The European Union is unable to impose its will on anything or anyone. In fact, today’s European empire is unable to project its power even a few hundred kilometers beyond its borders, as seen in the Balkans.
The European Union prides itself on being the superpower of “soft power”. It’s a policy that does not force anyone to do anything, instead, the EU tries to exert its influence simply by setting an example.
The assumption is that people in the world want clothes like Europeans, laws like Europeans and governments like Europeans. And so European influence will prevail in the world, and governments of different countries will begin to think more like Europeans or respond to public pressure to be more like Europeans.
They will discard their old, bad habits and adopt new ones, those appropriate for the 21st century. No one will force anyone to do anything, it will just happen, ushering in a new age of Europe.
However, this soft power, which is difficult to define and measure, is utilized to further quite controversial causes.
For example, the “green new deal” proposed by the new European Commission, embraces rapid decarbonization which will lead to higher energy costs and the disappearance or reduction in the competitiveness of certain industrial sectors.
Europe will have to get the rest of the world to implement the same exact policies. Otherwise, from an economic point of view, the continent’s industry will be destroyed.
So how does Europe intend to make others adopt the same principles? It counts on the power of setting the example. European leaders, however, have very distorted beliefs about Europe. For example, the Western progressive countries have not noticed that the popularity of Greta Thunberg is limited to them and certain institutions, such as the United Nations.
In many countries in the developing world, the fierce rhetoric of the Swedish activist is perceived as arrogant, privileged and ignorant, as many young people from these countries must work from a very young age. In their eyes, Thunberg’s famous claim “You have stolen my childhood” is completely inappropriate when many of these people truly had no childhoods due to economic hardship.
The reality of today’s Europe differs from the optimistic perception of some Western countries’ leaders. While the sun shone brightly over the European empires of the recent past, currently, Europe is perceived as weak even in regards to its neighbors.
The prime example is the Western Balkans. At the end of October, French President Macron vetoed the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, although these countries met the criteria of the European Commission. The inability to keep promises is not one of the characteristics of a superpower and other countries will take notice.
But there is another issue. The Balkan countries are aware of the ambivalence of the EU. Europe is not the only source of money, technology or security in the world. China has more money and does not require meeting as many conditions as the EU does.
Paradoxically, more than anyone else, Macron embodies the typical ambiguity of people with global ambitions, who have yet to wake up from dreaming about a small and cohesive Europe. In the past, the real empires did not have issues with diversity as they were able to adopt different views. Instead, the influence of the current European empire will likely end in the liberal suburbs of European capitals.