Fundamentally what is the Euro crisis about? Essentially coming to terms with the urgency of political union – a ‘United States of Europe’ – as a forerunner of how integration may have to ultimately play out globally. And it is the revisiting of the German Question in the post-cold war resurgence of a reunified Germany that is forcing the issue; Berlin’s austerity-induced crisis of integration within the euro being, perhaps, the most seminal show down concerning how the global political-economy will be governed approaching mid- century.
The economic crisis of integration begs a political integrationist solution. This, in turn, carries implications for global economic – and political – governance revolving around regional power centres within continental subsystems: Germany in Europe, Turkey and Russia in trans-Eurasia overlapping with China in greater East Asia, India in South Asia, Egypt and Iran in the Middle East, Brazil in South America, the US in North America with power shared on the African continent between South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Overlapping strategic triangulation between regional and transcontinental power clusters such as Germany-Russia-China; the China-Russia-India ministerial; the Indo-Brazil-South African trilateral are blurring north-south and east-west divides as a new global geopolitical-economy takes shape. The constructing of this emerging system of triangulated relationships linked to integrationist initiatives and experiments is what essentially defines international politics at this historical juncture. The fact that this is a geopolitically competitive process motivated by differing agendas makes this no less so.
Why this is so results from humanity having moved into era of hyper- interconnectedness by the end of the last century. This reflected the interplay between demographic trends that will see humanity reach 9 billion by 2050 and the combined forces of deepening interdependence: global economic integration and technetronic transformations in information, communications and transportation making for ‘real time’ interconnectivity in finance, business, trade and commerce.
As such, there is no part of the world that cannot be instantly affected by developments elsewhere in the world. Thus, as the premier postwar experiment in supranationalist integration, the way in which the Euro crisis plays out may likely be a harbinger of things to come in how the rest of the world structures integration. For there really is little choice in the matter despite what many see as the utopian quality of ‘one world’ thinking. Also, resistance to integration as the next phase in the evolution of human interaction is palpable in widespread opposition to perceived threats to national sovereignty the world over: reactionary global localism?
But the crisis of the euro and the survivability of the EU itself is emblematic of the bind that has arisen between political compulsions toward preserving national independence and identity amid the gravitational pull of supranational consolidation. Indeed, this is a universal dynamic at all levels: yearnings for autonomy and the preservation of particularisms in identity versus the centripetal pull of ever wider spheres of community under centralized authority. In a word, the political management of unity and diversity if not building it outright.
Greece’s problem is a European problem that needs of a European solution
The Euro crisis is a variation along this universal theme complicated by Europe’s regional differences and northern feelings of superiority over the southern ‘periphery.’ It is a variant defined by contradictions between a flawed design in European monetary union against overriding compulsions toward exercising sovereignty as the driving force in the politics of economic integration.
As such, Europeans have trapped themselves in a dilemma that is pushing them to make major changes in the terms of integration – not likely in integration’s reversal.
This is where the proverbial question of the EU’s so-called ‘democratic deficit’ becomes especially germane. In this regard, it was interesting to watch Greece’s president assert in an interview that while there has been a loss of economic autonomy by Eurozone members, there is no lessening of democracy since citizens can vote on whatever emanates from Brussels. But to what effect?
National electorates have no say in determining the terms of salvaging agreements negotiated between their elected governments and the unelected EU, European Central Bank (proxies for Berlin) and the IMF? Admitting as much, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras asserts “Greece’s problem is a European problem that needs of a European solution” while Europe needed more of a federal system like America.
The majority of Greece’s citizens who want to remain in the euro have had no say on terms which may compel them to vote themselves out of the single currency. Only if national electorates transform into an EU electorate with national sovereignties giving way to continental sovereignty can the proverbial ‘democratic deficit’ be redressed in ending the Eurocrisis. In other words, pan-European political integration, diluting Berlin’s economic dictat.
But the prospect of a Eurozone breakup need not necessarily signal a setback for European integration as much as a pointer in the direction that the redesigning of supranationalism must take. For within a multi-speed Europe, there is no reason why the southern periphery might not find common grounds of convergence with a post-spring Arab Maghreb in search of an inter-regional Eurafrican arrangement linking African and European integration dynamics.
But this would pose a challenge for regional and continental integration in an Africa already grappling with the asymmetries of EU Economic Partnership Agreements. These aim to close off a burgeoning African economy from inroads being made by the BRICS and other emerging powers.
Africa’s challenge is to strengthen integration at the AU centre and amongst its regional economic pillars. This is not only to further economic integration but to pre-empt a further fragmenting of a colonially partitioned Africa as threatened by the Tuareg ‘Azad republic’ in northern Mali. Like the EU which is ultimately a ‘security community,’ peace and security integration in Africa must expand the joint writ of the AU and its regional economic communities into contested zones of conflict within and between the continent’s fragile states.
If this means establishing a long-term multilateral-backed interim administration in the borderlands between two Sudans, so be it. It might even buy time for the East African Community to further advance towards supranational political federation. This could possibly incentivise an expanding sphere of integration into northeast Africa on the one hand (addressing the problem of the Sudans and Somalia) along with southern Africa on the other.
As the centerpiece in the Grand Free Trade Area with SADC and COMESA, a politically integrated East Africa might influence South Africa to take more seriously the transforming of the Southern African Customs Union into the negotiated nucleus of a multi-speed federated SADC.
Tshwane, meanwhile, will have to mend fences with Nigeria and Kenya among others in knitting together an inter-African complement to its membership in BRICS while joining with India and Brazil within IBSA in structuring a more coherent multilateral architecture for a southern hemisphere defined by the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic. This may well be their leveraging ticket onto a restructured UN Security Council.
While the southern hemisphere needs multilateral structuring the crisis in Europe centred around Germany’s hegemony bespeaks a northern hemisphere that is also in flux maid energy security geopolitics. Along its eastern Eurasian extremity, it is the dynamics of the Sino-India-Russian strategic triangle that bears watching.
Within this matrix, the ‘Chindia’ connection potentially links the two hemispheres in a possible integrationist convergence surrounding the political opening in Myanmar; one that could result in an integrationist strategic triangle emerging between China and India converging on Myanmar and roping in Bangladesh.
The promise of these prospects might be the furthering of interregional linkages between ‘Cape to Cairo’ integration along the eastern African littoral of the Indian Ocean and the dynamism of South and East Asia, including the ASEAN economies led by Indonesia.
The recent launching of an admittedly uphill northeast Asian trade initiative between China, South Korea and Japan along side the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership underlines the geo-economic momentum of the Indo-Pacific as the emerging centre of gravity of global integration. And this leaves out inter-American dynamics surrounding a rising Brazil in the south and a demographically changing America in the north, the inspiration of DuBois’ color-line dictum. But the bottom-line: multi-speed post-Westphalian world federalism.
Francis Kornegay is a senior research associate with the Institute for Global Dialogue.