For decades, the EU has focused on economic integration rather than power politics. However, as authoritarian regimes have risen to power in many parts of the world and the United States’ leadership has waned, geopolitics has resurfaced with a fury. The EU’s foreign policy is struggling to adapt to the new reality due to its shaky structures. However, it will be the basic areas of economic integration, not foreign policy, that is going to determine whether the EU will cope with power bloc rivalries. The euro, trade and competition policies, the internal market’s norm-setting capacity, and the EU’s financial strength provide the union with the tools it needs to survive.
Many European citizens have lost faith in EU institutions fifteen months following the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic. Their aspirations and expectations for greater and more effective European cooperation, which were evident at the start of the crisis, have clearly not been satisfied. Nonetheless, Europeans appear to understand that the current institutions’ leaders, however dissatisfied they may be, are only in charge of the EU for a limited time, as per a Policy Brief published by European Council On Foreign Relations. As per their survey findings, following Biden’s election, European leaders may have wondered if this was still required now that the US was ‘back.’ Nonetheless, due of the impact of Covid-19 on Europeans’ worldviews, it is more important than ever. Europe has been scarred by Brexit and Trump’s win. The West has a higher level of trust among EU people. They regard the United States and the United Kingdom as their most important partners. They are conscious, however, that in an era of great power competition, they will have to rely more on themselves in the end.
The world has been transported back to the 1970s by the rise in energy costs, which began last year and has been bolstered by Russia’s military activity in Ukraine and the “collective West’s” (Europe and North America, and other likeminded countries) sanctions war against Moscow. Stagflation raged at the time, first in the United Kingdom and later in other countries throughout the world. What is going on right now is remarkably similar to what happened 50 years ago. This time, however, the consumers, who are also providing military aid to the Ukrainian government, are attempting to impose an embargo on Russian energy supplies. One of the outcomes of the 1970s oil crises was the development of huge gas pipelines from the Soviet Union to Western European states aiming to minimize their reliance on Arab supply.
The Americans have vowed to supply the entire world, including much of Europe, but they have failed to assure that they have enough to eat in times of crisis. Of course, the situation in the United States is better than in Europe, where gas prices were already two to three times higher and have already increased by five to six times.
As a result, inflation in the United States hit a 41-year high of 8.5 percent in March, 7% in the United Kingdom, a level not seen in 30 years, and 7.5 percent across the EU in April (a year ago it was 1.6 percent). Furthermore, five of the 27 members had double-digit price increases, with Estonia, the absolute leader, seeing a 19 percent hike.
The EU is making a major blunder in foreign policy, with no contingency plan or strategy in place to deal with this looming issue. Currently, the bloc is hell-bent on using Ukraine to force Russia to surrender militarily. Meanwhile, it has designated itself as an “Indo-Pacific” power, shown no initiative in avoiding being drawn into Washington’s conflict with China in an area of the world where it is not headquartered. This leaves the EU with the option of forming a partnership with India, but the 1.3 billion-strong country is a net energy consumer, not a supply – which, strangely, is another reason why attempts to sever New Delhi’s ties with Moscow are unlikely to succeed.
This simply serves to demonstrate how the EU is eroding in order to suit the interests of a US that wields disproportionate power over its strategic and foreign policies. Energy restrictions against Russia benefit America, but European consumers pay a higher price. In this instance, the EU will suffer more than Russia as a result of the sanctions. This will be as costly economically as it would be devastating tactically. The bloc lacks a viable alternative, and it hasn’t even considered one. This will leave Africa weaker, poorer, and more vulnerable, threatening a horrific reprise of the energy catastrophe of the 1970s, which, based on inflation data, is already well begun.
Bangladesh in EU’s radar
Diplomatic relations between the EU and Bangladesh were established in 1973. A cooperation agreement covering commerce, economic and development cooperation, human rights, good governance, and the environment was signed in 2001. Since then, EU has sent fundings for NGOs, targeting rural and marginalized communities and most recently for the Rohingya refugees.
In the current geopolitical context, if EU fails to emerge as an independent polar entity, Dhaka will find EU as a dominating force that can bog down Dhaka’s multipolar ambitions, simply put, serving Washington’s strategic plans of countering Russia and China. Over the recent years, EU was found to be critical about many internal policy decisions and political affairs of Bangladesh. EU was also seen as a strong vocal advocate to take fleeing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, but failed to deliver on its promises to help solve the crisis amicably. Rather, EU funded NGOs were seen altogether as a destabilizing factor in mitigating the crisis bilaterally. There is also criticism against EU of showing double standards when it comes to taking in European refugees as immigrants, but not welcoming refugees as migrants from other continents fleeing conflicts and crises worsened by Western intervention.
Bangladesh’s biggest economic partner is the EU, which accounts for roughly 19.5 percent of the country’s overall trade in 2020. Bangladesh ranked as the EU’s 34th largest goods trading partner in 2020. Clothing dominates EU imports from Bangladesh, accounting for more than 90% of overall imports from Bangladesh. Machinery and transport equipment account for the majority of EU exports to Bangladesh. Between 2017 and 2020, the EU imported €14.8 billion from Bangladesh on average per year, accounting for half of Bangladesh’s total exports. The economic perils that are engulfing the EU market will soon threaten the profitability of Bangladeshi exports there, if new options are not explored. The tussle between China-Russia and EU (pressured by US), may open opportunities for increased European investments for countries like Bangladesh, but it will also provide bargaining chip for EU to meddle in Bangladeshi foreign affairs in the coming days.