The European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini, has told the Munich Security Conference that the EU is “in a good place”, with a reputation for reliability, predictability and strength around the world.
“I know that you’re used to associate the words ‘European Union’ to the word crisis [sic]”, she told the audience. “Let me bring here the voice of a proud European. I believe that in the state the world is today, the European Union is quite in a good place [sic]. I say this because I have the privilege of seeing the European Union through the eyes of our partners around the world.”
The Italian socialist insisted that the EU “is much, much stronger than we Europeans realise, and it’s much more indispensable to Europeans and to the world than we realise. Seen from the outside, the European Union is a reliable, predictable, strong, co-operative partner for many in the world.”
Mogherini predicted that, in future, “the European Union will for sure be a more indispensable partner than before, and, I would say, a more indispensable power than before. In the confusion we’re facing, you can be sure that the European Union will remain a stable, reliable, predictable partner for many, and for security”.
U.S. president Donald Trump, who leads the world’s most significant global power, has articulated an entirely different view, predicting more EU member-states will follow the United Kingdom’s lead in leaving the crisis-wracked bloc.
“People, countries want their own identity,” he told The Times in January 2017, arguing that the Brexit vote was an affirmation of Britain’s national identity.
“You look at the UK and you look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.”
Also speaking at the security conference was German vice-chancellor and foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, who appeared to dispute President Trump’s view.
“I understand and I accept that the United States expect Europe to assume more responsibility for world security, but it would be a mistake to believe that we can expect a Europe of national states to do that,” he said, hinting that a more federal Europe would be desirable because “in the long run, that will yield the best results.”
Gabriel also appeared to reach out to the UK, telling listeners, “I regret the Brexit decision, but we have to respect it. The temptation of being too stern with the United Kingdom, we should not yield to that, because we need the United Kingdom as a partner.”
In a seeming attempt to dissuade Britain from deepening the Anglo-American partnership at the expense of the EU, he appeared to claim that demographic shifts would weaken the special relationship in coming years.
“I’d like to tell our British friends that in [a] few years, most U.S. citizens will no longer be of European origin,” he said. “They will come from China, from Latin America, and other regions, so that will change their relations with Europe.”
French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was more forthright. He claimed “the world needs a stable order, and the institution which can probably give the most stability and order is probably the European Union.
“Not Europe as a continent,” he emphasised, “but the political project of the European Union. And let me remind you here once again that France and Germany are determined to consolidate what we have achieved, for the well-being of mankind.”