Europe’s place in tomorrow’s world

Europe's place in tomorrow's world

How can European Union leaders boost the long-term security and prosperity of EU members while advancing a European vision for the future in an era of intensifying rivalry between the US and China? That's a subject of hot debate inside the EU these days.

Should Europe…

  • Double down on strengthening traditional transatlantic relations in hopes of containing China's growing power to set new trade and technology rules, and to buttress support for "Western values" of human rights and individual liberty?
  • Engage both newly dysfunctional Washington and ever-more-assertive Beijing?
  • Strengthen Europe's strategic independence from the US and China?

For the moment, the answer looks to be "all of the above."

The EU is clearly hoping that President Biden will boost US-EU relations. As part of his "America First" approach to foreign policy, and warning that US allies take American taxpayers for suckers, former president Donald Trump proved willing to question the value of NATO and to slap tariffs on European steel and aluminum.

It's no surprise then that after Biden's November victory, the European Commission quickly issued a report titled "A new EU-US agenda for global change," which called for greater transatlantic cooperation on trade, digital regulation and data privacy, strengthening NATO, screening foreign (particularly Chinese) investment, and limiting China's ability to set new technology standards.

And yet… As I wrote last Friday, European allies are all too aware that Trump and his defiantly unilateralist approach to traditional US allies remain popular with enough Americans that Europe could face a less friendly face in Washington again very soon. There is also recognition in Europe that China remains strong and resilient — and will continue to offer important commercial opportunities for European companies.

That's why the EU was also quick to sign a major investment deal with China, once Biden's victory persuaded China to offer important last-minute concessions. Beijing wants to avoid a united US-EU break on the expansion of its global influence on trade and tech. While the Biden team hoped Europe would hold off on the agreement, EU officials saw it differently and were willing to set aside deep concerns about China's recent push to limit democracy in Hong Kong and its use of Uighur Muslim slave labor in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. Germany's Angela Merkel has publicly rejected calls to contain China in favor of pragmatic engagement.

But change is coming to Europe. Merkel will soon exit the stage, and France's Emmanuel Macron will become, at least temporarily, Europe's most prominent voice. And Macron, like many French presidents extending back to Charles de Gaulle, is a forceful champion of European strategic independence. His vision of European "collective security" would give the EU a robust defense capability outside NATO, easing dependence on the US for European security. Macron's recent high-profile debate on the subject with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer underlines his ambition. There are also those who want to strengthen the euro for greater use as an international reserve currency to relieve deep dependence on the dollar.

For now, realism will prevail. Despite decades of differences on important question, the EU has no more powerful military and trade ally than the United States. NATO boosts Europe's security at low cost to European taxpayers. Yet, the commercial opportunities offered by China and Beijing's growing global influence will only expand. Macron will soon be far too distracted by next year's French elections to change skeptical minds on strategic autonomy.

For now, debates within the EU will continue the all-of-the-above approach, but Europe's dilemma isn't going away.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

More Show less

For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

More Show less

As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

More Show less

For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit to watch on the day of the event.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises


UN Chief: Still time to avert climate “abyss”

GZERO World Clips


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal