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Europe at a Historical Crossroads: Grand Strategy or Resignation?


  • Jolyon Howorth


The European Union is gradually emerging as a global actor, a role which the Lisbon Treaty aims to enhance. Yet the global order is changing rapidly, from the uni-polarity of the post-Cold War years to some inchoate form of multi-polarity. In that emerging world, both the traditional and the rising powers face huge responsibilities in defining the contours of a consensual new order which will deal effectively with the inter-connected challenges of the 21st century: regional stability, arms control, environmental protection, energy security, climate change, poverty and inequality and migratory flows. Most of the global actors are centralized nation states with well-defined national strategies. The EU faces additional obstacles in generating a "grand strategy" which effectively articulates the relationship between means and large ends. Yet in many ways, the EU has already trail-blazed the type of world order which appears to be emerging, one in which international law and institutions are primary, in which the limited utility of military power is recognized, in which failing states are more destabilizing than powerful ones and in which human security is as important as state security. If the EU can begin to address these problems with strategic clarity, it can have an important role to play in the striking of the grand bargains necessary to underpin the new world order. If it fails to define a grand strategy, it will be increasingly marginalized from the global stage.

Suggested Citation

  • Jolyon Howorth, 2011. "Europe at a Historical Crossroads: Grand Strategy or Resignation?," Working Papers of the Vienna Institute for European integration research (EIF) 2, Institute for European integration research (EIF).
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:eifxxx:p0020

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    political science; treaty reform; Nation-state; Nation-state; globalization;

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