Europe’s reaction to the financial crisis has pulled it apart rather than pulled it together, and the continent is losing financial relevance, says Financial Times columnist Philip Stephens.
“Grandiose talk of Europe’s emergence as a superpower alongside the United States and China has been lost to its weak economic performance and even weaker political leadership,” he writes.
“The rest of the world looks on with scorn (Beijing and Moscow) and disappointment (Barack Obama’s administration in Washington). ... Europe has become the greater Switzerland of the 21st century: comfortable, complacent and unwilling to venture abroad.”
The world’s center of power is “shifting from west to east,” Stephens notes.
“The international institutions and rules upon which Europe relies for security and prosperity are under strain. And Europe looks set to absent itself from the debate.”
Stephens quotes Charles Grant, director of the London-based Centre for European Reform, who says the European Union is perceived abroad as “divided, slow-moving and badly organized.”
Obama had hoped to engage Europe as a partner to help develop the west’s relationship with the rest of the world, Stephens writes.
“But the U.S. president is learning fast about the Union’s reluctance to act as one in foreign policy and defense.”
Others are bearish on Europe, too. "With little sign that the (euro zone) economy is actually starting to expand, we continue to expect the region to exit recession after the United States and U.K.," Ben May, European economist at Capital Economics, tells Marketwatch.
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