We and the Others



I’m Christoforos, an expat Greek in his late twenties who tries to make the most out of his nomadic life. With background in media and communications, I experience the daily struggle to find accurate information and stay open to new theories who might convince me to re-consider.

The recent development in the world has brought the question to the forefront :What role can and should the European Union play in the rapidly changing world order of the 21st century?

Despite the warm declarations by top officials that the EU should strive to shape the world around it rather than be shaped by it, the Union could not aspire to play a greater and more influential role on the international stage without also acting urgently to put its own house in order.

Political analysts can easily identify a number of internal challenges that have to be met. If the EU cannot convince its own citizens that it has the answers to the urgent problems they face, particularly in the wake of the crisis, then how can it hope to convince its international partners that it can make a significant contribution to addressing wider challenges?

If the Union cannot regain the trust and support of its citizens lost during the crisis, put Europe back on the path to robust economic growth and job creation, bridge the divisions that have opened up between and within Member States over the causes of (and solutions to) the crisis, and ensure everything necessary is done to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, then the public simply will not understand the need for greater engagement with the rest of the world — or support the steps required to achieve it.

Needless to say that the EU could not afford to put efforts to match its economic and political weight with genuine clout on the international stage on the backburner while first addressing these internal challenges. Other countries are not standing by idly waiting for the Union to sort itself out; the world is changing at breakneck speed and the EU must respond to those changes. It cannot disengage now and then pick up where it left off later once it has addressed internal issues: systems and structures need to be in place to respond
to these changes, and those systems need to be nurtured and developed.

For these reasons, all these challenges — internal and external — must be addressed simultaneously.

The EU has had a tendency in recent years to ‘beat itself up” and focus on its shortcomings, particularly in responding to the crisis. But these should not be exaggerated. For it is the most progressive project in history with a host of remarkable achievements to its name that have made it an inspiring model of peace, prosperity and regional cooperation, as recognised by the decision to award it the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

Assessing its reputation and standing in the world it is also to agree that the crisis has had a damaging impact, has eroded the Union’s soft power (which derives principally from its power of attraction) and has undermined its self-confidence.

What can we do for? Might the solution lie in the upcoming Euro elections?

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