Happy Birthday Europe. It's a sour birthday. There isn't really much to celebrate on Europe Day. The EU hasn't moved an inch closer to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world, despite the establishment of the EEAS and the continuous decline of the US as a superpower.
The democratic uprisings in the MENA region left Europe, including Turkey, divided, driven, uninspired, even uninterested. While France pushed for a swift European response in Libya, Germany successfully embarrassed itself in front of the UN Security Council. They later subduedly committed more Awacs to Afghanistan to make up for it. In the end, the US took the baton from the squabbling Europeans and did the lion share of the job themselves. Even as the MENA uprisings touch home in form of North African migrants, the EU finds itself unable to pursue a common migration strategy. It prefers compromising the Schengen system and letting member states have it their own way.
Talking about the US, did anybody say the US would drop in European esteem after the release of thousands of diplomatic cables last year? It appears the EU doesn't even know how many European bank account details the US accesses on a daily basis, a right the European institutions willingly granted them. And European politicians were fastest to congratulate Barack Obama for the killing of Osama bin Laden, but when people started criticizing their attitude, they quickly highlighted that they lacked reliable information about how Osama really died.
No, the EU has definitely not become a stronger voice in the world. Even in the area where we have been most progressive so far, green energy, the EU allows itself to be surpassed. Despite all studies calling for a 30% emission reduction target by 2020, the EU prefers business-as-usual. China and Indonesia are showing the way to clean energy in an impressive manner. Yet, on a more positive note it seems that Spain and Germany have understood the importance of renewable energy and are committing more investment to the sector.
While many things in external policy are far from perfect, there are also successes. The bright light in the obscure forest is Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who has established the EU as a powerful donor of humanitarian aid in Haiti, Ivory Coast and Libya.
With regard to internal EU affairs, the picture looks a little brighter as well. The Belgian and Hungarian presidencies have been running ambitious agendas with a focus on sustainable development, Trans-European Networks and a stable European economy. It is to be hoped that the Polish presidency will follow in this line.
Yet, as we are heading into the new year, Euroscepticism is on the rise in Finland and France among others, European democracy hasn't improved much (where is the ECI?) and we are no step closer to a single-seat parliament than a year ago. Europe is entering into a year with a lot of things on the agenda. I hope it will be less disappointing than the last year has been.
Happy Birthday Europe, and a good start into the new year. You will need it