The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the measures that Europeans took to support it make Europe, and in particular the European Union, the most affected by the conflict. In a new quest for bloc sovereignty since 2017, led mainly by France and Germany, the countries of the Old Continent in fact needed to reduce their dependence on other states, especially on the Russia. However, the movement was accelerated, as a matter of urgency, and the Europeans ran over each other. The United States and China gain from this.
Restoring European self-sufficiency has been one of the declared goals of French President Emmanuel Macron since his first presidential campaign. This priority is shared by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, as he declared in Prague at the end of August.
“European sovereignty essentially means that we become more self-sufficient in all areas, that we take greater responsibility for our own security, that we are even more united in defending our values and our interests in the world”, said Scholz.
The two main European drivers, however, are increasingly distant from the beginning of war. The duo that usually runs the continent’s economy and industry is taking different paths, crumbling this much-desired European unit.
Germany decided to invest 100 billion euros (519,50 billions of reais) to modernize the country’s army, an initiative that does not fit in the French budget and which, for the same reason, cannot be replicated in the other members of the Twenty-Seven.
Os Central, Baltic and Nordic European countries accuse Germany and France of having underestimated the Russian threat and are turning to the United States to guarantee their security, announcing that the European Union is not enough to protect the countries of the continent.
“Naturally, war discredits international organizations as promoters of social peace”, analyzes Viviane Knoerr, postgraduate coordinator at Unicuritiba and post-doctorate in Law at the University of Coimbra.
In this scenario, the he United States and NATO gain more strength in the Old Continent, with the accession, for example, of Finland and Sweden.
While most European countries, starting with France, created strict measures to reduce energy consumption in the midst of the supply crisis generated by the war, the country led by Scholz maintained consumption to some extent, disbursing 200 billions of euros (1.3 trillion reais) in aid to homes and businesses weakened by soaring energy prices.
Despite starting to import gas from other countries, reducing dependence on Russia, Europe has not yet reorganized itself in the distribution of fuel that arrives at ports. With the approach of winter, energy supply and prices will continue to shake the block.
Some solutions found by European leaders involve the construction of means for transporting gas. These would be medium-term alternatives, but they would go against the agenda of reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, which has lost strength since the beginning of the war. The European Energy Agency predicts that this year there will be a growth of 7% in the use of this type of energy, for example.
Germany, which, unlike France, fled from nuclear energy in the last decades, in order to fulfill its environmental project, it had to regress even further, resorting to the opening of old coal plants.
Recently, in a measure taken separately by Spain and Portugal, but with EU authorization , the Iberian countries created a complex system of decoupling gas prices and electricity tariffs from those of other forms of energy.
Other member states of the bloc asked the Commission to carry out an impact study this “Iberian exception” for a possible application in other parts of the continent.
This model, however, has already presented problems and weakened European relations: Spain considerably increased exports to France (only in July, it was a growth of 80%), saturating the s relations between countries. While the Spaniards pay compensation to local gas companies to produce electricity, the French take advantage of the neighboring country’s low price lists to buy this Spanish electricity.
According to the European Metals Union, aluminum and zinc production fell by half in the bloc in 2022. This phenomenon takes place at a time when the energy transition will absorb large amounts of these metals, now considered strategic.
The French Minister of Industry, Roland Lescure, visited the Dunkirk aluminum plant in northern France, which consumes the equivalent of what is consumed in the entire city of Marseille in electricity. He pointed out that the company’s bill increased this year from 200 million euros (more than 1 billion reais) to million euros (about 3 billion reais), according to Philippe Escande, economic editorialist at Le Monde. The production of this factory has already been reduced by more than 10%.
BASF, Germany’s leading chemical group, has announced that it will reduce its costs in Europe “as quickly as possible and permanently”.
This means that European chemicals, caught between strict regulations and skyrocketing energy, do not have much of a future on the mainland.
BASF has decided to invest in southern China, in the city of Zhanjiang. 10 billions of dollars will be invested in the new headquarters (more than 51 billion reais).
During a meeting at the end of October in Brussels, Macron told a news conference that it was “not good” for Europe for Germany to “isolate” and held a meeting with Scholz to try to bring countries’ approaches to controlling gas and electricity prices closer.
“I have been trying to propose, advance and build unity for more than five years”, highlighted the French president. “I hope that we can really find ways of convergence”, concluded Macron.
According to political scientist Ivan Krastev, however, this movement of isolation, not only from Germany, is inevitable. In an interview with diplomat Michel Duclos, referring to the wave of refugees, Brexit, the Covid pandemic-19 and the war, Krastev emphasizes that these “turbulences” raised “strong nationalist currents among the member states of the European Union”.
The scientist points out that Poland, Italy and Sweden, which elected new, less “Eurocentric” names for power are increasingly distancing themselves from the unity of the bloc.
Outside the EU, the United Kingdom is also facing crisis
The UK is experiencing the worst economic scenario in the last 51 years. At the same time, the political context generates instability and hinders the British recovery. The isolation due to Brexit – the exit from the European Union – with a lack of truck drivers and other professionals due to the closing of doors to migrant workers, together with the consequences of the pandemic and, mainly, of the war, led to the resignation of Boris Johnson, the lightning command. of Liz Truss and the consequent appointment of Rishi Sunak, who receives an economic bomb to administer.
Authorities of the National Health Service (NHS) have warned of the risk of impoverishment of the population and a humanitarian crisis. According to End Fuel Poverty Coalition, about 51 , 5 million households will enter the “poverty level” by the beginning of next year in the UK. The British government defines “poverty” when the annual household income is less than 60% of the country’s average salary, which was 49 thousand pounds per year (about 187 thousand reais ) in 2021, according to official statistics.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the British will have the lowest growth among the seven richest countries in 2023. In the pocket of more than 51 million inhabitants, the situation is already weighing heavily. Spending cuts and lifestyle changes have become a reality for most families and should reach more than 31% of them at the beginning of next year.