Europe in the International Order

by Roman Kuźniar (Author)
©2018 Monographs VIII, 240 Pages
Open Access


The subject of this work is the rise and fall of Europe’s aim to rebuild its position in global politics after the Cold War. With success in the unification of Europe and the subsequent deepening and enlargement of its integration, the Union set itself the ambitious task of becoming a global power, even a superpower.
However, starting with the first decade of the XXI century, we have witnessed a rapid erosion of the international position of Europe (the EU). The author carefully analyses the causes of the EU’s failure in pursuing the role of European representative, Europe thereby pretending to the role of one of three world powers. Besides cultural and demographic trends, the author identifies the main factors leading to this failure: the divergent interests of individual European powers, their incapacity to act in a geopolitical context and the rapid erosion of Europe’s civilizational identity.
The rapid decline of Europe’s international position threatens the appearance of a new and bipolar global arrangement together with the further marginalisation of Europe.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Part I The March of Europe through History: From Charlemagne to the Cold War
  • 1 Europe Becomes an International Order
  • 1 The ancient roots of the European international order – Greece
  • 2 The pre-European experience of empire – Rome
  • 3 The emergence of Europe and the European international order
  • 2 Europe Conquers the World
  • 1 Europe’s discovery of the world
  • 2 Europe breaks away from the Rest of the World
  • 3 Europe imposes its rule on the World
  • 3 Europe Creates a Normative Dimension for International Order
  • 1 Inspiration
  • 2 The League of Nations as a normative dimension of international order
  • 3 The fall of the system of the League
  • 4 Europe’s Absence from the Cold War Order
  • 1 A new cuius regio, eius religio (400 years later)
  • 2 The institutionalisation of the division of Europe and its consequences
  • 3 The birth of the “Little Europe” in the shadow of its protector from across the Atlantic
  • 4 Attempts at dialogue between “East” and “West” and the sudden fall of the Iron Curtain
  • Part II Attempted Return
  • 5 European Breakthrough
  • 1 The end of the European division – the fall of the communist bloc
  • 2 The framework for a new international order
  • 3 New political–institutional foundations of Europe
  • 4 Enlargement, that is to say: unification
  • 6 The EU’s Impact on Its Neighbours: Influence by Osmosis
  • 1 The EU and the Mediterranean region
  • 2 Turkey – geopolitics, identity and Europe’s borders
  • 3 The post-Yugoslavian laboratory: from conflict to EU neighbours to EU members
  • 4 The EU and its attitude to Eastern Europe
  • 7 The EU on the Global Stage
  • 1 The EU and the “Rest of the World”
  • 2 The EU on the global stage – the normative aspect
  • 8 The EU as a Global Actor? A Lost Opportunity
  • 1 The younger brother does not abandon his elder sister
  • 2 Security disputes
  • 3 European forces – a reality check
  • 4 Europe’s constitutional fiasco
  • Part III The Twilight of Europe as an International Actor
  • 9 The 2008 Crisis and the Beginnings of a Post-Western International Order
  • 1 Crisis of the West, crisis of Europe
  • 2 The return of the “Rest of the World”
  • 3 Signs of a new order
  • 10 Crisis as an Ending
  • 1 Struggle with the financial–economic crisis (i.e. the EU is busy with itself)
  • 2 Political–institutional crisis
  • 11 Crisis of the International Role of the EU
  • 1 Foreign policy weakens, security and defence disappear
  • 2 Towards the Mediterranean – a good start to a bad thing
  • 3 Unresolved duel with Russia
  • 12 The Conditions of the EU’s Survival as a World Power
  • 1 No entity without identity
  • 2 The atrophy of the EU’s will to power
  • 3 The year 2016 – opportunity for a breakthrough?
  • Closing Remarks
  • Bibliograpy
  • Series index

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This book is about Europe’s attempt to find its place in the international order today – in an international order which is, in fact, largely of Europe’s own historical making. This attempt was undertaken after the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the abolition of the division of Europe into East and West, under the control of superpowers from outside of Europe. These efforts, made “in the name of Europe”, were undertaken by the European Union (EU), itself a dream-come-true for many generations of Europeans and a response to their dramatic experiences, especially from the first half of the XX century. Europeans united as the EU not only for reasons of security and economic development, but also because they wished to rebuild the position of Europe on the world stage enabling its influence on the international order post Cold War. Europeans believed that the “Old Continent” could offer the world much in the way of values – its cultural heritage, ideas, a model of economic growth and social life. Yet much that we have witnessed in the second decade of the XXI century seems to indicate that this attempt is ending in fiasco before our very eyes.

