Rethinking Europe’s Comparative Advantage in the Mediterranean

August 15, 2018
Photo Credit: Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock

Photo Credit: Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock

The notion that the EU is no longer the only game in town in its wider neighborhood has become commonplace. Periodical debates about Europe’s geopolitical competitiveness in its southern flank have largely circled around the questions about whether Europe can compete with Gulf money, Chinese investment, or Russian arms. What has not received sufficient attention, by contrast, is the question about what comparative advantage the EU has or may develop that those other players lack.

The debate about Europe’s geopolitical competitiveness transcends technocratic questions on the effectiveness of aid conditionality. Instead, European competitiveness will need to be placed in a more holistic framework of international projection, assessed against the broader background of an international environment in transition. This environment is characterized by the empowerment of non-Western states, non-state actors, and individual citizens. It is also shaped by a wider competition in terms of power, money, commerce, diplomacy, and influence both between and within polities. The crisis of the international liberal order and the crisis of domestic liberal politics condition and nurture each other, forming a twin crisis of liberalism. As the global diplomatic marketplace transforms, the EU must adapt its products and marketing strategy.

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