The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, while it certainly did not mark the “end of history”, initiated a new era in global politics, redefining in the process the role of the European Union.

In a lecture organized by ELIAMEP and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Athens, on February 12th, 2009, in the European Parliament Offices in Athens, the Political Director of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Volker Stanzel outlined some of the current security challenges facing Europe and proposed a new approach in defining EU’s global role.

He argued that today there are a number of persisting regional conflicts defining the global strategic map:
•    The Palestinian question, which can only be resolved by the formation of two-states
•    The problem of ‘nuclear’ Iran, located in the middle of an extremely volatile region
•    The question of Russia and its neighboring countries, with the Georgia crisis standing out as the most recent example
•    The case of Afghanistan, Pakistan’s role in the region and the wider problem of failing states.

  • The increase in the number of failed states constitutes another particular security concern. A failed state is a country where the government is unable to assert its authority and the state is not functioning anymore. Failed states constitute a source of internal threat for the expansion of civil violence while functioning as cradles for networks of international crime.
  • Other, less traditional security challenges Europe is facing, is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as well as the environmental degradation and climate change. The latter, while less obvious, can be directly linked to mass waves of migration and regional conflict outbreaks over the use of natural resources.
  • At the same time, however, traditional politico-military threats need to be faced efficiently.
  • Finally, the current financial crisis demonstrates that without adequate provisions, the economic effects of globalization can turn into a political threat, especially when affecting less developed states.

EU’s global role

It is essential therefore that these new problems and challenges are recognized in order to be effectively dealt with. According to Dr. Volker Stanzel, the problem is not how much we need to do, but what we need to do in order for Europe to face these problems. New approaches are required in order to successfully implement strategies in an increasingly diverse world.
To deal with these challenges, the European Union is endowed with its own experience in drawing together national sovereignties to deal with persisting problems in its geographical space. To strengthen the European voice in the context of the global security map, it is essential, and a major challenge to all member-state governments that this process develops. Nevertheless, Europe’s “soft power” should not be confused with “talking power”, as it is often the case. In a rapidly changing world, hard choices need to be made. This, however, requires involving further the European public, informed it about challenges and opportunities and enhancing participation in dealing even with, possibly, inconvenient truths.

Comments were delivered by Dr. Thanos Dokos, Director General, ELIAMEP.

Professor Loukas Tsoukalis, President of ELIAMEP, moderated the discussion.

See the interview with Dr. Volker Stanzel