International politics is not about charity, but about the pursuit of interests. That seems self-evident, but to the European Union it wasn’t. For a long time, the EU closed its eyes for the dark side of international politics and behaved as if interests, geopolitics and power politics no longer mattered. Then a series of events made the EU blink its eyes. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, the proxy wars in the Middle East, the disputes over the South China Sea, and the election of Donald Trump as President of the U.S. finally made many in Brussels realise that we are now truly living in a multipolar world. The great powers and many regional powers are competing and cooperating at the same time. “America First”, Trump’s campaign slogan, means that nobody will automatically defend the EU’s interests. Europe will have to think for itself – but it has forgotten how to use its power (which it still has) and hence is no longer respected as a power. Which role could and should Europe aspire to, and what does that mean for its alliance with the U.S.?

The participants were:

  • Alexander Mattelaer, Director of Egmont’s Europe Programme and Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
  • Sven Biscop, Director of Egmonts’s Europe in the World Programme and Professor of Ghent University.
  • Luis Simón, Director of the Elcano Royal Institute’s Brussels office and Research Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
forgotten power europe multipolar world 2
Photo: Elcano Royal Institute