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Global Geopolitics

Europe and the United States, Allies in Crisis

In this column, Professor Joaquín Roy, Professor of European Integration and Director of the European Union Centre at the University of Miami, argues that although the United States and Europe are in crisis, they are still a magnet for the rest of the world, as shown by the ceaseless waves of migrants they attract.

BARCELONA, Jul 14 2014 (IPS) - A few decades ago, even before the end of the Cold War and before and after Ronald Reagan’s election to the White House, analyses regularly referred to U.S. decadence. At other times, it was Europe’s turn for pessimistic descriptions, especially when it could not overcome its ambivalence over deepening integration, and above all because of the failure of its constitutional project. 

The West was in crisis. And now the pair are apparently going through a similar phase, with each one trying to outdo the other in inferiority.

The United States seems to be in the doldrums because of the apparently erratic foreign policy of President Barack Obama, who does not seem to be profiting from surmounting the legacy of George W. Bush’s actions in the Middle East.

Joaquín Roy

Joaquín Roy

Obama’s agenda based on “leading from behind” is creating serious problems that would damage his re-election chances if he were eligible (which he is not).

Hillary Clinton may inherit this liability if she finally decides to run for the presidency. What is certain is that indecision in Syria, the disaster of Iraq’s disintegration and the still unsolved challenge of Russia in Ukraine, create a picture of the United States in international decline.

“Both partners [Europe and the United States] are still the natural allies that could lead the world out of the crisis. And the future of both is welded to their role as immigration destinations” – Joaquín Roy

The European Union, for its part, does not offer a more hopeful scenario, and only if it is able to strengthen its institutions following the European Parliament elections in May will it be able to overcome the generalised forecast of a problematic future.

Gripped by the rise of populism and neo-nationalism and with its economy weighed down by inequality and lack of sustained growth, the European Union is a long way from offering alternative leadership and hope for the rest of the planet, and appropriately partnering the United States to beat the global crisis.

Yet curiously, this odd couple, which can be subsumed in what is generously called the West, can pride itself on an immense capital that is a basis not only for survival, but of sustained leadership for the rest of the world.

In both cases, a systematic humanitarian tragedy reveals their mutual strength and guarantees their future survival. Dramatic, repeated migration processes produce huge human capital flows to both Europe and the United States compared with other regions.

On the one hand, thousands of Latin American teenagers are invading the United States in search of a much better future than they are leaving behind in Central America, racked by crime, poverty and inequality.

On the other hand, the shores of Italy are being bombarded by desperate migrants cast up by traffickers, resulting in shipwrecks and deaths by suffocation. Elsewhere, attempts to take the Spanish border by storm in the enclaves in Morocco have ceased to call attention as newsworthy.

What do these apparently dissimilar scenarios reveal?

Quite simply, that the strength of these partners in crisis is based on their relatively powerful magnetism for migrants.

For all the present difficulties suffered by many European countries, the prospect of life in Europe is comparatively far better than in Africa or Asia, and even Latin America, in spite of the fact that many immigrants are returning to their countries of origin.

The future and the present of the United States – as it always was in the past – remains linked to the immigration pool. Hence, U.S. sectors that oppose migration reform are not only destined to fail, they are also currently rendering poor service to their country.

Both regions, now engaged in exploring a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, are destined to surpass other world regions in terms of standard of living and future expectations.

Both partners are still the natural allies that could lead the world out of the crisis. And the future of both is welded to their role as immigration destinations.

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