Europe in the face of multipolar geopolitics

Luis Garicano, Manuel Muñiz and Susana del Río

The Rafael del Pino Foundation organises, on 2 June 2021 at 18.30, the live dialogue through entitled "Europe facing a multipolar geopolitics" in which the following speakers will take part:

Luis Garicano is MEP, Vice-President of Renew Europe and Spokesperson of this group in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament, member of the Center for Economic Policy Research. He holds a degree in Economics and Law from the University of Valladolid, a Master's degree in European Economic Studies from the College of Europe in Bruges, a Master's degree in Economics and a PhD from the University of Chicago. Luis Garicano has developed his extensive teaching career at the University of Chicago and London School of Economics, where he has been a tenured professor and professor; he has also been Director of the Center for the Digital Economy at IE Business School; he has also been a visiting professor at MIT and London Business School. He has also held positions as an economist at the European Commission and at McKinsey & Company.

Manuel Muñiz Villa is Secretary of State for Global Spain. He served as Dean of IE's School of Global and Public Affairs from January 2017 to January 2020, during which time he was also Director of IE's Center for the Governance of Change. He also held the Rafael del Pino Chair of Global Transformation and directed the Global Leadership Programme of the Rafael del Pino Foundation. Between 2015 and 2017, Dr. Muñiz also directed the Transatlantic Relations Program at Harvard University. Since 2017 he is a fellow and one of the promoters of the Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Dr. Muñiz holds a Law Degree from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, a Master in Stock Exchange and Financial Markets from the Instituto de Estudios Bursátiles, a Master in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government and a PhD in International Relations from the University of Oxford. He has also been a David Rockefeller Fellow of the Trilateral Commission and a Millennium Fellow of the Atlantic Council. In 2016 he was named by Esglobal as one of the 25 intellectuals who are redefining Ibero-American thought.

Susana del Río Villar holds a PhD in Political Science and Sociology, Extraordinary Doctorate Award in Social and Legal Sciences. Director of the Integral European Union Programme at Deusto Business School. Academician of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. Member of the Committee of Independent Experts of the European Commission. Scientific speaker for the European Parliament. Lecturer on the EU at the Centre for Political and Constitutional Studies. Director of the expert group 'Convention on the Future of Europe', Fide. Author of three books on European politics and multilevel governance.


On 2 June 2021, the dialogue on "Europe facing a multipolar geopolitics" took place at the Rafael del Pino Foundation, with the participation of Luis Garicano, MEP and Vice-President of Renew Europe; Manuel Muñiz, Secretary of State for Global Spain, and Susana del Río, Director of the Integral European Union Programme at Deusto Business School.

The dialogue began by analysing the changes that have taken place in the European Union, in geopolitical terms, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this respect, Luis Garicano recalled that the pandemic occurred at the same time as Brexit, thanks to which the United Kingdom has not been a hindrance when it comes to adopting joint options. The European Union has taken a huge leap forward in response to the pandemic.

This jump has not been due to the European Central Bank, whose monetary policy would have been the same as the one it has applied on this occasion. Nor was it because of the ESM. It has been because of the presence of a major recovery plan, which means that Europe is going to do for the first time something it had promised never to do: issue Eurobonds. This means that Europe is deciding that, for certain issues, it is going to be an economic and fiscal power, not just a trading and monetary power.

It has also decided to proceed with a joint purchase of vaccines. These are two steps in which the Union tells citizens that the two most important decisions for them in this situation are matters for which the EU will take responsibility as a union.

This change is very important and requires mechanisms to take joint decisions on tax matters or on the role of the law. It also requires the EU to have common external positions. All these accompanying decisions are necessary, but have not been taken. Europe, therefore, is once again a giant with feet of clay. It is being taken for a ride by the Belarusians, who are a much smaller economy than the EU. It is being taken for a ride by the Russians, etc.

Citizens think that the EU will be able to control member state governments, but it has no governance mechanisms to do so. Those mechanisms are very poor.

The relationship with the United States has undergone a dramatic change since 31 December. Biden's arrival in the White House puts Europe in a situation in which the US demonstrates a very agile capacity to act and confronts the EU with the need to make that leap forward.

