The Hour Of Europe - Without England?

Map of Europe. Detail from the World Atlas.
Map of Europe. Detail from the World Atlas.

The hour of Europe - without England?

In June 1991, confronted with the crisis in former Yugoslavia Jacques Poos, Foreign Minister of Luxembourg in the chair of the EU, stated "This is the hour of Europe. It is not the hour of the Americans." He was wrong. The crisis was not brought to an end before the U.S. became involved, which lead the way to the Dayton agreement in 1995. Hard power was required. The U.S. had it; the Europeans did not.

But maybe his announcement was premature. The election of Donald Trump raises squarely the question of values, soft power, what do we stand for and how will we behave - moral and ethics? So far Europe and the U.S. have seen eye to eye, but will that continue to be the case? What kind of America will we see? Will Europe have to bend its values to maintain the U.S military umbrella and if it does what kind of Europe will emerge?

Around the globe some leaders expressed satisfaction, others came forward looking to cooperate with Donald Trump as the new President of the U.S. and others fell back on traditional diplomacy with neutral congratulations. They opted for normal behaviour. And that is understandable.

Some European leaders tuned into the same wavelength, but not all. Core European leaders such as Chancellor Merkel from Germany, President Hollande of France, the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk deviated from this trend. These European leaders recalled that past cooperation was anchored in common ideals and principles, which should continue to form the plinth of cooperation. Common ideals took the U.S. and Europe through the Cold War and notwithstanding economic ties makes the Atlantic Alliance special in many respects.

Europe has defined its ideals and principles. There is a large congruity with the U.S. constitution despite more than 200 years between the drafting. According to art 1a in the Lisbon Treaty from 2009 Europe stands for:

"The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and equality between women and men prevail"

During the campaign President-elect Donald Trump violated these principles; in fact I find it difficult to find a single one he did not violate. In some quarters the reminder from the above mentioned European leaders was criticized yes even ridiculed as misplaced lecturing of Mr. Trump. Instead it should be lamented that European leaders have to remind a President-elect of these principles hitherto regarded as common even sacrosanct for U.S, and Europe. How can the U.S. and Europe do things together if they differ fundamentally on what they stand for? And why should they?

Suddenly the beacon of fighting for fundamental rights of freedom may be in the hands of the Europeans. The world is not a nice place nowadays. These principles do not have the same support as a decade or two ago and if the U.S. fails to exercise leadership the going will be tough.

It may well be that Europe - in reality the EU without England - has to pay a price for taking this stance. Europe - the EU - is no longer strong and vibrant. It suffers. It fights to keep its head above water. It needs the U.S. more than the U.S needs Europe for a variety of reasons - militarily, economically and politically. This is why the stand radiates moral courage.

The last ten years have not been easy for a dedicated European with the debt crisis, question marks on the viability of the Euro and recently the influx of refugees and migrants. These challenges were of existential nature threatening the future of the EU, solidarity among member states and posed the question what Europe stands for and whether it is capable of living up to European ideals. The reaction to Mr. Trump's victory goes some way to dispel doubts about Europe's position.

Everybody has to follow suit. There is no escape clause. Where do you belong? For no country the choice will be more agonizing than for England after Brexit. Are you with President Trump's America into uncharted water or do you stand with fellow Europeans to defend well-known values so far essential for survival of European civilization as we know it This is an existential question that will define England's - and other European countries - destiny for decades, maybe even longer.

Joergen Oerstroem Moeller
Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.
Former State-Secretary, Royal Danish Foreign Ministry.