“In a strange way --and despite his perceived Euroskepticism-- US President Trump has presented the EU with an opportunity. As the US withdraws from its global engagements, Europe has a chance to carve a leadership role in selected policy areas”.
The question of what's next for Europe is a curious one. Some feel that the EU can only survive if it drops its high-minded ambitions. But in a strange way --and despite his perceived Euroskepticism-- US President Trump has presented the EU with an opportunity. As the US withdraws from its global engagements, Europe has a chance to carve a leadership role in selected policy areas. Europe fails to spend 2% of national GDPs on defense. But it exercises real leadership in "softer" foreign policy. EU institutions and member states are the largest providers of humanitarian assistance worldwide. The EU institutions also run the most extensive election observation missions in the world. Europe hosts far more refugees than any other developed country (except Turkey). The US, meanwhile, spends under the 0.7% target set by the OECD on foreign aid. Trump is proposing massive cuts to America's foreign aid, planning to accept far fewer refugees, and reinstating the global gag rule on abortion (a Republican tradition). That leaves Europe alone owning global leadership through soft power. The EU currently faces three major foreign policy challenges in this area. 1) The refugee crisis, or how to transition from an emergency situation -- which created the EU's deal with Turkey -- to a sustainable solution. 2) Economic and political stability in the Middle East and North Africa. 3) The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in light of the Trump's disinterest. In the refugee crisis, European countries have long been divided between those prioritizing securing the EU's borders and those welcoming asylum seekers. They must strike a grand bargain: those willing should complete the Common European Asylum System -- the European Commission's proposal to cope with the refugees--. Those not joining should contribute financially. On stability in neighboring states, working with Tunisia or Egypt is not enough. Brussels has to identify what part of a country's apparatus may provoke state collapse and then focus on resilience in that area. Europe is now responsible for the heavy lifting in these areas. It will have to take the lead on them. Its reward: undisputed global acknowledgment of its leadership role in "soft" foreign policies.