Mr. Mead —
How could anyone disagree that “the balance of economic and political power will continue to tilt toward Asia” and away from Europe, if only for demographic reasons? I hope you are mistaken however (and probably you do too) when you predict that “global institutions, ideas and legal practices” will be shifting away from their European foundations.”
For one thing, Europe itself is but one end of the Eurasian continent. And for another, many of the ideas and ideals that we think of as being distinctively “European” — universal human rights for instance — have their origins in Judeo-Christian tradition, which, in turn, has its origins in Southwest Asia. Asia minor was a major source of Greek civilization, and ancient Iraq of Western civilization in general. As far as advances in material technology are concerned, Jack Goody makes a case that Europe has borrowed about as much from China, India, and Islam over the past thousand years as the other way around. I guess what I am trying to say is that what we think of as Western civilization is not quite as Western as we sometimes think it is.
So you are right that major international institutions like the UN, WTO, IMF, and the International Court of Justice need to relocate closer to the world’s new center of gravity. Jerusalem is the obvious choice, if only peace could be established between the Jews and the Arabs. Maybe Europe has a major role to play in making that happen?
Just on the global summits and headquarters, i agree that eventually they will move out of Europe. But as you elude to, i don’t think ministers and bureaucrats in developing countries will want to give up on their semi-annual trips to Europe just yet. Combined with tense negotiations on which countries these headquarters actually move to, i wouldn’t be surprised to see these global institutions mostly remain in Europe for the next thirty years.
I think your point on current international institutions and practices not having widespread legitimacy is crucial, and not widely recognized in the western world. To the extent we have to renegotiate the fundamental forms in which international diplomacy takes place, this will require much defter leadership, of the type that Obama showed at Copenhagen. There will be a lot more international politics, and a lot less international law.
The differences between Europeans and Americans have been amplified in the past decade, but i’d expect the commonalities would be amplified when they realise how different the interests of the rising powers are from our own.
I am curious to know whether the inability of the European Union to follow its own grand principles in cases such as the one in which Greece has imposed upon Macedonia, will play any kind of a role in the internal ‘faith’ in efficiency and functionality that is prescribed to those same principles.
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I agree with much of this analysis, but I think there is a choice Europe must take, in order not to remain an actor on the world stage: to complete its unification process launched after WW II and become a Federation, with a European federal government in charge of implementing a European foreign policy and a European fiscal policy, and with an adequate budget. If this will be the choice, the whole world will benefit of the positive effects of a united Europe, able to take its responsibilities, together with the US and the new emerging parts of the world, to manage the globalization which strongly needs to be governed.