The two peace missions of Europe by Kemal Derviş


Both on climate change and on new dual-use technologies, Europe’s founding peace project should go global. The devastation of the region during the two world wars deprived it of the desire to dominate others, making it easier for the European Union to act as a mediator of peace.

WASHINGTON, DC – As the end of 2021 approaches, the European Union is debating its choices and priorities in an increasingly dangerous world. Europe has succeeded since 1945 in carrying out its founding “peace project”, making war between old continental adversaries unthinkable and undoubtedly reaching a Kantian.perpetual peace»In the territory of the Union.

Moreover, although many analysts attribute the Communist collapse of 1989-91 to the failure of the Soviet Union to support an arms race with the United States, a deeper reason for the failure of the Soviet bloc was the success of the social market economy in Western Europe. And nowhere was this clearer than in the competition between West Germany and East Germany.

Above all, West Germany – and Western Europe in general – has demonstrated that it is possible to have a liberal democracy, a growing market economy, and policies that effectively redistribute income and provide protection. full social. The success of Western Europe’s model of peace and social market economy, as well as the weakness of the Soviet system, led to the ideological defeat of communism and its eventual collapse.

Today, as the world faces other daunting challenges, there are two global ‘missions’ that Europe could take on, in keeping with its post-war history as a project to secure regional peace. .

The first concerns climate change. Of course, the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow produced new commitments by countries and alliances of private actors. But, given the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth evaluation report, ambitious mitigation efforts must be deployed ahead of this decade. This is the real path towards a carbon neutral world, not mid-century promises, that’s crucial.

Keep global warming close to the target of 1.5 ° Celsius, as established in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, will depend much more on the United States, China and emerging and developing economies than on Europe, which represents less than 8% global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite Glasgow’s promises and remarkable advances in green technology, the race to keep 1.5 ° C within reach is played out on a course strewn with severe obstacles.

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In the United States, President Joe Biden’s administration has embarked on ambitious carbon mitigation efforts, but is meeting strong resistance. If the Republican Party wins the 2022 midterm elections and the 2024 presidential election, US climate policies are doomed to fall well short of COP26 commitments, even if some conservatives finally take climate risk seriously.

China represents an additional obstacle. Its current commitment reaching a peak in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 is incompatible with the need for early mitigation. Unless China cuts emissions sooner, the climate race will be lost. Worse yet, both superpowers can base their climate actions on what the other is doing.

Finally, there are the emerging and developing economies, where much of the new climate investment will be needed. The ability of these countries to contribute to an anticipated global mitigation path depends on financial aid advanced economies. Rich countries have promised Glasgow such assistance, but their past failures to honor similar commitments do not inspire confidence.

There is a reasonable chance that a combination of rapid advances in green technologies, favorable political developments in the United States and China, and financial support for emerging markets will allow the accelerated mitigation the planet needs. But there is also a strong likelihood that the 2020s will become a decade of “perpetual war” on climate issues, marked by setbacks, delays and more broken promises.

But Europe can have a positive influence on American and Chinese climate policies, notably through a carbon frontier adjustment mechanism which imposes a tax on carbon-intensive imports into the EU. And it can have a more decisive influence on the mobilization of the necessary resources for emerging markets by supporting increases in the capital of multilateral development banks of which European countries are major shareholders.

The second area where conditions can lead to perpetual war – and therefore call for a European “peace mission” – is that of dual-use technologies such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence and biotechnology. While such innovations offer humanity enormous opportunities for longer lives and greater well-being, they also involve existential risks similar to those posed by nuclear weapons and climate change.

It is difficult to draw the line between the peaceful use of these technologies and their deployment to gain strategic superiority over competitors. Aggressive technological competition between China and the United States is already tending towards perpetual conflict, in which allowing the other to advance would allow them to dominate the world.

What makes this danger even greater than the nuclear arms race of the past is that arming today’s civilian technologies may not require significant additional resources. Civilian medical research, for example, has brought the world frighteningly closer to the possibility of producing synthetic viruses that could potentially be turned into weapons of mass destruction. Similar scenarios are likely to occur in develop AI. Even more frightening, in either case, is the possibility that unintentional accidents will occur or that non-state terrorist actors may acquire the capacity to weaponize innovations.

Europe could be a leader in this area, as it has done for the climate. In particular, it should constantly warn of these dangers and help design new rules and treaties resembling the arms control pacts that previously helped protect the world from nuclear Armageddon. It can do so while preserving fundamental liberal democratic values ​​against the misuse of these technologies not only by states but also by private leviathans.

Both on climate change and on new dual-use technologies, Europe’s founding peace project should therefore go global. Europe has great human and scientific capacities, and its devastation during the two world wars deprived it of the desire to dominate others. This makes it easier for the EU to act as a peace mediator. While Europe must certainly continue to improve the well-being of its citizens, embracing global missions like those described here could provide new motivation for this generation and future generations of Europeans.


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