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Think the EU is not acting on China? Look closer. – Diplomat


The European Union (EU) tends to comment badly in English-language political commentary (and not just there). In an increasingly contradictory international system obscured by a rising China and a United States defending its global dominance, the EU appears uncomfortable and takes much advice. quotes about word problems inefficient come disunity come poor strategic judgment. It seems the EU is unfortunately lacking the equipment for a return to history.

Criticism of this type is sometimes warranted, but sometimes they overlook part of what is actually happening and point out a misunderstanding about what the EU is and how it works. First of all, it is important to remember what the EU is Not: It is not a federal state, but an international organization of sovereign states. It was created first to ensure peace among members and secondly to enhance prosperity by liberalizing trade. In these goals, it was admirably successful. The exercise of geopolitical power is not in its job description until very recentlyand it takes time to adapt to such a role.

In addition, the EU can operate more efficiently than being recognized because the impact of its activities is often not as dramatic or attributable to the national governments of member states. A good example of this is investment screening. Until 2019, the EU still does not have a regional mechanism to screen FDI proposals. Some member states already have national mechanisms with different screening criteria and procedures, while others, such as Belgium or Greece, have no procedures in place. A investment wave in China Between 2013 and 2016, there was a debate about the risks of foreign investments, especially those from an authoritarian state. China’s acquisitions of key infrastructure and high-tech firms led to concerns in several quarters about political influence and Threats to long-term competitiveness. Germany, France and Italy believed that the EU as a whole should do more to coordinate investment screening and asked the European Commission to design an investment screening regulation through a open letter in 2017.

The prescribe results Effective April 2019 and fully operational on October 11, 2020 following a grace period that allows member states to meet their reporting requirements. The most notable feature is that it leaves a decision to accept or reject a specific investment proposal in an EU country entirely with the government of that country. The EU can only offer advice on whether or not to accept a proposal under certain circumstances. The sole obligation to which the mechanism applies is information sharing: Governments are required to notify the Commission of the screening provisions in effect and to notify other Member States if they decide to do so. plan to screen out an investment proposal. A stronger regulation was not politically feasible at the time, as the member states simply did not want to give up national control over investments and the EU, was not a federal country cannot make such a decision.

With the lightness of regulation, it is easy to conclude, like The Heritage Foundation’s Ted Bromund did, that the framework “is not likely to work in its present form.” But the story doesn’t end here. Although the EU has not been able to do much in terms of screening, its member countries are increasingly able to do it. Since 2017, new investment screening mechanisms have been introduced or are being designed in Czechia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia and Malta (see website of UNCTAD for an overview). Meanwhile, Germany has increase its current regulations on foreign investment refinement. Although the EU aims to remain open to foreign investment, it is becoming more selective, a trend that the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in the EU has noted with concern. a 2020 report.

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The growing investment refinement of national governments in Europe at first sight has nothing to do with the EU. After all, the EU’s investment screening regulations do not require any member state to adopt their own rules. But permanent discussions at all levels between EU member states create awareness among governments on issues that they should not have considered much. This example illustrates the nature of the EU’s role in foreign affairs: coordination and information sharing, while at the same time facilitating the convergence of policies on issues of mutual interest.

When this fails, such as when a small member state hinders a shared location, it produces negative press. The model often works well, but its successes are not always easy to staple. Critical decisions in many cases are made by national governments and can be followed months or even years after the EU policy comes into effect. Of course, the EU is not moving as quickly and decisively as a national government can, but it is also not standing still.

Besides, the EU’s current regime of investment refinement may also be strengthened in the future when it encounters its own limitations, like Princeton scholars Sophie Meunier and Zenobia Chan. shown. Under the current EU regime, a member state may in some cases give an opinion to another member state if it feels its national security (in a broad sense, including economic security) threatened by an investment proposition in the other member state. However, this opinion does not need to be followed by a second member state. A hypothetical example: Suppose an unknown investor from outside the EU intends to acquire the sole producer of a key component for the German, French and Italian auto industries, located at Slovakia. These three governments may be of the opinion that Slovakia should block acquisitions. Slovakia may choose to ignore this comment and allow redemption. If national interests are large enough to be threatened, this will inevitably lead to conflict and potentially foster a more integrated mechanism that leaves less time for national governments to do their bidding. Meunier calls this a cave “Failure forward. “The EU often does this: half of measures today lead to one (more) full measure in the future. This may seem far from ideal, but then, letting the 27 countries coordinate their policy on important issues is not a minor challenge and it is not clear that there is a better model.

The Indo-Pacific strategy of the largest member of the EU Germany, as well as the smaller members’ China policy documents Switzerland and Netherlands all of them underline the importance of adopting the EU to achieve national goals for development in Asia. This is a complete change from the previous competitive era, the Cold War, when the forerunner of the EU, the EEC, was hardly active in foreign policy and Western European countries considered US-led NATO. as the primary means of defense against the Soviet Union. Union. In the new geopolitical era, the EU will occupy a central position in the foreign policy of member states. How the organization can adapt will depend largely on the choices made by member states. However, there are good reasons to be optimistic about the EU’s ability to adapt to the upcoming challenges, and it would be a mistake to write it down as irrelevant.

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