Despite the welter of economic problems surrounding Europe, one fact should not be forgotten: the European Union remains the world’s largest economy. With a GDP of more than €15.5 trillion, it is larger than that of the United States. And, with 20% of world trade, the EU is also the world’s second-largest exporter and importer, after China and the US, respectively. The EU is, quite simply, the world’s leading commercial power.
But this data cannot hide the fact that the institutional model that made today’s integrated Europe possible is inadequate to the problems created by the financial crisis. So we Europeans need to deepen European integration with much greater determination and speed. If we do not, there is a real risk that social discontent will undermine the EU’s foundations before we can complete the process of integration that will resolve the problems now blighting the lives of millions of people.
Moreover, these problems cannot be separated from the way in which the Union – now the main focus of the world’s economic concerns – presents itself to the world. Europe will need to bet on greater integration in order to escape this predicament. And, unavoidably, integration will lead to a united, coherent, and effective European foreign policy, one that is adapted to a world that is changing at dizzying speed.