by Andy Storey (Centre for Development Studies, UCD)
Pierre Defraigne, Deputy Director General for Trade at the European Commission, professes himself puzzled by Europeans' attitudes towards the phenomenon of globalisation:
"Today, Europeans are ambivalent as regards globalisation. How is it that a people that ‘discovered the world’ at the time of the Renaissance and, for two or three centuries, colonised four continents, can fail to see the many benefits that the conquest of new markets and the emergence of new producers present for their own well-being?" (Defraigne, 2002).
While Defraigne is baffled by the inability of Europeans to correctly perceive where their own best interests lie vis-a-vis globalisation, other commentators are exasperated at the inability of some to recognise what it is that Europe can and does contribute to the world. According to Senator Martin Mansergh (2003), the EU is not a "a neo-liberal militarised superstate" in the making, but rather "a force for peace, development and social and environmental progress".
There are two important arguments at work here: first, globalisation is good for Europe (Defraigne); second, Europe is good for the world (Mansergh). But do the best interests of Europeans truly lie in the more thoroughgoing embrace of globalisation, as currently constituted? Is the EU, as Senator Mansergh claims, a force for good in the world? More broadly, what is the relationship between the regional project that is the European Union (EU) and wider issues of globalisation and global governance? And how should those concerned with issues of social justice – both within Europe and globally – respond to the current pattern of European interaction with globalisation?