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A blog by Leon Oudejans

Josep Borrell: “Europe has become a geopolitical power”

Recently, the FT published this article: Borrell calls on China to treat EU as a ‘geopolitical power’ in its own right. That FT article was based on this speech by Josep Borrell, who is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. I’m wondering if it’s wishful thinking.

Henry Kissinger is credited with the question: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” (eg, WSJ-2012). In 2009, the EU claimed it had finally solved that old “Kissinger question” by appointing Catherine Ashton as the first High Representative (eg, Reuters-2009). Borrell is the third HR.

Borrell’s precise words immediately result in some caveats. He suggests that the EU is now a military power, apart from an economic power. In Borrell’s view, that combination makes the EU a geopolitical power. This topic was already on my list and Borrell’s words sparked my immediate interest:

“Because since the war in Ukraine, Europe has become a geopolitical power. We started being a trade power, after [being] an economic power. Now, the war in Ukraine has converted us in a geopolitical power, not just an economic one [..].”

Excerpt from October 2023 speech by Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

The enlargement of the European Union will cause even more friction and will (thus) undermine Borrell’s claim about Europe being a geopolitical power. Moreover, it’s harder and harder viewing USA as a superpower given its political stalemate and continued treat of a government shutdown.

In my view, China is right in not treating the EU as a geopolitical power given its lacking military power. However, not treating the EU as an economic power is an error and/but a logical result from China’s erroneous ideological beliefs. If anything, Europe is the geopolitical subordinate of USA.

In my view, the more Europe wants to be an independent geopolitical power, the less trust between Europe and USA. Currently, Europe and USA are a powerful geopolitical bloc of trusted allies. The emerging bloc between China and Russia is characterised by mistrust in each other’s (true) intentions.

I came to a similar conclusion in my 18 September blog What defines a SuperPower? The SuperPower era is over, the era of geopolitical blocs has taken over. The bloc of Europe-USA is based on trusted cooperation, while the bloc of China-Russia is based on mistrusted competition (eg, resources).

“And I’d be lying if I didn’t take a lot of pride in what I think of as my personal superpower: the ability to accept and embrace things as they are, not as I wish they could be.”

A quote from the novel To Sir, with Love by author Lauren Layne

Wishful Thinking (1983) by China Crisis
band, lyrics, video, Wiki-band, Wiki-song

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.

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