I’m not sure if a former prime minister of Belgium is necessarily the person we want to be listening to when it comes to political integration (in this case, of the European variety). That said, Guy Verhofstadt (via AFOE) is right. While the rest of the world is eagerly trying to take advantage of the financial crisis to reshape the global order, Europe still hasn’t answered the fundamental question of whether it wishes to pursue economic integration designed to increase its prosperity, or political integration designed to increase its power and influence.
The argument in support of the former that consists of trade being a motor driving influence, strikes me as an increasingly utopian vision of globalization. So I find it particularly interesting to see Verhofstadt’s emphasis on regional orbits (rather than spheres) of influence within a globalized world:
Also interesting is that Verhofstadt advances EU security integration as a way to reinforce the EU’s ability to compete with and defend itself against other integrating regions. It’s a subtle nuance to the ability to project its own force and influence that is often used to justify political and security integration. It suggests that the world is catching up, and quickly, that it’s not necessarily the bed of roses foreseen at the end of the Cold War, and that if Europeans want to maintain their position, they’d better act urgently.
I think events of the past three months support Verhofstadt’s argument. The question is whether Europeans will be able to transform the lessons on the ground into institutional advances in Brussels.