Is there an EU Role in Asia? (2): Not Really… (plus thoughts on Greece)


Greece Addendum: I spoke at an EU conference yesterday, and I was amazed at how blithely the EU representatives glided by the Greek meltdown. If you read the coverage from the Economist or Financial Times, they make it sound like this is an existential crisis, but the Europhiles would have none of that. When I asked, I heard variants of the ‘it’s-too-big-fail’ argument: the euro is too important, Greece must and will be bailed out, the EU cannot fail. This strikes me as putting your head in the sand – denial rather than analysis.

Far too much of the EU’s supranationalism is reallyone country’s supranationalism paying for other countries’ nationalisms. That is, Germany pays for its historical guilt by paying for European unity heavily on its own. (Check this graphic to see just how much the Germans fork over.) This free-riding on German liberal guilt has pompously masqueraded as ‘transcending the nation-state.’ It is perilously close to fracture today, but I guess this can’t shake the Kantian-Europhilic elites that dominate the ‘eurocracy’ and its affiliated NGOs and universities. As I argued in paper (below), European regionalism is as much an article of faith as a testable empirical proposition, and this attitude has spread to Asia, where the regionalism discourse – in the face of persistent nationalism and talk-shop regional organizations – seems like an even greater fantastical flight of fancy.

For what its worth, I think the EU and the East Asian Community are both good ideas, but I think they are seen in too rosy a light too often. Nationalism is far more persistent, and a much deeper obstacle to regionalism than European-trained IR and foreign policy elites will admit. For good summaries of the big EU’s challenges, if not coming paralysis, try here and here.

Part 1 of this post is here. This post is intended to be a graphically summary of part 1’s argument.

Korea and the European Union have signed a free trade agreement, and the European Union is regularly a top five export market for Korea. Both sides are now exploring further dimensions to the relationship. Using a traditional list of state goals in foreign policy – national security, economic growth, prestige-seeking, and values-promotion – I examine the prospects for cooperation and integration in the future. What would either side gain by richer contact? I find that deeper engagement is unlikely. Most importantly, neither side is relevant to the basic security issues of the other. Specifically, the EU cannot assist Korea in its acute security dilemma, and ‘sovereigntist’ Korea does not share EU preferences for soft power, regionalization, and multilateral collective security. However, Korea is likely to pursue the relationship for cost-free prestige-taking. And the European Union will understand this ‘Asian bridge’ as a success for the promotion of liberal-democratic values in a non-European context. Pro-regionalist elites, most notably the ‘eurocracy,’ may pursue ‘inter-regional’ ties – such as ASEM (picture above) – for internal institutional reasons, but deep Korean attachment to the Westphalian state model will likely stymie such efforts.

Table 1 summarizes my findings:

Table 1.: EU-Korea Dyadic Benefits

 Foreign Policy Goal                                                      Benefits to each Player

  EU Korea
Security Minimal– no Korean power projection to Europe

– Korean irrelevance to Russia, GWoT/Islam, Southern & Eastern Europe

Minimal– No EU role in 6-Party Talks

– No EU global posture, esp. re: the DPRK

– Shared ambiguity on PRC

– EU irrelevance on Japan

Growth Welfare-Enhancement of FTA assumed Welfare-Enhancement of FTA assumed
Prestige Middling– Korea too small to meaningful raise EU’s global status

– Korea relationship serves eurocracy’s internal bureaucratic interest

High– large, ‘civilized’ EU raises Korea’s global profile
Values High– Korea as central example of universality of western values Minimal– low likelihood of the ‘Korean Wave’s’ success in the EU/West

1 thought on “Is there an EU Role in Asia? (2): Not Really… (plus thoughts on Greece)

  1. Pingback: Is there an EU Role in Asia? (1): EU-Korea Relations beyond just Trade « Asian Security & US Foreign Relations Blog

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