Europe and the United States facing the Challenges of the New Century
Member of the Turkish Parliament and Representative of the Turkish Parliament at the European Convention
There have been moments of transatlantic tension before. But recent events reflect a deeper and more far-reaching challenge than was experienced before. The fundamental changes in the “international system” that the world has experienced since the fall of the Berlin wall and the accelerating pace of globalization with it’s threats and opportunities, require new thinking and decisive actions.
What are the basic “stylized facts” that define the new reality?
- Europe is no longer divided by an iron curtain and is no longer threatened from the east. It no longer needs American protection the way it did until the 1990’s.
- Nonetheless the world remains a very dangerous place as driven home to all of us by the terrible tragedy of September 11. Globalization increases the potentially catastrophic dangers from terror, organized crime, contagious disease and environmental degradation. The world economy also remains fragile with a widening of the gap between the richest and the poorest, and between expectations and actual achievements, even in the advanced countries. Global interdependence has increased the potential benefits from coordination and from the joint management of global public goods and bads.
- The United States has and, for decades, will continue to have overwhelming military superiority compared to any potential competitor. Europe’s GDP will be larger than that of the United States, but the United States is “united” while Europe is debating the degree of cohesion it wants to develop in foreign and security policy. The United States will be in a position to project power worldwide and to bloc any development that it does not approve of in the domain of international security or economic architecture.
- Despite this strength, however, the world has become far too complex for the United States to be able to “manage” globalization successfully on its own. To be effective, US leadership has to be able to count on the active cooperation of other major players, both because the United States economic resources alone cannot suffice and because, in to-day’s world, thankfully, there is need for a sense of moral and democratic legitimacy. Television, the internet and the progress of democratic and value based politics constrain the use of power.
If these are the “stylized facts”, some key reforms are needed in the international institutional architecture.
Greater European cohesion in terms of coordinated economic, foreign and security policies would contribute to greater overall stability in the international system, provided the aim of such cohesion is to improve the world and guard against dangers, rather than just counter the United States. The European Union would take major steps forward by adopting some of the key proposals backed by a large majority of the members of the European Convention such as election of the Commission’s President by the European Parliament, and establishing the office of a European Foreign Minister who is also a member of the European Commission. In my view there should also be a more direct form of European taxation to finance the budget of the Union.
Despite weaknesses and problems, the United Nations system, including the specialized agencies and the Bretton-Woods institutions, are the only source of real legitimacy in the international sphere. But the system needs reform to reflect the realities of 2003 rather than those of the 1940’s. The UN Security Council must be restructured if the UN is to remain relevant. The ideal would be for most decisions to be taken by a supermajority of Security Council votes, with votes weighted by population, GDP, resources contributed to the UN system and military capability. The weighting would result in the United States and the European Union, as Union having veto power. The vote of the Union should be determined by a qualified majority of the European Council. Russia and China would retain their permanent seats but would lose their individual veto power, just as France and the UK would, to allow the system to function. To make this happen, Europe and the United States together should be ready to press very hard for reform, and those unwilling to cooperate would face the possibility of being excluded altogether. The fact is that if Europe wants to make the UN more capable of handling crisis, the UN must be reformed in the general direction indicated above, with the cooperation of the Unites States.
European common defense policy should be strengthened, but NATO should remain the basic joint defense framework for the US and the EU. NATO’s mandate can change and expand reflecting the fundamental change in the nature of the threat faced by the countries in Europe and North America. It should include cooperation with all other nations who want to contribute to a more peaceful and safer world, and who want to help enforce decisions of the UN Security Council when needed. NATO taking over the command of the international forces in Afghanistan has been an appropriate step in the required direction.
A key task for both the UN and NATO will be to bring lasting peace and development to the Eastern Mediterranean region and the Balkans, which remain a source of instability and vulnerability for the world as a whole and Europe in particular. The misunderstanding and tension that exists between large parts of the Moslem world and the American and European “West” is a threat to all. A democratic, strong and prosperous Turkey, fully anchored and integrated into Europe, would make a crucial contribution to overcoming the potential cultural divide and securing peace in the region.
Europe should promote the creation of an Economic and Social Security Council within the United Nations system to oversee the fight against poverty, to help coordinate economic and foreign aid policies, to fight and prevent the spread of disease and to preserve the environment. The Bretton-Woods institutions and the UN’s specialized agencies should remain the operational branch of the international economic system, but they should benefit from the legitimizing umbrella of a strengthened and restructured United Nations, with the US and Europe in full partnership, driving the reforms forward. The Bretton-Woods institutions are valuable and quite effective instruments for the world community. But for the programs they support to have more domestic support and more lasting impact, they must be perceived as being imbedded in a more “legitimate” worldwide structure which has greater support from public opinion.
Europe and the United States should turn their joint attention and energies to such difficult but necessary reforms rather than undermine each other within the old institutional architecture which no longer reflects current realities, and within which it is impossible to create the sense of purpose and legitimacy that the world needs so much. The construction of Europe has already been, despite temporary setbacks, a wonderful example of how to overcome a history of conflict and build a future of cooperation and understanding. It is time for Europe to show that it can lead the whole world with ideas and that it has the courage to set examples. France and Germany gave up their currencies for the sake of a stronger and more prosperous Europe. France and the UK should be willing to give up their Security Council veto for the sake of a stronger and better United Nations. In the end, peace and prosperity can only be secure if the world functions as a system based on ethical values, participation and democratic legitimacy. Europe can lead if it lives by these values and supports them globally. At this time of crisis but also promise, it should invite the United States into a new partnership appropriate to the 21st century.