EU is still 'an economic giant and a political dwarf'
by our secret columnist in Brussels
Despite shifting geopolitics and the economic crisis – change for the European Union is a long way off. Sadly, institutional introspection will be the priority for a long time to come - rather than preoccupation with the outside world - writes ouráresident satiristáSchadenfreude
Geopolitically speaking, the European Union is a mixed bag. It does not have much of a foreign policy and the foreign ministers of the member states like it that way. They prefer bilateralism as does most of the outside world. The one cooperative venture was the negotiations with Iran to limit its nuclear programme. They were led by the EU but the Americans are pulling out - preferring to go it alone and show the Israelis that they can get tough.
The EU has many friends in the developing world. It gives large volumes of aid to what were former colonies or associates in North Africa - Mashraq and Maghgreb - and in central and southern Africa as well as the Pacific and Caribbean. It deals gently with charges of corruption and misgovernment.
In the rest of the world EU trade policy, especially the protection of agriculture is a source of conflict. With the United States, it stood accused of failing to bring forward good enough offers in the Doha trade round - which is now on life support. Bilaterally, it has spats with Japan on anti-dumping and with the US on competition policy; even although the inspiration was the Clayton-Sherman Acts in America.
In the 'near abroad', several of the border lands the old Soviet empire and the more distant 'stans' would like a closer relationship with the EU; some in a distant future, even membership. The Russian Federation does not have much business with the EU, although a free trade area agreement is on the cards.
Australia and New Zealand do not enjoy concessions and continuously seek better market openings for their farm produce. In Central and South America, the leading issue is again trade - with the EU interested in a relationship with MERCOSUR, the collective of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. It is an old saying but the EU is still an economic giant - although now with lost stature - and a political dwarf. It remains an economic union, with a small political appendage. Change is a long way off, with introspection the priority for a long time to come - rather than preoccupation with the outside world.