Friday

21st Jan 2022

Opinion

Contribution to a vision of Europe in the world

In his speech on the State of the Union last year, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Yes, we need a vision for the long term. The commission will set out such a vision for the future in a White Paper in March 2017, in time for the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome”.

This is the long-term vision we would like to share with you.

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The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 brought with it the end of the East-West conflict - capitalism versus communism. A multi-polar world progressively took the shape of North/South “crescents” - mature and ageing Northern countries willing to cooperate with the young and emerging South.

A clear vision is necessary, as Roman statesman Seneca once said: “The wind blows in the right direction only for those who know where to go”. But there must be a credible plan for the crescents or the development of the meridian, which could be formed by relying on the existing heavy trends.

Yet, since 1989, and especially since 2008, the international economy has been quickly regionalising. Some speak of “globalisation”, but the correct term would be “regionalisation”, which falls between deregulated globalisation and the return to national protectionism.

Countries near to each other band together in order to create regional pools, ruled over by regional cooperation agreements. With only twelve examples of regional cooperation existing in 1990, this number has rapidly increased to 380 by 2015.

There is a return to geographical and cultural proximity, with alliances such as the European Union, Nafta, Mercosur, Asean, Cedeau, Cemac, the Tripartite, and so on. This regionalisation, with deep integration, is made possible by several different components. But the main one by far is the economy that best structures these regions.

Indeed, companies with international aspirations consolidate their value chain into a reduced number of close-knit sites, each of them providing real added value without the risk of dispersion.

Consolidating the value chain allows for lowering transport costs, controlling the quality of segments and it also reduces exchange risks. Besides, in these great regions, production is being redeployed.

There is a shift from (short-term) trade to sustainable investments and co-production. Suppliers become partners. Co-determination, co-construction are beginning to emerge. Companies, based on partnerships and networks, ensure technology transfer and share the means for added value in various sites.

An original form of co-production combines northern companies with southern ones and vice-versa. The value chain is deployed in order to favour a complementary relationship between two neighbouring countries with differing levels of development.

Thus, the USA relies on Mexico and Colombia. Germany relies on Central and Eastern European Countries (Ceec) and China relies on South-East Asian Tigers.

The three “crescents” are structured and integrated: the main investor and commercial partner of South America is North America; the main investor and commercial partner of South East Asia is China; and the main investor and commercial partner of Africa is Europe.

However, the comparison between North America and China with Europe and Southern Europe ends there.

The Americans and the Chinese developed with the use of southern financial regional tools, such as the creation of an intercontinental bank, ensuring capital mobility and investment security; prospective tools with the implementation of intercontinental foundations; and demographic tools in regard to mobility and diaspora.

Constant evolution

Europe and Africa have fallen behind in the North-South regionalisation and we are all responsible for it.

Indeed, the Europeans have been prisoners of their constant evolution. After the integration of Spain, Portugal and Greece, the negotiations with Turkey, the integration of Eastern countries and the Balkans, and then Brexit - the EU has been in constant evolution and has neglected the South.

It has resorted to donations, loans and commercial agreements without any strategic vision or long-term policy.

Nevertheless, Arab countries are also responsible for their behaviour following the 1973 oil crisis. Let us recall the warlike declarations of Algerian leader Houari Boumediene at the UN in 1974: “One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory.”

A deal was then possible between Europe and oil-producing Arab countries: we provide you with petrol and gas, while in exchange you promise to industrialise and co-develop the Southern shore of the Mediterranean.

Finally, Sub-Saharan Africans are also responsible for the current mediocre relationship between the North and the South. They preferred short-term solutions and a fascination for the conspiracy theories for some partners and submission to others.

How can we catch up with the last fifty years? How can we make this North-South vision of Europe more popular in the world? How can we prepare and manage the integration of Europe, Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries, but also Africa - between the former rulers and the dominated.

Geography and the economy bring them closer, but history pulls them apart. This is why a New Deal is necessary, otherwise we are all heading for disaster.

New Deal

This new deal requires:

A change in perception, the old patterns dominant/dominated or centre/periphery are no longer accepted. Cultural diversity and interbreeding are gaining ground. “Interbreeding is the future of humanity”, Leopold Senghor once said.

A change in method: taking into account Africans’ needs rather than Europeans’ assumptions. Ensuring co-production and co-development, instead of aiming to increase our market shares in Africa. Market shares will become consequences rather than objectives.

A change in behaviour: For Europe, “shifting from conquest to sharing”. For Africa, “shifting from submission to empowerment”.

The European Commission must propose this New Deal for a new vision of our common North-South future to southern and eastern Mediterranean countries and African countries.

A major debate must be held, with the political sphere, but also with the economic sphere and the civil society of this “crescent”. Europe can no longer impose its vision of the future, it must share it.

The player that wins, along with its South - be it America, China or Europe - will be the one that is capable of establishing win-win relationships. Europe has a chance to fairly cooperate with its South because, in addition to the economy, the two have common values.

However, the European Union remains weakened. As is often the case, Europeans will only react out of fear: fear of mass migration from the South, fear of terrorism, fear of the daunting effects of climate change in the Mediterranean and in Africa, fear of losing their identity.

The Mediterranean is so small that the future of Europe and Africa cannot be anything but related. The risk of seeing the South swarm into the North is real.

It is a matter of urgency to work on energy, co-development and to organise a major European-African conference to lay the foundations of a New Deal. Peace has a price. Peace has a cost: that of integration and of a shared vision.

Jean-Louis Guigou is president of the Mediterranean World Economic Foresight Institute (Ipemed). Miguel Angel Moratinos, a former Spanish foreign minister, is chair of Ipemed's political sponsorship committee.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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