Guest commentary – Europe needs to be more offensive

Much is going well for Europe. US President Joe Biden emphasizes the partnership with the EU. China is losing its radiance as selfishness, the struggle for resources and territories, and dependency through seemingly cheap loans are recognized by poorer countries. Right-wing populism is losing momentum. Nevertheless: The continuation of the European road to success also needs a concept and an offensive strategy.

Karl Aiginger is director of the lateral thinker platform Vienna Europe (www.querdenkereuropa.at) and teaches at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. He is the author of European projects, a member of the ForumFuture team and the Schumpeter Society. – © Eric Kruegl

The US is becoming more predictable. But Biden sticks to oil and gasoline cars, and arms purchases reach a new maximum. “Buy in USA” is the motto for all authorities. Biden needs a strong Europe to help against China, but when it comes to competition, the US prefers powerless individual states. China is expanding its territory, on the border with India, in Hong Kong, later Taiwan, off the coast, in the Arctic. A weak Russia is not loved, but if it paves the way to becoming the first “socialist world power”, it will be courted. New coal-fired power plants are being built, preliminary products for e-mobility are monopolized, as a lever on the way to number one.

In the face of these realities, Europe must make itself strong in order to be a strategic partner in the new world order. There are positive signs: the Green Deal, the model of an inclusive Europe, the upcoming expansion to include the Western Balkans. In the Covid crisis, Europe has fewer deaths than the USA in absolute terms and in relation to the population – but the rate of vaccination is disappointing. The EU budget is a setback, subsidies for agricultural surpluses and fossil energy are far too high, and spending on research and digitization is too low. The recovery fund is a better approach. Funds are at least partially acquired jointly and can only be used for new projects, climate and digitization are basic conditions. Europe needs a new social policy in order to get the persistent and now increasing inequality under control. Minimum wages must be raised in every country, expenses must be reversed towards training that enables them to change. The depopulation of peripheral areas must be stopped.

The leading role in climate policy – without combustion engines, new coal, nuclear and gas power plants – must become more credible. It is important to develop a partnership with Africa that reflects back on southern Europe. Europe needs its own media. National newspapers earn money when they report what “Brussels” is doing wrong. International media have so far been controlled from Anglo-Saxon headquarters, reporting in dollars instead of euros, and referring to the USA. There is no awareness of Europe in this way. Only the Erasmus generation thinks fully European. Geographically, Austria is moving more and more into the center, due to eastward expansion, western Balkans and eastern partnerships. In Vienna, which has been more central than Brussels since Brexit, a European newspaper could sit next to a second one that rotates between Northern, Western and Eastern Europe.

Europe can become the quality leader in the new world order. This requires renewed efforts, but brings great opportunities. Europe needs ambitious politics, so that the USA and China have to court it as partners.

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