Global Leadership: Challenge for the EU – Leading by Example

The potential of EU for the leadership of the world was the subject of the largest European Quality Conference, held at the largest European city, Istanbul. It was concluded that the EU has the potential for leadership, not by its sheer size or its strength, but by setting an example. However,to be able to realize that potential, the EU has to adopt a more visionary attitude, one that was oriented towards improving the world in line with its own values, in lieu of its current self-centered, protectionistic approach. If the EU were to adopt such a vision, it would not only devise more sustainable solutions to its own problems, but would also help the development of a better world for others.

First, there is an opportunity for EU to assume a global leadership position. With the end of the Cold War, which left the United States as the sole superpower, and the advent of September the 11th, which left the world subject to the unilateral politics practiced by the United States, the global sentiment has been swayed against the accumulation of power in a single country. In particular, the rejection by the United States of the Kyoto Convention on global warming and the protection of environmental resources; of the international judicial order that would try human rights violations in the world; and its refusal to turn over events in Iraq to the United Nations have made the other countries in the world more eager to find greater balance in the world. This is why there is a growing sentiment to counter the leadership being exercised by the United States.

Second, in order for the EU to be able to exercise leadership, it also has to have sufficient power. It is possible to define the dimensions of leadership political, economic, sociological, technological, and military. As a political project, the EU is an example of consensual delegation of sovereignty, where for the first time, countries, of their own will (without resource to force), have agreed to turn over part of their sovereignty to a supranational institution (the EU). However, the recent enlargement of the EU has made it clear that both the efficiency and the legitimacy of the decision making processes need to be improved.
As topics ranging from global warming to terrorism, and from contagious diseases to the just and productive use of such vital resources as water are increasingly acquiring global dimensions, both our administrative systems and our own perspectives should also gain a more global dimension. The EU is an example of how global administrative systems can function peacefully through compromise. However, if EU is to establish an example for global governance, the efficiency of decision making has to take precedence to protection of existing equilibria in the establishment of the EU Constitution.

Despite the fact that the EU is one of the largest economic powers in the world, it is experiencing difficulties with respect to its growth rate. This is why its decision-making mechanisms have to be made more efficient and harmonious, and its rigid business conditions have to be transformed so as to improve its competitiveness. There are serious reservations about the extent to which the EU’s present social state mentality can be maintained. From the point of economic development, the Lisbon objectives carry a lot of weight. But failing reach the Lisbon objectives will pose a threat to EU’s global leadership.

Sociologically, the emphasis given to concepts such as the “richness of diversity” and “unity in diversity” in the EU, has set an example of human rights, tolerance, and mutual understanding to the world. But the fact that this tolerance and understanding has been internally focused, and that there is a growing tendency nationalism and the rejection of “the other” as witnessed by the immigration policies in many EU countries, is a significant obstacle to global leadership.

Technologically, there are a number of factors acting to keep the EU from setting an example to the world. The most serious are the way in which its creativity and innovation financing systems function; the way in which the current understanding of the role of the social state fails to encourage entrepreneurship; and the way migration is seen in terms of attracting brain power to the EU. In the area of technology, the EU can take significant steps provided it makes effective use of common policies. Some examples are adopting standard GSM technology; attaining economies of scale; realizing synergistic initiatives such as the Airbus; and implementing other common projects as laid out within the 6th Framework Program.

Militarily, the EU lags behind and is far from reaching a position of world leadership. It is also clear that it will be difficult for it to close this gap. However, even in an era where world leadership depends on less on military prowess, it is important for the EU to concentrate on sharing military responsibility in conflict regions of the world, instead of presenting itself as an alternative military force. EU is a successful peace project and should focus on exporting this idea. Furthermore, EU is contributing to the solution by getting at the root cause of problems: the EU has not only maintained its position as the leader of providing foreign aid, it has also gone on to demonstrate leadership in the area of the environmental protection. If the EU could also demonstrate leadership in the abolition of agriculture subsidies, it will occupy a special place in the hearts and minds of citizens of the world as an ambassador of peace.

Third, in addition to opportunity and power, world leadership also demands aspiration and vision. And for EU citizens to concentrate on such an objective, there is also a need for political vision. Therefore, in the process of EU expansion and establishment of a EU Constitution, the appropriate messages must be given to EU citizens. This message should be based not on the opportunism of protecting extisting balances and interests, but rather on creating a structure whereby EU values become the norm for the world. Hence, there has to be a consistency of words and deeds in all EU institutions and actions. Such EU values as democracy, human rights, the supremacy of law, multiculturalism, the protection of the rights of minorities, and laicism has to be applied consistently to gain the confidence of the world. The protection of the self interest, alienating some through the use of the concept of “the other,” shying away from migration, worrying about innovation such as genetically modified foods, and protecting low work hours under the rubric of social state will not the EU protect its existing level of prosperity, let alone attain a position of world leadership.

In summary, the EU can exercise global leadership, not through power but by serving as an example. A leadership based on values is perhaps the kind of leadership the world needs most. However, in order for the EU to attain this position, there are a number of things that must be done:

1. Without reducing the legitimacy and participatory nature of the EU institutional systems, the effectiveness and efficiency of decision making has to be improved to increase the competitiveness of the EU and to enable the EU to serve as a leadership example.

2. The EU Constitution should be based on sustainable structure through which different cultures can live together and governance can be shared.

3. Care should be taken to ensure that competition policies envisioned for the EU itself are not harmful to the global system, but on the contrary, serve as an example to improve it. Efforts need to be made to ensure that the same values and principles are exercised in international and supranational institutions (for instance, the abolition of agricultural subsidies).

4. Policies ought to be developed that simplify and encourage the financing of creativity and innovation.

5. The EU educational system, tourism policies, and common work culture should be devised in such a way as to encourage EU citizens, particularly the youth, to understand one another and the world in a better way.

6. The EU has to demonstrate consistency of its values, and indicate its determination by weight of its actions not only internally but also externally to have global legitimacy.

7. EU leaders should adopt, defend, and courageously carry out this vision.

EU can reach a global leadership position by setting an example through its common values. However, to gain such a legitimacy, the EU has to exercise these vales both internally and externally in all its actions and reflect them in all its structures.

Dr. Argüden


“You are not only a career idol and a great mentor, but also one of the foremost thought leaders in Turkiye. During my career at Rothschild I have witnessed first hand the admiration and respect you have gained from all segments of the Turkish business world. I wish to express my gratitude for the opportunity to learn from you.”
Selman Ruso