23 September 2020

EU between Conflicts and COVID: Superpower or Wannabe?

EU between Conflicts and COVID: Superpower or Wannabe?
© Kristina D.C. Hoeppner, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Indeed, the European Union has the largest market in the world, the second-highest defense spending as well as 55,000 diplomats around the world advocating for European interests. However, these strengths are constrained not only by a lack of common European approaches but also by a changing global environment. If the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen is to succeed in reshaping the EU into a “geopolitical” force to be reckoned with, it becomes clear that the EU needs to pass several tests at once.

The scenario workshop that the Bureau für Zeitgeschehen (BfZ) conducted for the Aspen Institute in September 2020 is devoted to these hurdles: A diverse group of experts examined not only the influence of geopolitical shifts on the strategic positioning of the EU, but also the effects of COVID-19, a stagnating global economy and not least of escalating conflicts on European terrain, such as the growing tensions between NATO partners Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea off Cyprus. The highly plausible scenarios developed by the participants in the course of three workshop units cover the topics of European security, trade and Green Recovery, one of the EC’s prestige topics. In four working steps, the experts identified key factors of change and the respective political measures required to achieve the most desirable scenarios. In a final working process, the working groups developed a monitoring system to track’n’trace European policies based on impact-oriented indicators.

The scenarios open up paths towards an EU that fulfils the role of a “green superpower”, towards a “wannabe” with little credibility in every respect as well as towards the consequences if member states fail to follow common European approaches. The scenarios shall be presented by the Aspen Institute during the German EU Presidency in Berlin and Brussels.