Manuel Muñiz considered that a very particular window is opening up for the transatlantic relationship in four areas. The first is the defence of liberal democracy. The Biden Administration has made a diagnosis on this issue that is not very different from Europe's. The cornerstone of the international system is democracy. The cornerstone of the international system is democracy. This is where a very broad area of cooperation can be opened up.

The second area is at the multilateral level. The United States has returned to the Paris agreement on climate change. It has regained its membership of the World Health Organisation. It has unblocked the appointment of the director general of the World Trade Organisation. It has expressed interest in returning to the Iran nuclear deal. Froze bilateral tariffs with the EU over the Airbus case.

On the economic front, we have a very intense bilateral relationship in trade and investment. Biden has approved a $1.2 trillion stimulus package and has two more in the pipeline. The three together total $6 trillion. The first package has already made a significant contribution to economic growth in the European Union this year. The US administration concludes that this crisis must be overcome by supporting the middle class more by recalibrating taxes. This will have consequences in the EU.

In the fourth chapter, security, an opportunity is opened up by the new US commitment to NATO and new risks, such as cyber-security.

Susana del Río points out that, with the arrival of Covid-19, the EU has looked in the mirror and asked itself what it is capable of doing. It has been able to change very quickly. Now, when it looks in the mirror, it can be proud of this capacity for change through its institutional machinery and its political model. It has been able to find a way to push through a European recovery plan and a supranational vaccination, which are two very important milestones.

It is more credible than ever in the eyes of citizens because it has proven to be a union that knows how to weave policy, make decisions and give a voice to each of its institutions. It is a European Union that is more tangible than ever because it is the one that is going to make it possible for the economy of each and every member state to recover, because it is vaccinating everyone regardless of whether citizens are from a richer or less wealthy country.

Also when the European Parliament has woven its resolutions, has sought consensus, has shown its ability to send a signal to the European Commission to be a European government and to say that the Multiannual Financial Framework will not be approved if it is not linked to the protection of the rule of law. This representation of our vote through our MEPs and how they have been able to give this roadmap to the Commission is something relevant.

Manuel Muñiz commented that last year could have ended substantially worse than the way we have ended it. With the approval of the recovery fund and the Multiannual Financial Framework, a number of very serious taboos have been broken. That the vaccination campaign is reaching all countries is a success. An agreement has been negotiated with the UK that has avoided a hard Brexit. Mobility management has involved limiting the right of mobility within the EU and has been much tougher still with third countries. It is unimaginable what impact this would have had on Spain if we had been a third country in this crisis.

The EU has a lot of work to do. It needs to reinforce its leadership, strengthen its foreign and security policy, its strategic autonomy, especially in a new field. In the past, when people talked about foreign and security policy, they talked about a European pillar in NATO. Covid-19 has extended the scope of the European Union's strategic autonomy to the field of trade, because of the importance of keeping global supply chains functioning. The third area is technological sovereignty, where Europe is lagging behind the US and China in key technologies. Put all this together and the question arises of technological dependence, a problem that can only be solved at the scale of the European market.

Susana del Río referred to the EU's system of multi-level governance, which is an example of concentric circles harmonising. Now, with the conference on the future of the EU, we have a great opportunity to improve governance and we have a risk. The conference is an opportunity for civil society to put forward its proposals and demands in this framework. It is an opportunity for there to be two very orderly levels: representative democracy complemented by participatory democracy.

For the conference to be a success, there must also be a space dedicated to the issues that will really lead to the convening of a new European convention for the reform of the treaties. The topics to be discussed must include issues such as the transition to qualified majority voting, transnational electoral lists and the European constitution. This is necessary for more agile governance and to be more of a leader in the world of globalisation and to believe that it is a leader.

Luis Garicano warned that the content of the conference is very strange. It is necessary to eliminate the unanimity rule in areas where it still persists, such as taxation or defence, but all of this has not been included in the issues to be discussed. The conference has been designed as an encore parliament where everything can be discussed. There is also the issue of the EU's two-headedness, which our enemies are exploiting to try to overturn our institutions. States, however, refuse to avoid the leadership deficit. Achieving this depends, in part, on citizens also mobilising and intervening.

Susana del Río is more optimistic. For her, it is very important to create a trend, putting these big political issues on the table and getting them talked about.

