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India and China Source of Nagging Concern to Europe

Ramesh Jaura

BRUSSELS:  Anxiety looms large on the Europe of 25. The world is changing very fast. The balance of economic power has shifted. What to do? Senior officials have come to the conclusion that the way out of the present situation is to strengthen EU's role as a global actor.


For sure humming 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' will not help. Europe's mature economies indeed have many strengths. But they also suffer from sluggish growth and ageing populations, says the European Commission in a paper titled 'Europe in the World: Some Practical Proposals for Greater Coherence, Effectiveness and Visibility'.


The paper presented to the European Council of ministers representing the member states' governments that met June 15-16 clearly spells out the nagging concern: "Countries such as China and India are growing fast, and there is increasing competition for access to raw materials, energy resources and markets."


Pointing to another risky situation that calls for deft handling, the paper says: "Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, failed states and organised crime remain as pressing as ever."


But the Commission is convinced that Europe has the potential to rise to these challenges and to share in the new opportunities created by emerging markets and globalisation.


Europe's strength lies in the fact that it has an open society that can absorb people, ideas and new technologies, the paper says. Successive enlargements over the last three and a half decades have demonstrated the EUís ability to promote stability and prosperity and the success of this model of regional integration, claims the Commission.


This is undoubtedly reassuring for the EU but does not reflect the reality. Europe of 25 is not an open society -- nationals of all member states of the European Union are not treated equally. For the world beyond the borders of the EU it is 'Fortress Europe'.


The expanded EU, with 10 members added in May 2004, continues to face challenges. Social and political cohesion is often brittle, and economic hurdles rise one after another on the difficult path of sustaining prosperity.


With a combined population of 470 million and a quarter of the worldís income, the EU now accounts for over a fifth of world trade. It provides more than half of development and humanitarian assistance worldwide. European countries make a central contribution to all the important global institutions.


But a majority of the EU member states still have a long way to go to achieve the UN target of 0.7 percent of the gross national income going for official development assistance (ODA). And it remains to be seen whether the EU and its member states will abide by the targets they have set themselves for the coming years.


Nevertheless, the EU's new development strategy and comprehensive policies towards Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, demonstrates the 25-nation bloc's major role in support of the Millennium Development Goals and effective multilateralism, in the context of globalisation.


The new financial perspectives and the tenth European Development Fund offer a range of financial instruments including specific provisions on governance, human rights, election observation missions, peace keeping, investment climate, regional integration. These are supported by new arrangements for joint programming and coordinated action with member states on the ground.


But there is a lot that needs be done to translate policy into practice in a manner that imparts a feeling of genuine partnership to the countries of the developing world. Values and decisions imposed from the outside without taking into account the situation on the ground lead nowhere. This is not always kept in mind.


In fact the paper admits: "Over the last fifty years the EU has developed a series of external policy instruments, political, economic, commercial and financial, which help it to protect and promote our interests and our values."


It adds: "More recently these instruments have been diversified in areas where member states felt they needed to work in common, and a High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy was appointed, to enhance the scope and effectiveness of the EUís external action. Military instruments have been created to reinforce civil instruments of crisis management."


This goal has yet to be achieved.


The paper rightly points out that increasingly the EUís internal policies -- for example the environment, energy, competition policy, agriculture and fisheries, transport, the fight against terrorism and illegal migration, dealing with global pandemics -- impact on international relationships and play a vital part in the EUís external influence. Conversely, many of Europeís internal policy goals depend on the effective use of external policies."


The EU has a wide range of contractual relations and political dialogues with strategic partners and regional groupings throughout the world.


These include co-operation with the U.S. on homeland security issues and the fight against terrorism, the energy dialogue with Russia and established partnerships with other major producers and their organisations, human rights dialogue with many countries, as well as discussion of global sustainable development with China and India.


The fact that the European Union is a committed supporter of multilateralism and plays an important role in the key international institutions and fora through the representation of member states and the Community can go a long way in strengthening EU's role as a global actor.


[Ramesh Jaura is chief editor of the Globalom Media group and president of Euforic-Europe's Forum on International Cooperation in Maastricht (The Netherlands) and Director of IPS-Inter Press Service Europe in Berlin.]






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