European Union External Action

"Europe in the New World (Dis)Order" – Public Lecture on the Future of the EU by Alexander Stubb

19/11/2019 - 16:23
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In yet another well-received public EU-lecture as part of our lecture series "Europe Tomorrow", former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb presented his vision of Europe's role in a world that is losing balance between multilateralism and protectionism, climate change and new technologies.

Alexander Stubb


Aimed at stimulating the discussion on the future of Europe, the EU Delegation together with the Permanent Mission of Finland invited former Finnish Prime Minister to speak at the EU lecture series “Europe Tomorrow”, organized regularly together with Geneva's Graduate Institute.  Alexander Stubb, who served in various ministerial positions in Finland and as a Member of the European Parliament, describing himself as an "EU nerd", gave a lecture entitled "Europe in the New World (Dis)Order." With his profound background in international relations and experience in national, European and global politics, he analysed the current challenges that the multilateral system and Europe is facing and provided his policy recommendation to European leaders.

Finnish Ambassador Terhi Hakala, introducing Alexander Stubb, confirmed that "we are living in a rapidly changing world, something we are confronted with in International Geneva every day. The question is: How should Europe and the EU respond to the challenges of today?"

At the outset of his lecture, Alexander Stubb committed: “Even though the title of my talk seems alarmist, if we get it right, this is Europe’s moment.” Despite the gloomy outlook of the title, he praised the resilience of Europe in challenging times in the course of his talk, as he presented 3 x 3 arguments to make his point: 3 dates that characterize the ideologies we live by today, 3 consequences of the latest ideological shift and 3 challenges that come along.

Three dates and three ideologies: 1945 represents not only the end of fascism, but the moment that the world transitioned from a messy one into a fairly clear order: it was the beginning of the multilateral, international rules-based that we currently live in. 1989 saw the victory of one amongst two competing world orders, liberal democracy, which subsequently spread to the majority of this world’s corners. However, recently, the Anglo-Saxon world order of 1945 and 1989 experiences a marginalization from on the part of growing nationalism and protectionism - exemplified with Brexit and the year of Donald Trump’s election 2016.

The latest ideological shift has brought along three consequences: firstly, a power vacuum for values - who will fight for universal values? Secondly, shifting geopolitical paradigms – security is becoming more economic. And thirdly, the emergence of power blocs: US and China being the obvious actors, but also the EU, according to Alexander Stubb – “if they get their act together.”

Finally, there are three challenges that the EU has to overcome in order to "get their act together:" First and foremost, internal challenges such as Brexit. Moreover, external challenges about strategic questions around US, China, and Russia. Stubb advised: "Retain the alliance built on our common values with the US, as do not reject China, and engage in dialogue with Russia." And finally, global challenges - such as climate change, trade wards, and challenged multilateralism.

To close the loop, Stubb reiterated: If Europe manages to overcome these three challenges, then this is Europe’s moment: “Either, we can turn inward, or we can open up - doing nothing is not an option. As a lot of countries are turning inwards by doing more local and national politics and jump on the populist bandwagon. My hope is that Europe will turn outwards.”

Therefore, his policy recommendations to the many interested EU Ambassadors in the room were: 1. Chose strategic sovereignty & autonomy over protectionism 2. Defend decent values such as human and fundamental rights, rule of law, freedoms, democracy - "they have worked well for us and should continue to do so. And most of them all: 3. Defend multilateralism, especially with regards to the fact that the EU is by definition a multilateral compromise.

Alex Stubb left the audience with an optimistic note: “It’s a tough time, but the EU is in a better shape right now than ever, from an economic, prosperity, and freedom point of view. In the post-Brexit referendum years, Europe now experiences the biggest pro-European movement currently - paradoxically they are taking place in the UK, where EU approval rates are higher than before the Brexit vote."

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