Speak softly and carry a big stick

Europe in need of hard-liners

, by Dominik Bertram

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Speak softly and carry a big stick

When Frederick Jackson Turner published his “Frontier Thesis” in 1893 he stated that the American Frontier was closed, and it was President Teddy Roosevelt, who about a decade later, took it a step further, and led the United States closer to the global stage.

The EU is in a similar situation at the moment, and together with the opening towards the East, it is also time to look for new frontiers, and to define the new role the EU wants to play in the years to come on the global stage.

Why is it that the largest free trade zone and strongest economic power in the world is being constantly marginalized? No matter where one looks, the EU does not seem to fulfil its role sufficiently, when compared to its power.

This article is going to focus on the situation in Iran, but other scenarios (such as North Korea, China or Iraq, to name only a few) could be used as examples. After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got elected, diplomatic talks between Europe and Iran seemed to lead to nowhere, since nobody really knew what the President was up to.

The situation has become even worse, and with de Villepin becoming the new Prime Minister, and the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer not being re-elected, the EU 3-Talks found themselves in a deadlock especially after Iran’s actions concerning its Uranium program. There is no one within Europe who is either willing, or has the authority, to voice Europe’s concerns.

While Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might just carry on “reforms” on the inside, he might also try to make his mark towards the US by working closer with the EU. That is where Europe’s big chances lie. In many Muslim countries, the US is seen as “Satan” or “evil” whereas Europe still seems to have a somewhat positive image, since it’s not perceived as the bully.

Nonetheless, remarks by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Israel and the West clearly indicate that he is not going to play it easy. Iran is a European problem after all, because ever since the English occupation in the beginning of last century, relations with the West have been troubled. And it is especially because of the past of these countries that Europe needs to make every effort to make things better. It is not about widening the EU’s sphere of influence, but to contribute to establish peace in the region.

Europe needs to unite its foreign policies, and not only become a power within the world, but also send a message out to those who threaten European soil. Europe needs to get rid of its “flower power” attitude towards problems, and actually execute its powers. It doesn’t need to be done by military means, but if it would cut back on trade with those troubled spots, leaders in those countries would acknowledge the power behind Europe.

If one takes Nye’s model of the three-dimensional chessboard (one level being the military sphere, another being the economic sphere, and last but not least the third sphere of Soft Power) the three levels need to be divided up between the West. While the US could be focused upon the military level, it should be Europe who executes its economic power in order to create balance of power.

However, as long as Europe speaks with more than one voice, and even worse, with contradictory voices, it will always be perceived as free-for-all for friends and foes. Friends, because they know they cannot rely on Europe anyhow, because things need to be talked about first, and foes because nothing ever comes up from Europe’s threats. If one only says he is going to punish somebody but never will, it will become ridiculous. Europe can do much more than peacekeeping. It needs to step up to the plate and take its responsibility.

Photo : Theodore Roosevelt (cc) Eric Petersen

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