French President Emmanuel Macron is in favour of EU strategic autonomy. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT / POOL


EU perceived as weak globally, EU-funded study finds


The European Union is viewed as weaker globally than both China and the US, a survey by one of Europe’s leading think tanks has found.

In a study published on Wednesday, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) – which is itself funded by the European institutions – reported that “in every country polled, respondents were less likely to view the EU as ‘strong’ than the US and China”.

The country where the highest proportion of people regarded the EU as “strong” was India, where barely more than a third of the population (36 per cent) perceived the bloc this way. By contrast, a majority of Indians viewed China and the US as strong (52 per cent and 57 per cent respectively).

The study also found that Europeans’ own assessment of the bloc’s strength was startlingly negative, with just 13 per cent of the bloc’s citizenry regarding the EU as strong. The only other country surveyed where people had a lower perception of the EU’s strength was Russia (11 per cent).

The world’s perception of the EU’s weakness also appears to be mirrored by the ECFR’s own analysts.

In the conclusion to the report, the authors noted that the call for Europe to achieve greater “strategic autonomy” – supported most notably by French President Emmanuel Macron – is “more likely to divide Europe than to unite it”.

They also stated that “the EU will never be capable of self-sufficiency” and warned that “the EU’s insistence on being a strong and autonomous geopolitical player is certain to backfire if it is divorced from any real capacity to make a difference”.

This is not the first time that the ECFR has explicitly noted the EU’s weakness in recent months.

Earlier this year, the think tank reported that Europe was “becoming an American vassal” and that the vast majority of member states had “almost completely renounced the idea of greater strategic autonomy”

Using remarkably forthright language, the ECFR also compared Germany, Europe’s largest economy, to “a scared child in a room full of strangers” which feels “alone if Uncle Sam [is] not holding its hand”.

In a subsequent interview, one of the report’s co-authors also suggested that Europe’s leaders are complicit in a process of “meta-vassalisation”, whereby they are unable to publicly admit their subservience to the US.

“I often found that what people were saying to us [and] also to Macron was that the problem is not the concept you are trying to convey, the problem is the way you’ve described it,” said ECFR Research Director Jeremy Shapiro.

“It sounded like they were basically saying: ‘You’re right, but don’t talk about it this way.'”