Tuesday

21st Nov 2017

'Europe is increasingly fading away'

The rest of the world will not wait for Europe while it bickers over institutional reform and external policy issues, says Joschka Fischer, ex-German foreign minister, warning that the risk of it becoming a "playground" for upcoming super powers grows by the day.

Tempered by his time in the US where politicians are already looking to China and India as the next powers to be, the former politician-turned-Princeton-professor has a very sober view of the European Union's position in the world as it dusts itself off from recent 50th birthday celebrations.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • "Goodnight Europe?" (Photo: wikipedia)

"Here in the United States, I hear 'who is Europe, where is Europe?' They are looking for China and for India. Europe is increasingly fading away beyond the horizon in the Atlantic," Mr Fischer tells EUobserver in an interview.

"This is a development which is definitely accelerating, so when you talk with the [US] political elite, the weaker Europe is, the less interest you will find."

Relating a recent incident where a former Indian foreign minister came to lecture at Princeton and said that the 21st century will see three superpowers – India, China and the US – Mr Fischer said "I was sitting there and I thought, 'why the hell is nobody in Europe realising what is going on!'"

Under-performing

"Europe must defend its own strategic interests," he said noting that France, the UK and Germany are "under-performing in a globalised world."

Even Britain, which puts such store by its 'special relationship' with the US and continues to have an ambivalent relationship with the EU, will have to come on board if it is to have any influence in Washington.

"If the UK wants to defend its national interest number one [the special relationship], it must be in a position to deliver Europe, but to deliver Europe, it must be more European."

Mr Fischer, who was consistently one of Germany's most popular politicians while foreign minister between 1998 and 2005, said that Europe cannot change "geopolitics" as it is linked to the Middle East, Russia, the Caucasus, Africa – all creating "enormous pressure" from the outside.

This means Europe must look out for its "common interests." These include internal and external security issues as well as economic concerns.

Taking energy security as an example, Mr Fischer says "[Russian president] Putin is playing a game with oil and gas supplies. What's the European reaction? It can't be a national one. It's an illusion."

"If Poland were to have a shortage in its oil and gas supplies, knowing the division of labour in the common market this would hurt immediately and lead to the shut down of plants in the United Kingdom, in Germany, in France, in Benelux, in Scandinavia."

He also cites the recent controversy over the planned US missile defence shields to be placed in Poland and the Czech Republic saying this is something that should be discussed in the European framework and not only in NATO, as it is a European interest.

Europe still lacks \"legitimacy\"

Institutional reform remains the key, according to Mr Fischer, with the bloc currently trying to restart treaty talks after the EU constitution was rejected in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

Reforming the EU's institutions would not only make further enlargement possible as well as give the bloc more flexibility in a globalised world, it would also help get Europe's citizens emotionally on board.

"In the old days, Europe was self-evidently in the shadow of the two great wars. The process of self-destruction, the partition of my country, of Berlin, and the continent, the confrontation of the two superpowers – East and West – on European soil, this all created a certain emotional and rational self-evidence for the European project and for the West."

At the moment, however, Europe is "just in between."

"It is strong enough, especially in economic terms…but it is not transparent enough, it is not legitimate enough that people understand the importance of the European project."

People are not interested in institutional reform, he says, but they well know how to tell a "lousy" result from an "excellent" result.

Reform will create efficiency which in turn creates "legitimacy," he says adding "as long as Europe is a weak factor in security, people will understand that it is not relevant."

Goodnight Europe?

Once known for his visionary and federalist view of the European Union – a speech in 2000 on the creation of a European federation caused political waves throughout the bloc – he now says he does not have a "best case" scenario for Europe but a "realistic" vision.

In this realistic scenario, member states pool their sovereignty in "certain important points" while also "playing a dominant role in the framework of this European Union."

Although he is "not too pessimistic" about the future of Europe – he does not see it breaking into a core Europe of just a few integration-minded member states - Mr Fischer does have a worst case scenario.

In this situation, the bloc would not have carried out internal reform by mid 2009 – the ambitious date set by the current EU presidency, Germany - and would then not have the political strength to agree its next long term budget three years later.

He sums it up so: "The alternative will be that a re-nationalisation [of powers] will weaken Europe and we will be the playing ground for superpowers in the 21st century - this means goodnight Europe."

Amsterdam wins EU medicines agency on coin toss

The staff of the London-based EMA will move to the Dutch city of Amsterdam after Brexit, following a coin toss. Chance also decided the new home of the European Banking Authority: Paris.

Interview

EU asylum chief: The 'future' arrived in 2015

Jose Carreira, the European Asylum Support Office executive director, lays out his vision for an agency on the cusp of becoming much bigger and more powerful.

Barnier: UK must come up with Ireland solution

EU Brexit negotiator tells UK to come up with solutions to the Irish border issue and prepare to include a level playing field in its future trade deal with the EU, if it is to be ratified by member states.

Magazine

Decision day for EU agencies relocation race

EU ministers will decide on the future location of two London-based EU agencies on Monday. In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies.

News in Brief

  1. European Banking Authority will move to Paris
  2. EU court threatens daily fine over Polish forest logging
  3. EU medicines agency will move to Milan or Amsterdam
  4. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Milan in next round of EMA vote
  5. Three countries pull out of medicines agency Brexit race
  6. Schulz calls for new German elections
  7. EU Commission 'confident' on German stability
  8. EU adopts new border check rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  2. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  3. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  4. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  5. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  7. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  8. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  9. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  12. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  2. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Step Up Water Management Cooperation
  4. CECEMachinery Industry Calls for Joint EU Approach to Develop Digital Construction Sector
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMale Business Leaders Gather in Copenhagen to Advance Gender Equality
  6. EnelNo ETS Deal Means It Can Still Be Strengthened
  7. EU2017EEEstonia Anticipates More Digital Cooperation With Sweden
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina Launches Campaign to Protect IPR of Foreign Companies
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Condemns Attacks on Ruta Vanagaite and the Shredding of Her Books in Lithuania
  10. Bio-Based IndustriesDiscover the Future of the Bio-Based Economy. Register Now for the BBI Stakeholder Forum!
  11. European Free AllianceWelcome Catalonia!
  12. UNICEFGrowing Number of Unaccompanied Refugee Children in Greece in Need of Shelter