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English>>Foreign Affairs

Asian slowdown leaves Europe pondering

By Jonathan Holslag (Global Times)

08:35, August 14, 2012

"Should I stay or should I go?" An interesting discussion has ignited about whether Europe should get more involved in Asia, even in security affairs, or whether it should focus on its internal challenges and threats in the neighborhood.

In a region that is not used to thinking strategically, such discussion is surely a step forward.

Obviously, Europe cannot turn away from Asia. But that still leaves the question how Europe should engage its sister continent.

Parts of Asia remain unstable. Now that the hype about an Asian century has settled, the challenges loom large.

Asia faces a growing gap between great expectations and a rather trying reality. The Chinese economic engine is spluttering. In South and Southeast Asia, governments struggle to generate enough opportunities for their booming populations.

That, on its turn, limits the scope of elites to enhance regional cooperation and, instead, fuels nationalist rhetoric. The pull of power politics over territory, economic stakes and military spheres of influence remains often stronger than the pursuit of peace.

Europe needs to hedge its bets in Asia and restore its economic leadership.

Enhanced economic diplomacy in Asia needs to be complemented by more efforts to strengthen the European market, to boost innovation, to trim our current account deficits, and to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel imports that cost a staggering 13 percent of Europe's GDP.

The economic fundamentals of Europe are still sound. However, Europe needs an ambitious plan to overcome the current crisis.

Then there's security. Asia is stacked with power, grand ambition, and martial muscle flexing to the degree that Europe has no longer the weight to make a difference.

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