Josep Piqué: “We are immersed in the de-westernization and loss of relevance of Europe”

Josep Piqué, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, gave the conference “El Mundo que nos viene” (the world that awaits us) at the University Camilo José Cela Almagro building (UCJC). In his address, Piqué analysed the present and future of international politics in the short and medium term.

The conference opens the cycle of seminars at University Camilo José Cela entitled “New Scenarios in International Trade. How it Affects the Spanish Economy “, headed by the professors and economists Pedro Schwartz and Juan R. Cuadrado Roura, and that will take place on 20, 21, 27 and 28 February at UCJC.

He focused on the rise and possible development of the post-western world in which, according to Piqué, we are already immersed. “In November of 1989 there was a clear winner, which was the West, led by the United States. And a loser. ” Although, paradoxically, Piqué explained ” the unmitigated victory of the West marked the beginning of de-Westernization, a process in which Europe is losing relevance and power and where powers that do not share Western values gain weight and importance. History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. ”

The centre of the world is no longer the Atlantic, but in the Strait of Malacca“, he said, and described China’s String of Pearls, referring to the settlements that it is establishing, from Vietnam and Bangladesh to Djibouti and the port of Piraeus, as part of its military maritime route strategy. China, he said, “aspires to be the greatest world power by the mid-21st century. It is deploying its forces all over the world. We will have to get used to seeing Chinese battle ships”, he said.

The former minister was clear about the new forces that prevail in the post-western world, which lives in a balance that does not hide ideological, social and cultural conflicts. “The trap of Thucydides, the first classical historian who wrote on the Peloponnesian War, argued that when there is an established power and one that is emerging, confrontation is inevitable. When there are two great powers with their sights set on hegemony, they end up facing each other on a battlefield. ”

In reference to the Anglo-Saxon world, he explained the paradox of those powers who have led so far in their own interests. “The United States and the United Kingdom are in retreat, because they are trying to protect themselves from outside influences. They are pulling out alliances and military forces. As they abandon bilateralism, unilateralism arises”. Piqué mentioned some examples of the latest decisions made by Donald Trump or Brexit.

The role of Europe

The great challenge faced by Europe is to determine what it wants to be, according to Piqué. “Europe could be a global power. It has the economy, demographics and soft power, which is crucial despite not having hard power … but, we do not have the ambition”. “Europe is at a crossroads,” he assured. “If we do not further the political project, beyond the economic one, Europe will fall into the most abject irrelevancy. Europe is divided into two types of country: small ones and those that not yet realised they are small”.

Western values of freedom, equal opportunities and rights and solidarity are threatened by multilateralism and the new social order. “Europe has become too accustomed to peace and democracy, we have come to think that it is guaranteed and that there is no turning back. But Brexit shows us that the EU is reversible”, he assured.

Piqué encouraged everyone to vote for the European Parliament in the May elections with responsibility and doing so thinking about a political project based on peace and solidarity, since the European Union marks “the first time we have tried to unite in solidarity, freedom and equality”.

Speaking on other relevant countries on the international stage, he alluded to the yearning to return to historic greatness and old empires, as can be seen in the war in Syria. “Russia yearns to be a great power again. Or rather, to be perceived by others as a great power”, said Piqué.

The importance of education in the world that is coming

Immersed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the “battle” will be fought in education. “China knows that it has to be naval and aeronautical power, but dominance is going to be settled in space and in cyberspace.”

At the end of the presentation, the Rector of UCJC, Samuel Martín-Barbero, took the stage to defend “the lateral and complementary thinking that universities must provide in a complex world “. In his speech, Martín-Barbero emphasised the inadequacy of the European university model and the renewal that is being carried out at University Camilo José Cela.

“We are working on international immersion, with the greatest respect for everything that happens outside of Europe, the cultural, spiritual, linguistic elements that make up people’s identity.  It is a very different way of seeing the world from that of Spanish and European universities, not just to standardise, but to inject life experiences in the broadest sense”, he advocated.