The EU’s Dwindling Soft Power

I explained in detail last week why I think the “Turkey turning East” meme is overblown in a dipomatic context. On the other hand, the fact that Turkish trade is turning East strikes me as a far more significant development, for Turkey, but also, if not more so, for the EU. In the absence of a credible hard power global role, the EU’s real influence comes in the form of its market’s ability to attract partners and thereby spread norms. With European growth projections looking bleak for the next few years, this trend is likely to become generalized, meaning that EU soft power is going to take an even greater hit than it has in the past year. Of course, the EU’s market is not going to sudeenly dry up. But things will get worse before they get better, and sometimes the networks developed during these shifts take on a momentum of their own.

Be that as it may, this IHT interview with European Commission President Manuel Barroso is pretty close to my own view of Europe’s current situation, as well as its handling so far of the sovereign debt crisis. I don’t pretend to know enough to pronounce on the advisability of the austerity wave sweeping the continent. And I know that it is pretty much universally reviled by Stateside observers. But it seems worth pointing out that there are a lot of smart economists and bankers on this side of the pond as well, and they see things very differently. I’d only suggest that this might not make them wrong, so much as reveal that they are working under a radically different set of demographic, economic and political circumstances.

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