The idea of Europe as a political superpower [left] was an illusion, argues historian Walter Laqueur. But a disunited Europe would be even more starkly exposed to the harsh winds of today’s world, in which military power still counts, he writes for Politico:
If the EU breaks down, it will in all likelihood be a partial and not a total process. It will be followed by a learning process, the length of which will probably vary from country to country. It will depend on the economic damage suffered and on the political pressure to which the various countries feel exposed.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the magnetic promise of integration helped stabilize democracy in Greece, Spain, and Portugal, notes former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt. In the 1990s, when ten countries and 100 million citizens broke from the Soviet empire and joined the West, the promise of EU accession eased, encouraged, and to some extent guided the transition, he writes for Project Syndicate:
The soft power of an integrated Europe inspired democratic reform for decades in Turkey; and only two years ago, the promise of Europe inspired democratic change in Ukraine. Although both cases reveal the limits to the EU’s soft power, it remains the key to overcoming the legacies of strife in the Balkans. Foreign policy is a particularly challenging area for Europeans to develop a common approach, notes Matteo Garavoglia, a Visiting Fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings’ Center on the United States and Europe.
The European External Action Service (EEAS) continuously struggles to forge a consensus between national capitals. Yet, even in this realm, there are reasons for hope, he writes:
The Election Observation Missions (EOMs) deployed over the last 15 years by the European Union to witness electoral processes worldwide offering some inspiring lessons.
EOMs are an important element of soft power projection in EU foreign policy. As a normative actor, Europe is keen to spread its core values through the support of democracy worldwide. Election observation missions provide the EU with an opportunity to gain a sophisticated understanding of current democratic standards in countries around the globe. Through these insights, the EU can better adjust its policymaking in the field of democracy support.
Predictions of EU bust are as hubristic as those of its boom, adds Laqueur:
A future European Union is also more likely to be based on economic interests than common traditions, ideas and emotions. If a new European Union comes into being it will above all have to investigate what went wrong with the present attempt, what mistakes were committed, why it did not stick. These lessons will take time to learn, but they are an obvious precondition for greater success in the future.