Involuntary superpower

We in the EU

Posted on January 04, 2023

Here in the EU, we have a curious situation: Although nobody really wants to admit, or openly talk about it on higher levels, we sort of built a kind of superpower. Although certain politicians on the Eastern side of the Union even have a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that they're on the good side of history for a change, and learning the concepts of cooperation and consensus, so perhaps I should just cut everyone some slack. Why does the EU, which we so cherish to mock for inaction (or action, you can't really win) appears like a global superpower if you squint enough, you ask?

The Wikipedia article about the EU reads like a description of some kind of Utopia. Good for them, you could say, but the Brussels effect, most recently the well-known GDPR, shows that the EU asserts the influence of its domestic policy globally. As an economic unit, the EU is the third-largest economy in the world (after the US and China, and could even be better if the naughty British didn't mess that up). With a monetary union in form of the Euro, the European rule of law mechanism, or projects like the European super grid, the EU (and the EEA, really) becomes ever more integrated, more than just a loose alliance of countries. Speaking of money, the Euro is the second-most used currency in international trade, trailing not much after the US dollar, the two covering more than 75% of the transaction value. Nowadays, finally, there are talks about building up independent EU capabilities in terms of space research and defense as well, not to have to rely on our American friends too much. (Though did you know that the James Webb Space Telescope was hauled up by a European rocket, from the EU space port in French Guiana?) And recently, in an unexpected glance of hard power, the EU will acquire weapons for the first time in its history.

At the table of aggressive, or at least highly assertive global players, the EU appears to be the soft-spoken pacifist who's not aware of their capabilities and especially potential. This seems to be changing, however; I do hope not the "pacifist" part, but perhaps we in the EU are starting to understand that we have something more at hand than we used to think of. The elephant in the room is of course federalization: Will the EU become the United States of Europe (I'd keep the name "EU" though, it's cleaner)? Functionally, I don't think too much needs to change, and if we draw the trends, the EU will inevitably end up being a federation, whether we call it that or not. For that though, we all have to understand that losing some kind of perceived sovereignty (after all, what has the EU ever done for us?) is a small price to pay to be able to maintain and defend our peaceful, free way of life.