Friday, 27 June 2014

Our common interest: Why Europe's problems need global solutions

We are, once again, at a watershed for the European Union (EU). 

At the end of 2014, the EU and its new leadership could find itself in a stronger position, ready to play a more prominent role in the world, looking after its own interests whilst recognising that those interests are reinforced by an international outlook that actively promotes stability, democracy and sustainable development. The EU and its Member States could be working towards a shared vision of global cooperation, pooling expertise and resources. Or they could find themselves at cross-purposes.

This year of change comes against the backdrop of an EU that is substantially weaker now than it has been at other points in history, struggling to emerge from a crisis, with 26 million people out of work, 124 million people at risk of poverty and social exclusion and a rapidly ageing population. 

The rise of populists and euro-sceptic political parties has altered the European political landscape. On the international stage, the EU continues to struggle to assert itself as an influential global player. Member States’ interests and foreign policies are not always aligned. Global problems in an inter-dependent world grow deeper, while global governance continues to erode. And yet, the ‘rise of the rest’ means that the EU cannot afford to disengage from the rest of the world and turn inwards.

Addressing global problems is in the EU’s self-interest. Greater welfare and equality beyond Europe contribute to achieving economic growth, foster investment and improve governance, all of which have positive spillovers in EU migration, asylum, economic, trade and security objectives. A sustainable environment in Europe will only be achieved if decisive progress is made in tackling climate change. Security in Europe will only be guaranteed if peace can be maintained in other parts of the world. Prosperity, sustainability and peace in the world also depend on actions in Europe.

The status quo is no longer an option for Europe. With new leaders to be appointed at the helm of EU institutions in the coming months, there is a window of opportunity to change step, renew ambition and foster join action.

2015 will offer two key opportunities for the EU to show leadership on the international stage: the global agreement on a post-2015 sustainable development framework, to be agreed at the United Nations, and a global climate deal, to be agreed at UN talks in Paris. Beyond 2015, there is a need for efficient EU collective action on the key substantive planks of a global agenda: effective global development cooperation with a stronger focus on reducing inequalities, more equitable trade and tax arrangements, a more coherent approach to conflict, and much stronger action on climate change.

The potential gains from cooperation have never been greater. Peace, prosperity and sustainability in the world as a whole are essential if Europe is to thrive. Now is time for European consensus on a global development agenda.

The European Think Tanks Group brings together four leading European international development think tanks, the German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), Fundacion para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Dialogo Exterior (FRIDE) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). We share a commitment to European development cooperation, and a sense of urgency about the need for greater cooperation for new and challenging times. In a forthcoming major new report for the new EU leadership, we make the case for joined-up thinking across the institutions and policies of the EU to address five global challenges: climate change; poverty and inequality; trade and financial policy; conflict and security and democracy and human rights.

Our analysis and recommendations will give the new EU political leaders:
  • A critical assessment of the current debate on international cooperation and sustainable development; 
  • An analysis of the EU’s track record in addressing identified challenges and value added in the current global context 
  • A set of recommendations on the strategic approach and policy measures required for the EU to take effective collective action when addressing global challenges.
The report, "In our common interest: Why Europe's problems need global solutions and the world's problems need European action" will be published on 1 September.

Watch the video interview below of the European Think Tank Directors from DIE, ECDPM, FRIDE and ODI discussing the main points of the report:

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