Europe’s current situation in international relations and its prospects for the future require that we take a step back and study its historical path to greatness – the long centuries it took to create its unique civilisation, the good and bad experiences undergone while building its identity and its relations with the outside world. There are elements of this identity to be found in ancient Greece and Rome – elements which come together to shape Europe’s later shape and fortune. However, Europe itself – with an identity strongly marking it out from the surrounding world and forming the basis for relations between European nations – appeared in the Middle Ages, at the end of the first millennium. Turbulent centuries of war between European nations and against external invaders will come to pass – exhibiting a fascinating spiritual and material development. Finally, stable politico-territorial structures appeared on the basis of a shared civilisational foundation, enabling foreign policy and lasting relations between counterparts across the entire continent.

In this way, we arrive at the first genuine international order – that which developed in the Europe of the XVI and XVII centuries. The literature on our subject sometimes gives a contrary impression, but in fact neither the order represented by ancient Greece nor the orders created by ancient China or imperial Rome amounted to international orders in the sense intended here. Claiming otherwise is to fall victim to terminological and/or methodological imprecision. A variety ← 1 | 2 → of authors have taken [these] imperial formations to represent an international order, with even superficial contacts between the frequently tentative territorial–political entities being granted the status of “international relations”. The problems are compounded by the use of the terms “international order” and “world order” as interchangeable.1 Equally careless is the common use of the concept of “international system”,2 also used interchangeably with “international order”.

Without engaging at this point in deliberations of a terminological or methodological nature, let me say that for the purposes of this work I understand an international order to be a distinct geopolitical whole, made up of participants; relations between those participants regulated by agreed-upon norms (institutions); a balance of power stabilising the order, whereby questioning that balance of power may destabilise the order or even hasten its demise; an economic formation represented by the order’s participants and finally a cultural–ideological sphere which sustains its coherence and legitimacy. Just such a whole arose in Europe and was raised up to ever greater heights of development in Europe itself. At the same time the European powers, in virtue of their level of advancement, extended the influence of Europe across the world – via colonialism, imperialism – and ensured Europe’s hegemony in the global order which Europe itself had created (the turn of the XIX and XX centuries). After World War I, Europe added to its order a normative dimension in the form of the system of the League of Nations. Thanks to its economic and military superiority, colonial influences and its leadership role in the League of Nations, Europe appeared to sit on top of the pyramid implicit in the world’s international order.

This position of dominance as a world power was suddenly challenged by two revisionist powers: fascist Germany and the communist Soviet Union. Those powers had appeared in aggressive opposition both to the newly created international order – at this moment in its “Versailles stage” – and to the very economic and political system of “old Europe”. As a consequence of World War II, Europe not only lost its former position, but it was also deprived of real influence on the international order. One part of Europe became a protectorate of the United States, while the other part became a vassal of the international system created ← 2 | 3 → by the Soviet Union. The western part of this division was, however, able to preserve and develop its own cultural identity, laying the foundations for impressive economic growth. It was in the west too that the first steps were taken towards a united and integrated Europe (the European Community).

