The European Union’s dilemma in the complexity of global politics

By Frank Aragbonfoh Abumere

In global politics, complexity is the norm rather than the exception. There are, of course, simple cases of global politics; but these are the exceptions rather than the norm. One characteristic of the complexity of global politics is the dilemma between order and justice. On the one hand, the existence and sustenance of order (i.e. maintenance of peace and security) is seen by some politicians, diplomats and scholars as the overriding value in global politics. But on the other hand, the promotion of justice (i.e. respecting human rights, giving consideration to morality, etc) is seen by other politicians, diplomats and scholars as the overriding value in global politics. The European Union cannot be said to either totally subscribe to the ‘overriding value’ of order or the ‘overriding value’ of justice.

One characteristic of the complexity of global politics is the dilemma between order and justice.

As a regional or supranational organisation that has twenty-two (out of its twenty-eight) member-states as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and has the United Kingdom and France as nuclear-weapon states and Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium as nuclear weapon-sharing states, it might be expected that the EU will openly and totally promote the overriding value of order. But this is not the case, or at least it is not the obvious case.  Given that the EU, sometimes implicitly and at other times explicitly, advertises itself as a ‘normative or civilian power’, or prides itself as a Union that upholds democratic principles and holds the rule of law to be sacrosanct, there is no doubt that it gives consideration to the question of justice in global politics. So, while we cannot conclude that the EU believes that ‘might is right’, but we cannot also conclude that the EU says ‘let justice be done; even if the world perishes’. The consequence of this middle-of-the-road stance of the EU is that the Union is caught up in the order and justice dilemma in global politics.

So, while we cannot conclude that the EU believes that ‘might is right’, but we cannot also conclude that the EU says ‘let justice be done; even if the world perishes’.

To summarise this dilemma: in global politics, on the one hand the EU seeks to maintain order, and on the other hand it seeks to promote justice. A look at the provisions governing the foreign and security policy of the Union will reveal this simultaneous goal of the Union. Although the provisions of the common foreign and security policy of the EU simultaneously seek to maintain order and promote justice thereby entangling the Union in the order and justice dilemma in global politics, it does not necessarily follow that to resolve this dilemma the Union will either have to jettison the pursuit of the goal of order or have to jettison the pursuit of the goal of justice. Both goals and values are essential in global politics!

Imagine a world without order! We know too well that a world without order will surely be an undesirable and an unpleasant one. But also imagine a world without justice! While order is an essential condition that allows us to pursue the claims of justice, justice is an essential condition that allows us to enjoy the benefits of order. Consequently, rather than jettisoning either order or justice, or totally accepting either one at the expense of the other, the EU needs to adopt a strategy that equilibrates order and justice.

While order is an essential condition that allows us to pursue the claims of justice, justice is an essential condition that allows us to enjoy the benefits of order. Consequently, rather than jettisoning either order or justice, or totally accepting either one at the expense of the other, the EU needs to adopt a strategy that equilibrates order and justice.

The EU can adopt the concept of market equilibrium from microeconomics and adapt it as a strategy. In microeconomics, market equilibrium helps balance the forces of supply and demand. The two main advantages of market equilibrium are that it helps eliminate surpluses and shortages, or at least it helps to reduce the level, duration and frequency of surpluses and shortages in a competitive market. In this adoption and adaptation of (market) equilibrium, the EU will deal with order and justice as if they were supply and demand and then employ equilibrium to balance them so that there will neither be surplus of order and shortage of justice nor surplus of justice and shortage of order.

Ultimately, this will help the EU to deal with complex and multifaceted issues in global politics especially as they concern the Union in view of its common foreign and security policy. So, in the end, for the EU: although ‘might is not right’, order will still be maintained; and although ‘justice will not be done if the world will perish’, justice will still be promoted.

 

Frank Aragbongoh Abumere

 

Frank Aragbonfoh Abumere is an independent researcher. He was a GEM Fellow at the Department of Political Science, LUISS University, Rome. He is interested in global governance and related issues.

 

 


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