European Council on Foreign Relations

The Swiss illusion

At the end of last week I attended the Riga Conference, an annual Transatlantic foreign-policy conference that goes back to the 2006 NATO summit. For me one of the most extraordinary moments of the conference came during a panel discussion on the diminishing importance of Europe and the future of the West. The panelists included Julianne Smith, deputy national security adviser to US Vice President Joe Biden, and Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz, a former German ambassador to Russia and the UK. During the discussion, a member of the audience asked whether Europe might be becoming a greater Switzerland – rich but neutral and strategically irrelevant. Von Ploetz’s simple response was: “Switzerland is not such a bad country!”

It was a joke, right? Perhaps not. Eberhard Sandschneider is the director of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), the leading German foreign-policy think

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Better off without Britain? The UK and European foreign policy

Since writing an article  (originally for a German audience) recently about the “British question – that is, the question of whether the UK might leave the European Union – I’ve had several interesting conversations with colleagues and other people about what a British withdrawal from the EU might mean for European power in the world. While I would argue that an EU without the UK would be significantly weaker than one with the UK in it, others have argued that the EU might actually be better off in foreign-policy terms if the UK were to leave. The UK, they argue, actually undermines the development of a coherent, effective European foreign policy (which ECFR aims to promote).

A useful way to think about this may in the terms Joe Nye uses in his most recent book The Future of Power. In particular, Nye distinguishes between power resources and power conversion. Many people simply

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London view: push and pull euroscepticism

Some interesting data has been released that reinforces one of the main truths about British euroscepticism. The Office for National Statistics reports that in the three months to May 2012, 51% of British exports went to non-EU countries (a rise of 13.2% on the previous year). Meanwhile exports to EU countries fell by 7.2% (the largest falls were to the troubled Eurozone economies).

The data has been seized upon by eurosceptics as yet more evidence that Britain is wise to seek its fortune away from the European Union. Indeed the inference for some is that this is the first sign of a momentous shift – the Daily Telegraph says that this is the first time non-EU exports have been higher than EU exports since Britain joined the Common Market in the 1970s.

However the truth that this reinforces is that eurosceptic sentiment in Britain is not simply the result of an ideological hatred

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