. Robert Cooper believes that the EU model is correct as «the world does not need another great power in the 19th century mode. The EU represents the aspiration for a world governed by law. This reflects the nature of the European Union, itself a community of law. And one way or another it is the direction in which almost all our external policies point».
What happens if the rule of law does not work? Read the essay and draw your own conclusions.