European Council on Foreign Relations

The European Project’s three major challenges

Is the European project fit to face the 21st century world? The renowned sociologist Anthony Giddens thinks that on balance it is, provided that it also devotes energy and attention to some of the great existential questions that it faces in a rapidly changing and highly competitive world. Professor Giddens was the speaker at a recent ECFR Black Coffee Morning, and set out what he saw as three vital issues that the EU must come to terms with if it is to retain its influence and place in the world today.

The first issue is finding a new source of jobs in a swiftly evolving economic system. Professor Giddens believes this will require a greater understanding of new technologies and a more forward thinking appreciation of education than Europe currently has.

Second on his list is an evaluation of the place of what is commonly called the European Social Model, although he was also

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Africa: An opportunity for Europe?

An unsatisfactory pattern is emerging in Europe’s engagement with crises in Africa. France, acting sometimes in conjunction with other countries, takes the lead in deciding where, how, and when to intervene militarily to stop a bad situation from getting worse. Other European member states starting with Germany sit grumbling on the fences, at worst engaging in off-the-record diplomatic sniping against the French effort, at best meeting them with a Gallic shrug, and nearly always turning a deaf ear to initial French pleas for help. Eventually, some form of assistance is granted, grudgingly and after much dissatisfaction on both sides of the Rhine. 

Nothing new here, one might argue. France, as ever, plays the policeman in that same bloodied playground where in the heyday of Western dominance it strutted about as one of the two leading colonial powers. Other capitals continue to see

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CAR: Bangui airport needs the EU

The European Union, so often accused of lacking strategic purpose, seems to have discovered a new security role: keeping African airports safe.  In 2012, it launched EUAVSEC South Sudan, a small civilian operation tasked with improving airport security procedures in the young country’s capital, Juba.  While South Sudan stumbled through political crises and recurrent violence, EUAVSEC was busy training airport staff, even finding “170 high visibility vests” for security personnel. This wasn’t quite as silly as it sounds: the risks of terrorists infiltrating Juba’s poorly-run airport were significant enough to make many airlines refuse to fly there.  But the whole exercise has been somewhat overshadowed by South Sudan’s descent into murderous chaos over the last month, which may have claimed over 10,000 lives so far.

The EU’s decision to focus on such a small part of South Sudan’s

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The NSA and the transatlantic relationship

With the most recent Edward Snowden revelation that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) collects close to 500 billion mobile phone records daily, many continental Europeans are asking themselves how it is that the American public, and the British for that matter, who happen to be citizens of some of the world’s first liberal democracies, do not seem very concerned? Is it because they, unlike continental Europeans, have never experienced dictatorship, authoritarianism, or wholesale persecution by the state?

Be that as it may, there is hope that this could change. On International Human Rights Day, 562 authors, including five Nobel Prize laureates, from over 80 countries, supported by six major internet companies, launched an appeal, “A Stand for Democracy in the Digital Age”, in defence of civil liberties against surveillance by corporations and governments. This was

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Despite the Brits, a modest defence summit success

The headlines around last Thursday's European defence summit were dominated by the surreal shadow-play in which the UK prime minister indulges with British Europhobes on such occasions. They pretend to detect new European plots (to undermine NATO; to create a European army; to arm the EU Commission - nothing is too fantastical); he pretends to scotch them.

Never mind that the NATO Secretary General was moved to emphasise that 'I don't see any contradiction between strengthened defence in Europe and a stronger NATO', and that 'we are not talking about the EU possessing capabilities'.  Never mind either that the consequences of Britain's distaste for European cooperation were being pointed up at much the same time, as the UK's top general warned of the 'hollowing out' of its cash-strapped forces. The Europhobes were happy to have propagated a new EU scare, the prime minister to have

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