Europe urged to abandon '20th century thinking'

The EU must stick to its fundamental principles and values if it is to be relevant in the international arena, warns Henri Malosse.

By Henri Malosse

11 Sep 2014

The European construction began as the project of peace and unification. Our main achievement has been 50 years of peace across the region, for which the European Union has received the Nobel peace prize. We began this construction based on democracy and a set of values admired and envied by the whole world.

However, a very worrying trend began to emerge in the 1990s. Europe became active in the Balkan war, partaking in the coalition which bombed Serbia. Thereafter, it has had direct and indirect involvement in events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. At a certain point, did we forget our values and begin to think we were contenders for the position of becoming a new superpower? Superpower logic belongs in the 20th century, but has continued through to the 21st. As we go further and further into this way of thinking, we find ourselves in the middle of the atrocious events in Ukraine. Instead of promoting a process for peace, which would unite Ukraine, we have been unable to avoid steps which have increased division and confrontation.

"Instead of presenting the EU as a model for strong regional integration, we have put our trade interests as our main goals, especially since the advent of the economic crisis"

At the same time, we somehow forgot an important aspect of the European construction - the principle formulated in article 21 of the EU treaty, which requires the building of relations with non-member countries on the basis of fundamental principles and values. It seems, however, that trade and commerce have become the driving forces in our foreign relations. Why this change in values? Instead of presenting the EU as a model for strong regional integration, we have put our trade interests as our main goals, especially since the advent of the economic crisis. In the Mediterranean region - instead of promoting cooperation, exchange of ideas, freedom of movement of persons - our priority has shifted to the circulation of goods and a free trade area. This has in part resulted in political instability, the migration of people and the tragedy of those who die trying to cross by boat.

The EU must abandon the logic of empire, which is sometimes imposed by other actors on the international scene. The prevailing '20th century mood' seems to prevent this, but we should make every possible effort not to fall into playing 'geopolitical games', especially on our own continent. The EU should promote the new logic of inclusive growth and innovative governance methods, based on non-violence and dialogue. This is the only sustainable solution, which could prevent the European continent from repeating the mistakes of the past.

I recently visited the Dalai Lama and his statement on European history touched me profoundly. "Europe has made a big mistake after the collapse of the Soviet Union," he said, "you should have immediately transferred the capital of the European Union to Warsaw and the headquarters of Nato to Moscow". It is not too late to correct this error. I hope that the new leadership of the EU will stop interfering in the political disputes of third countries; will stop providing deliberate support to one side or the other; but instead be an advocate and mediator for peaceful settlements, dialogue and justice. I am convinced that this is the unique added value and strength which Europe can bring to international affairs.

Read the most recent articles written by Henri Malosse - Too much hot air

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