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Geopolitics

Europe, The Naive Power

Standing alone against the United States and China, Europe must wake up in 2019. And come together.

Brussels morning
Brussels morning
Nicolas Barré

PARIS — Europe is alone. Alone strategically and militarily, as demonstrated once again by President Trump's end-of-year decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, leaving a large void in the Middle East. Alone economically as well, against two blocs — the United States and China — which, each in its own way, systematically target Europe's industrial forces (aeronautics, automotive, pharmaceuticals, steel, chemicals) and have undertaken the digital colonization of the Old Continent with a dual objective: data control and payment control.

This great lesson of the past year, if not decade, calls for a strategic and political awakening. Does Europe have the capacity to do so? There's no doubt about that. Does it have the means to do so? Whether it's on the military, economic or financial front, the answer is no. Still, this should be the next generation's great project. Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, after all, are powerful mobilizing agents: If we don't wake up now to the provocations of one or to the new roads of expansion of the other, when will we?

Europe must acquire its autonomy in terms of security. "It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in the spring of 2018. "We need a Europe which can defend itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner," Emmanuel Macron said during the 100th-anniversary commemorations of World War I. Sure. But there can be no sovereign security policy at European level if you only devote 1.3% of your GDP to it. Our leaders know this. What are they doing?

Industrial power is key to strategic autonomy. Do we know that?

Faced with two major economic powers who are doing their utmost to protect their vital interests, Europe is a naive power. The evidence for this is abundant. Six European countries — Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and perhaps soon Finland — have chosen American combat aircraft (the F35 developed by Lockheed Martin) for their defense rather than European aircraft ... which have no chance of ever being sold to the United States or to countries that are exclusive domain of the U.S., such as Japan or Israel.

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II — Photo: U.S. Air Force

Another example is the fact that one of Brussels' first decisions in 2019 could be to ban the merger between Alstom and Siemens, which, if it were to happen, would create a rail champion capable of competing with the two Chinese giants. Industrial power is one of the keys to strategic autonomy. The United States and China know this. Do we?

As for financial sovereignty, the Iranian sanctions case has shown that Europe has none, despite the success of the euro. The dollar's spider web irresistibly brings us back under the influence of the American legal system, again depriving Europe of its autonomy. What are we doing to resist?

Let us hope that, in 2019, Europe will wake up and come together on these issues of sovereignty. And that the peoples of Europe realize that our rivals dream of one thing only: that the populists win the next European elections in May.

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Society

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*

-Essay-

When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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