Faced with rising geopolitical tensions, Europe wants to protect itself

Little by little, the European Union (EU) is trying to equip itself with the instruments that will allow it to influence the world stage, alongside the United States and China.

If it does not want to allow itself to be marginalized, even instrumentalized, in this fight between Beijing and Washington for the place of the first world power, Europe has no other choice but to arm itself in turn to build what some , as French President Emmanuel Macron, call his “Strategic autonomy”, others, such as the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, his “Sovereignty”.

The Twenty-Seven do not necessarily have the same understanding of these concepts, but they all recognize that the construction of Europe, whose main achievements remain the single market and the euro, must evolve. On Wednesday 8 December, the Brussels Commission is due to make a new legislative proposal to expand this emerging arsenal of a Europe that aims to be geopolitical.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Europe in search of a “strategic autonomy” still contested and not very tangible

The “anti-coercion instrument”, imagined by the community executive, should allow the Twenty-Seven to adopt sanctions against a third country which would impose commercial retaliatory measures against one of theirs (or European companies) for purely political reasons; this country thus seeks to make the European country reconsider a decision or to encourage it to defend its point of view before the community institutions.

It is a question here of answering “These increasingly frequent cases where geopolitical tensions contaminate economic and trade relations. These become weapons in these geopolitical conflicts ”, explains a senior European official. We are of course thinking of the extraterritoriality of American law which prevented European companies from working with Iran when President Donald Trump’s United States decided to impose new sanctions against Tehran. Or, more recently, to Lithuania, which claimed, on December 3, to have been banned from exporting to China, because it had hosted a Taiwanese diplomatic representation on its soil, while Beijing considers that the island is part of its territory.

Deterrent weapon

“This instrument should enable the EU to avoid regulatory freezing, under pressure from third countries”, explains Elvire Fabry, from the Jacques Delors Institute. Like when, in 2013, the Commission dropped its investigation against Huawei for violating competition rules after China threatened to tax French wines and German automobiles. “In a context of growing rivalries between the United States and China, where we are already suffering from the extraterritoriality of American law and where China has also endowed itself with extraterritorial law this summer, Europe is at risk of to be stuck between Washington and Beijing, between a rock and a hard place ”, continues Elvire Fabry.

You have 58.76% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.