Europe to open its gates even wider to get through 'painful' crisis
Expect to see Europe open up its economies and trade further to the rest of the world as it traverses what has undoubtedly been and will continue to be a "painful" financial crisis.
Belgium-based David O’Sullivan, chief operating officer of the European External Action Service, is adamant the continent, with 27 democracies, will come out of the eurozone crisis intact.
He has been in New Zealand to visit Victoria University’s Institute of International Affairs in Wellington and present a seminar on Europe’s place in the world and its foreign policy.
The EEAS came into effect in July 2010 on the back of the Lisbon Treaty. Its primary function is to support the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Cathy Ashton.
It has about 140 delegations worldwide and works with them to represent the European Union.
The network is the world’s sixth largest and has around 1600 people working in its Brussels headquarters.
The rise of Asia and the growing importance of the Asia-Pacific, along with the emergence of new powers in India, Brazil and South Africa, is something which has not escaped its attention.
Mr O’Sullivan, who is fluent in English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese, recognises globalisation is a reality.
Very difficult situation
“It is true the financial crisis, which started in the US, has created a very difficult situation in many developed economies, many OECD economies," he told NBR ONLINE.
"The eurozone is not the only part of the OECD world which is experiencing economic difficulties. The United States is facing some serious challenges, as is Japan and even the UK.”
Mr O’Sullivan admits the EU has not gone far enough in terms of integration in the past, which is something they are working on. He wants to see their economies freed up further, despite the zone already representing one of the world's most open.
“What I think is very clear and very important to understand is the reaction in Europe to the crisis is not to want to withdraw from engaging with the global community, but quite the opposite," he says.
"The successive European councils have been very clear that Europe favours further trade liberalisation. We’re actively pursuing free trade agreements with Canada and India.
"We will probably negotiate soon with Japan. We are engaged with Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.”
As for New Zealand’s input into Europe, he says pure mathematics means it is not huge.
NZ contribution still valued
However, the contribution is still valued by the EU and both countries now seem to share a common view about the important of markets and trade liberalisation.
He thinks New Zealand is right to put increasing reliance on Asia-Pacific markets, such as China, but not at the expense of trade with Europe.
“I don’t think trade is a zero-sum game. I think you can develop your relationship with China and the Asia-Pacific region as you should.
"But I also think you can continue developing good trade and investment links with Europe. We also have an interest in the success and prosperity of this region. “
Mr O’Sullivan remains confident Europe’s future as a global player remains bright as the members also look to "multi-lateral EU surveillance of national budgets" to ensure they do not repeat the same mistakes twice.