by Ralph Schoellhammer
Thursday, 10
November 2022
Analysis
10:05

European autonomy remains a distant dream

The continent is divided and more reliant than ever on outside powers
by Ralph Schoellhammer
Where are your mates? Credit: Getty

There are growing rifts within the European Union, beginning with Franco-German disagreements about energy and a common policy towards China — a disagreement now so serious that a meeting between President Macron and Chancellor Scholz was almost cancelled. Poland, the most powerful Eastern European member of the Union, is in an open dispute with Brussels since the European Commission refuses to approve financial transfers to Warsaw for a supposed lack of democratic standards. This is a situation approaching the ongoing standoff between the Commission and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. Simultaneously, Poland is demanding €1.3bn from Berlin as reparations for the Second World War.

Even in the conflict with Russia, unity is more a slogan than a reality. The Netherlands, for example, has secretly granted almost 100 exemptions from EU-imposed sanctions for Dutch companies that do business with Russian counterparts. Germany cannot provide ammunitions for weapons systems it delivered to Ukraine, as they are partly coming from Switzerland (which is not an EU member state), and Bern refuses to allow the re-export of Swiss made ammunitions due to concerns regarding its neutrality.

None of this bodes well for European ambitions of becoming a strategically autonomous geopolitical actor, and the situation is getting worse. In light of the growing tensions between the US and China, the Biden Administration has decided to make the United States less dependent on global supply chains and reshore strategically important industries.

These industries include electric vehicles and the production of equipment for renewables, areas in which Europe was hoping to build up a new export industry. Despite the aforementioned disagreements, opposing the new direction of American industrial policy has had some unifying effect on France and Germany, with both countries warning of a potential trade war between the US and the EU.

This is, however, highly unlikely. At the moment, the Europeans find themselves at the mercy of the US to alleviate their energy shortages. In addition to mild temperatures in October and early November, it has been US liquefied natural gas (LNG) that kept the EU from freezing. Even so, energy prices still remain almost six times higher than in the US, and industries on the old continent are either pausing production or ceasing operations entirely.

The dreams of Brussels and Berlin to become the world’s leading exporters of electric vehicles is not feasible without semiconductors, minerals, and abundant energy — all things that Europe lacks as a consequence of its own policy mistakes. Reforms in their education systems, fewer bans on mining and drilling, and a belated embrace of nuclear energy could have created all the necessary conditions to become a true competitor in the fields of the future. Unfortunately, Europeans missed every opportunity to challenge Asia and the United States in the hi-tech arena.

What these developments reveal is how far the European economy has been depending on Washington’s global hegemony and willingness to maintain an international order based on free trade. As long as Washington provided a de facto security guarantee for its European allies, geopolitics became a non-term for governments from Portugal to Germany.

Dependency on Russian energy or Chinese markets was seen as unproblematic, because nobody in Europe seriously believed that a world order on economic integration would ever be challenged. Now this past naivety demands a price, and it does not look as if Europe is in the best position to meet it.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
8 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Mcalester
John Mcalester
24 days ago

“Bern refuses to allow the re-export of Swiss made ammunitions due to concerns regarding its neutrality.”

Bit pointless being an arms maufacturer if you have concerns about your neutrality.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
23 days ago
Reply to  John Mcalester

Indeed, surely the solution would have been to offer Putin an equal number of shells – too bad if they didn’t have the right sort of guns to fire them from.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
24 days ago

Not much new here, I think that’s why we chose to leave the EU isn’t it.
At least going forward the failures will be our own and we can vote for a different bunch of British idiots try to put it right.

M. M.
M. M.
21 days ago

Ralph Schoellhammer wrote, “Now this past naivety demands a price, and it does not look as if Europe is in the best position to meet it.”

There is a 3rd aspect to this naivety: dependence on the American security architecture.

By 2040, the United States will cease being a Western nation, due to open borders. By 2040, most Americans will reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture will dominate. In California, 40% of the residents are currently Hispanic. Most residents of the state already reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture dominates.

The European states will remain Western nations after the United States ceases to be one. Expecting “free” military defense by depending on a non-Western power would be a mistake by the Europeans.

For example, the Hispanics in Latin America are typically disinterested in the suffering of the Ukrainians at the hands of the Russian soldiers, and a Hispanic-dominated United States will exhibit the same attitude toward the rest of Europe after 2040. An invasion of, say, Lithuania by the Russian military in 2045 would be met by a muted response from Washington, reflecting the morality of its non-Western culture.

The Europeans must immediately begin distancing themselves economically and militarily from the United States, including exiting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Get more info about this issue.

M. M.
M. M.
23 days ago

Last edited 21 days ago by Matthew M.
Tom Watson
Tom Watson
23 days ago
Reply to  M. M.

He’s sadly right though. Our past naivety does demand a price, and it’s the Americans who are charging it.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
23 days ago
Reply to  M. M.

Why should we leave NATO? If the USA don’t want to help us in the future THEY should leave NATO and let us get on with it. NATO has all the European military organisation that we need to counter any other group’s ambitions. Even if (when?) the EU falls apart there is no reason to disband NATO – even the French and Germans understand the difference between commercial and military co-operational needs (I hope).

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
21 days ago
Reply to  M. M.

Oh, no, not you again! If I’ve read this comment once, I’ve read it two dozen times (with slightly different preambles each time). Are you a bot?