After the gaps of the Cold War period had been bridged, Europe took up the most ambitious, peaceful unification project of its history – the EU. The goal of this project was both to support Europe in its quest to become a “global power” – even a “superpower” (in the words of the British Prime Minister) –, one ready to participate in the resolution of the leading international issues of the day, and to influence the very parameters of the world order. To this end, the first decade of the EU’s existence witnessed the birth of a whole series of institutional mechanisms, beginning with the Maastricht Treaty of 1991–1992. These institutional innovations were meant to serve the effective representation of the Union, its interests and initiatives on the international stage. They were also meant to maximise the combined potential of member states in exerting their influence on regions both nearer to and further from Europe, in accordance with Europe’s values, security and stability. Above all, at stake was a common foreign and security policy. Somewhat later a military component was added as well as one-person organs representing the EU to the world – the High Representative and the President of the European Council.

For the first fifteen or so years of the EU, everything went according to plan, for all appearances following the plot of a well-written script. Success followed success for the Union – the Schengen Zone, the eurozone, the expansion of the Union, defence policy. Then, all of a sudden, at the end of the 2000s, this line of development collapsed. Internal crises combined with publicised divisions to deprive the EU of its ability to impact the global region surrounding it. At first one might have thought that this was a transitory stage that the Community would overcome as it had in the past, emerging strengthened, perhaps even going on to take a further step in the process of integration. But this time nothing of the sort looked on the cards. On the contrary, on top of a passing but deep crisis (financial or political) there appeared long-term problematic tendencies. At the same time, a contributing factor was the so-called “return” of the rest of the world to the international stage. Everything seemed to suggest that Europe, and with it the Union, was in something of a “Spenglerian” crisis. While it is true that perhaps the first work to declare a new phase in the international order came with the title “Post-American” (F. Zakaria), it might have been more appropriate to speak of a “post-Western” order, and in particular of a “post-European” order.

Though one must be concerned by the accelerated erosion of the civilisational foundation of Europe and the dramatic shrinking of its demographic potential, ← 3 | 4 → this work is not going to be one about Europe’s “twilight”. Proclamations of this kind would be premature, for Europe still has at its disposal significant material potential and superiority in some areas. If it is indeed appropriate to speak of a twilight, then it is only one in its first phase. This book speaks of the contribution of Europe in the development of the global international order, and then about the necessary and ambitious attempt of Europe to find its place in the latest, post-Cold-War version of that order. That this attempt has ended in fiasco – a fiasco also brought on by the fact that the European powers have begun to treat the EU as they once treated the League of Nations – should not deter the nations of Europe from searching for a better way to express their collective interests and projects. We should begin by restoring the EU’s former functionality. This is not an easy task and is one of the subjects at issue here. It is hard to say whether this restoration is still possible, or whether a new institutional form will be required. This in turn will depend on whether the situation we are currently witnesses to is merely a passing “illness” of the European organism and a crisis of form alone, or whether Europe’s “civilisational fuel” is simply running out. In the case of stars, once their energy has gone, their light continues for a time to reach us – though the star itself has already disappeared.

Roman Kuźniar

1 Including H. Kissinger, the author of the fundamental work: World Order, New York, 2014. However, Kissinger has no doubts that, “What passes for order in our time was devised in Western Europe nearly four centuries ago…”, pp. 3–4.

2 An example of the aforementioned “carefree attitude” to methodology is the well-known work (one indeed based on extensive historical material): International Systems in World History: Remaking the Study of International Relations by B. Buzan, R. Little, Oxford, 2000.

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Part I The March of Europe through History: From Charlemagne to the Cold War

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1 Europe Becomes an International Order

1 The ancient roots of the European international order – Greece


VIII, 240
ISBN (Hardcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2018 (September)
European identity European Union Geopolitics European decline Reunification of Europe European Security
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. VIII, 240 pp.

Biographical notes

Roman Kuźniar (Author)

Roman Kuźniar is Professor at the Chair of Strategic Studies, University of Warsaw. His research and publications focus both on Poland’s and international security, human rights in international relations, contemporary world politics, Poland’s foreign policy, strategic issues and Europe as an international actor. In the years 2010-2015, he was advisor to the President of Poland (Bronisław Komorowski) on international affairs. He also served as director of the Polish Institute of International Affairs and head of policy planning at the Polish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.


Title: Europe in the International Order
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