Manuel Muñiz recalled that European integration was a process of permanent dissatisfaction. It is about sharing sovereignty and the process is already entering into issues that are at the heart of national sovereignty. These are complex debates that require high costs to accrue to non-integration. The ECB's monetary policy, for example, has allowed for more expansionary fiscal policies, which have not been possible in other countries, thanks to this ceding of sovereignty.

With regard to Belarus, there must be a process of sanctions to cost it for its violation of air mobility rules, because its behaviour is unacceptable.

Regarding the EU's strategic autonomy, Manuel Muñiz highlighted the need to find a balance between security in trade relations and the resilience of global supply chains of critical materials and sectors. Chains can be shortened and brought to closer and safer locations, but this implies reducing trade relations. Another option is to identify critical materials and have the capacity to mobilise production at key moments. Strategic reserves have the risk that it is necessary to be forward-looking, anticipating well the types of crises that may come. The EU must assume an open autonomy, without imposing significant costs and inefficiencies, and not feed theses that weaken global trade.

Luis Garicano points out that global chains are much more stable than we thought. With a savage shock like the one we have experienced, world trade has practically recovered its levels. It is the first thing that has recovered. Perhaps the concern about them has been exaggerated. What is strategic? If you ask the question, it seems that everything is strategic, so that strategic autonomy becomes an excuse for protectionism. The middle ground, a health crisis is something special. The US has used border law to prevent the export of vaccines and components. A very narrow definition of what is strategic is needed. Europe has to be mainly open-minded, free markets. Digital technologies can be a strategic issue, perhaps also health issues with a very narrow definition.

Manuel Muñiz added that, in the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis, even intra-European chains failed because some European countries withheld medical supplies. EU member states have tolerated levels of European dependency because we have understood that when difficult times come, these systems will continue to function. There should be measures to secure and strengthen internal chains.

For Susana del Río, Covid-19 has accelerated everything. We now have a European green pact to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Regarding digitalisation, we know that geopolitics seems to be one side of the coin and digitalisation is on the other side. The EU is behind on many issues, but it has a very important power in this whole area, which is regulatory capacity. No other political model in the world has that. We have to get it right because in digitalisation, not everything goes. The centralising power of the EU itself and how it then deploys it to each of the member states. This is important because in the matter of the sovereignty of the member states, this European sovereignty, linked to national sovereignties, is very important. In health, something has become clear. When the EU asked Italy for help, Italy was unable to react. The EU does not have competence for health. It also needs that dimension in order to be able, together with each member state, to react to something like Covid-19.

The EU has a geopolitical strategy, but sometimes it does not know it has one. It has the mechanisms, but it is not aware that it has them. Therefore, if it is not aware, it can hardly put them in place. China or the United States are very aware of what they are and what they do. The EU is very aware of what it is, but not that in addition to sustainable development, the EU is an example of institutional sustainability. We have a principle of subsidiarity that can be synchronised with multilevel governance, because that principle is a great example and democratic exercise. The democratisation of algorithms must have an important EU stamp.

Manuel Muñiz indicated that the backdrop to geopolitics is the degradation of the open international order and the questioning of liberal democracy, which has been taking place over the last twenty years. This has a very clear manifestation in the rise of non-liberal countries and the weakening of democracy within the democratic world, behind which there is a process of weakening of the middle classes. Economic polarisation is followed by political polarisation.

Covid-19 adds speed to this process of increasing inequality. For this reason, the response had to be through expansionary policies and support for the economic and productive fabric. An additional layer is the technological layer. Emerging technologies are beginning to shape and sustain repressive systems.

The EU can play a role because it is a bastion of rights and freedoms, which has the normative capacity to build a technological humanism in which, for example, people's right to privacy is protected. Europe will not play a role in its ability to mobilise troops, it is an atypical power that can shape international debates, what lies behind all these issues is a vision of freedom and political models.

Luis Garicano pointed out that the geographical realities we face are, on the one hand, the authoritarian East and, on the other, the South, which has very different challenges related to immigration and the per capita income differential. The question is how the three legs of power deal with these geographical challenges. We are not dealing well with these challenges. At the moment, the mechanism for demanding that Hungary and Poland respect the law has been put on ice. This values policy has an obvious weakness, and that is that it requires the capacity to be able to do it. We should be able to project our elements of power (trade, development aid and regulation), so the current tools at the EU's disposal are not very useful in tackling these challenges.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.