European “arrogance” regarding world order led to the continent’s current economic difficulties, Germany’s climate change minister said during a World Economic Forum panel discussion.
Speaking at the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos on January 16, Greens politician Robert Habeck nevertheless resisted claims that his country – and the EU as a whole – had made numerous “mistakes” in the run-up to the bloc’s current energy and financial crises.
Citing Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 political-philosophy tome The End of History and the Last Man, he said the latest situation could be seen as a result of Europe’s “naivety” that politics would always bow to economic interests.
This view was not shared by Europe’s rivals in the East or South, resulting in China and Russia rapidly outmanoeuvring the bloc in numerous sectors.
“The question of this panel is, ‘What is the European problem in the new economic world order?’ – and the problem is the arrogance … we have,” he told his fellow panellists.
“How we thought we do not need to do anything because everything is working to our advantage.”
Habeck added that it was not correct to say that Europe’s past actions constituted “mistakes”.
“Germany was dependent on Russian gas. That was a mistake from our perspective today,” the minister argued, but added: “When this developed … [we] thought that we may be able to come to a peaceful relationship with Russia and then we would have a business relationship and, out of business, we would have a gas relationship.
“So, was it a mistake at the beginning? I don’t know,” he went on to say, arguing it may instead be considered a “structural change” in the global system that left Europe finding itself on the wrong end of things.
Germany’s already bleak economy looks set to contract further through 2024, economists have told Brussels Signal. https://t.co/09nfFDjJYI
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) January 15, 2024
Other panellists did not appear convinced by Habeck’s analysis.
Speaking about Europe’s previous actions, Belen Garijo, the CEO of German multinational technology firm Merck, argued the European Union’s failure to foresee today’s problems amounted to “complacency”.
José María Álvarez-Pallete, the CEO of Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, lambasted the EU for what he said was the constant over-regulation of its markets compared to the likes of China and the US.
“It makes no sense that there is no European company among the top 44 most advanced technology [firms] on earth,” he said.
“Our market deserves more than that.”
One thing the panel all agreed on was that the answer to these problems lay in the expansion of the EU and its powers.
That was enthusiastically backed by Habeck, who said he saw protecting Europe’s economy as being central to safeguarding the pro-Eurofederalist ideals he holds.
“We are not only talking about economic growth and businesses. This is deeply related with politics now,” he said.
“As a European, I would like to see the value system I truly believe in not to be pushed away out of the world order.
“So, therefore, I agree that the answer is ‘more Europe’.
“We have to integrate,” he concluded.
Green minister Robert Habeck has begged Germany’s most popular opposition party to avoid embracing right-wing populism. https://t.co/MAgGR5WDhz
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) July 31, 2023