What is Europe's place in the multipolar world?
Bradley Blankenship
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, August 29, 2022. /CFP

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, August 29, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Bradley Blankenship is a Prague-based American journalist, political analyst and freelance reporter. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

During his first visit to Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, as chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz called for EU expansion and a common European solution to the ongoing energy crisis. In addition to this, perhaps most relevant to the bloc's future expansion, he said that the EU should end its unanimity votes on important matters and adopt a majority rule.

"When, if not now, will we create a sovereign Europe that can hold its own in a multipolar world? And who, if not us, can protect and defend Europe's values? Europe is our future. And that future is in our hands," said Scholz at Charles University in Prague.

There's a lot to unpack from this visit and Scholz's comments, but one thing that sticks out is his recognition that indeed the world is multipolar, which carries with it the implication that one of Europe's most important leaders recognizes the end of U.S. unipolar hegemony. This has profound implications for the direction of global geopolitics – and Europe's place in this reality seems open.

Europe still faces the challenge of trying to be a distinct geopolitical actor while also being a sidecar to Washington's foreign policy interests. These two things are fundamentally incompatible, as so-called ideals clash with economic realities. There is, of course, also the question of whether a non-federal EU can even be a major political actor.

Perhaps there is no better display of this clash than with the ongoing energy crisis, which is being spurred thanks to the EU sanctions against Russia over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Some critics rightfully, in my opinion, point out that the EU is only hurting itself by following the U.S. line on Ukraine, e.g., implementing sanctions against Russia that are hurting the EU economy.

Germany's economy, as well as its neighbors like the Czech Republic, is particularly vulnerable to the disruption of cheap Russian gas. Germany and its neighbors have a growth model based on using this cheap energy supply to power their manufacturing, meaning that higher energy prices could hurt their competitiveness.

The burning hob of a gas cooker in Dortmund, western Germany, April 4, 2022. /CFP

The burning hob of a gas cooker in Dortmund, western Germany, April 4, 2022. /CFP

Some, like Scholz and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, apparently believe that the EU can develop a solution to this problem that does not involve Russia. The number of political groups and individuals in the EU that are recognizing the foolhardiness of an approach to the conflict which ignores Russia seems to be growing by the day, if not the hour. In terms of how the EU can develop a common solution by next winter when the real damage is predicted to hit the EU in the event of total cessation of Russian gas, it remains unclear.

EU expansion, coupled with a majority vote on key issues, carries with it serious challenges for the EU's development as a geopolitical player. For one, existing anti-EU movements will be emboldened by the growing perception that their national interests won't be heard if unanimity is no longer needed. Since the EU is not a federal system, this has the risk of jeopardizing the entire European project altogether if more states decide to leave.  

Expanding the EU, plus the implementation of a majority vote system, could also lead those countries whose interests are now represented to find themselves in the minority in the future. This could upset the balance of power and potentially turn the EU in a direction it was not prepared for, as many critics have already noted. To be sure, the EU states are collectively the third-largest economy by nominal GDP in the world. Europe is a hugely important area geopolitically, culturally and economically. But the myriad of challenges facing the bloc, both external and internal, raises serious questions about Europe's place in the multipolar world.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries on CGTN Opinion Section.)

Search Trends