The EU is of course the most difficult of the rising powers to grasp. Not a state – but apparently not a super state either - not withstanding Andy Moravcsik’s invocation that:
Today there are two global superpowers. One is the United States; the other is Europe. Europe is the only other region in the world today, besides the United States, to exert global influence across the full spectrum from “hard” to “soft” power. Europe is the only other region, besides the United States, that projects intercontinental military power. European countries possess, singly and collectively, a range of effective civilian instruments for projecting international influence unmatched by any country, even the United States. … Over the next three or four generations trends in the foundations of European power – high per capita income, sophisticated economic production, favorable social and cultural trends, and patterns of global consensus – are similarly likely to be favorable. If we view power in this multidimensional way, Europe is clearly the “second superpower” in a bipolar world.(Andrew Moravcsik, “Europe: Rising Superpower in a Bipolar World”, pp. 151-174 in Alan S. Alexandroff and Andrew F. Cooper, eds., Rising States; Rising Institutions: Challenges for Global Governance, (Brookings Institution Press, 2010)
The problem is over political and economic structure. What we have here is a weak confederal structure – not as weak as the very weak international relations system – but weak nevertheless. The result in this crisis of European debt is a hesitant half-hearted attack on Greece’s ‘bankruptcy’ followed by a more panicked collective response that – without the needed tools – namely fiscal discipline and a collective ability to restrain government spending – relies on Europe “assuming responsibility for the creditworthiness of Greece, Portugal and other debt delinquents.” (Landon Thomas, Jr. and Jack Ewing, “A Trillion for Europe, With Doubts Attached”, NYT, (Tuesday, May 11, 2010)
So here the decentralized network subscribed to by Andy is not better than a centralized network. The EU lacks the institutions and powers necessary to address the major economic debt crisis that afflicts Europe and threatens the euro not to mention solvency of a number of European states. Here Europe potentially is raising a huge sum of money that required the creation of a “special purpose vehicle” to manage Eurobonds created by the eurozone countries – because the lead creditors, Germany in particular, were unwilling – for fear of the loss of control - to employ the European Commission to do so. A strategy of building up debt – with only a promise – of tight fiscal efforts – when most countries are likely to miss the budget deficit targets that all agreed on – leaves one to shake one’s head.
Some of my dear friends – namely Richard Rosecrance – have been beating the drum for agglomeration to meet the challenge of global untamed markets (see, Richard Rosecrance, “Bigger is Better” Foreign Affairs, (May/June, 2010). Well it seems to me that all agglomerations are not alike. Examining the details of agglomeration is critical. And, I’d say Europe floundering in an economic crisis with a decentralized weak confederal structure jealous of protecting national sovereignty in the areas of spending and taxation is not – given the single currency for the 16 – a particularly effective actor – certainly not a superpower.