The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a roundtable discussion on Transatlantic Views on Emerging Powers in Brussels on Wednesday, December 3, 2014. The discussion was led by Dr. Esther Brimmer, professor of international affairs at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs and former assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs (2009-13). She provided introductory remarks, citing the importance of emerging powers to uphold international order and the rise of a Wider Atlantic region demanding a prioritization for both the U.S. and the EU. Emerging powers play a heightened role in a world of increased multi-polarity and a complex web of international and regional organizations, which Brimmer touched on in her Atlantic Currents paper. Alfredo Conte, head of the Strategic Planning Division of the European External Action Service provided a European perspective. He stressed that the EU needs to adjust its policy outlook and come to terms with the changing meaning of terms like “power.” The discussion, moderated by Dr. Marta Martinelli, senior policy analyst at the Open Society Foundation and vice-president of Women In International Security (WIIS) Brussels, further delved into the complexity surrounding the term “emerging powers” and inquired into the continuing global dominance of the U.S.
The speakers noted that the definition of “emerging powers” is complicated, as it is dependent on a number of variables such as history, economics, and politics. While the existence of a myriad of international organizations reflects the dynamic relationships among states and regional powers, there is a clear need for reflection on the transatlantic alliance and the role of emerging states in relation to the West. Existing structures should strengthen the efforts to cooperate with the emerging powers, starting with shared priorities and embracing international diversity. Brimmer avoided the term ‘BRICS,’ pointing out that neither Russia nor China could be considered an emerging power today, and highlighted that one issue with rising powers is that most do not engage in bilateral relations with one another. Conte, on his part, emphasized the need for Europeans to understand the multipolar global reality of today.
In the following Q & A, the speakers further addressed a number of issues, including the importance of regional organizations, EU-BRICS relations, how to move beyond the “West against the rest” doctrine and the rising importance of platforms to address challenges in maritime affairs. While the steering role of the transatlantic partnership was recognized, it was also noted that emerging nations have challenged the current establishment, articulating their demand for a fairer and stronger consideration of their abilities and interests.