The Order, the Order Makers and the Orderlies: Can EU Shape the Emerging International Order?

The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order Edited by Thomas Renard and Sven Biscop, Farnham: Ashgate, 2012; pp 226, £68.00. 

For Change is the Only Constant

                                                                                    — Heraclitus

Reminding one of the opening scenes of the televised version of Mahabharata, this book in case also opens with the same message:time and tide waits for none[1]. Just like the wheel of time that lessoned the viewers of that show in the importance of time; of the necessity to keep pace with it, the introduction to the book as well talks about the urgency with which the European Union (EU) needs to adapt itself to the changing scenario. A scenario in which the regional association of the former metropolises is experiencing an ominous decline, while the nations which were their colonial possessions- till about six decades back- are fast emerging as power wielders of the Century.And it is in the recognition of this almost certain rise of the powers of the South that this book calls upon the EU to carve a “grand strategy”(Howorth, 2012)for itself for both saving its falling grace and ensure for itself a continuous position of permanence in how the world is shaped in the years to come. Killing two birds with a single stone that is.

Mindful of the transformation that is occurring in the world order; this book comes to locate these changing dynamics within the rising and the declining might of the BRIC countries and the EU nations (and the whole of EU) in the international semblance, respectively. Their economic potential, their bargaining capacity, success at negotiations and most importantly the perception of their powerfulness in the International arena, the book observes, is getting tied up in an inverse relationship. Such that while the BRIC nations are charting on an ascendant trajectory, the EU per contra is witnessing a steep decline in its popularity and prowess. And, while this observation nowhere sidelines the handiwork of other factors in assisting in the rise of the BRIC nations or speeding the decline of the EU prowess. Yet, that the two powers as collectivities are in a tussle for occupying the same turf at the International forums suggests that the battle between the two of them may end up in the victory of one and the loss of another. And from the looks of it, it is the BRIC collectivity that is calling the shots.

Divided into two parts, this book opens with a detailed discussion on the movement of power from the clutches of “the west to the rest” (Swielande, 2012, p. 3) and the changes in the power equations and the complicating Security landscape that have emerged as a result. Spread over the first five chapters, while this book is mindful of the rising worth of Non- State actors (and thus the statement- west to the rest), yet the primary focus of it has been on the way in which the heightening stature of the BRIC nations is changing the face of the world order and affecting the repute of the EU consequently. And in doing so, it makes note of the various attributes that are associated with their rising power- in politics and economics; of the security issues that face them; the strategies that are employing vis-à-vis the traditional powers (US, Japan, EU) and most importantly of the competition that is inbuilt into their association and which may inhibit their coming together as a formidable alternative to the Capitalist model maintained by its traditional scions.

Distinguished from the other rising developing countriesby acing at aspects that are clubbed into the “capability container[2](Renard, 2012, pp. 45-46), the BRIC nations have been designated the position of emerging powers and not just emerging markets or economies. Enjoying position of importance in their respective regions, the countries in this collectivity are rightfully seen as countries that have the capacity to give the traditional powers a run for their money. Pushing for reforms within the Bretton Woods System, the UN that are marred by “Crisis of Legitimacy”[3] (Saxer, 2012, pp. 62-65) this bloc of countries that are bound by aspirations to replace the existing, irrelevant world order with a kind that is representative of their needs is making strides in different aspects of the world affairs (like peacekeeping, monetary assistance and expertise to the other developing countries).

In fact, in ‘resisting to be coopted into the existing unequal and unrepresentative world order’(Saxer, 2012, p. 67), the RAND Corporation has observed that the BRIC nations are increasingly resorting to one of the four strategies: “Reform; Revolution; Alliance; Conquest” (as cited in (Swielande, 2012, pp. 5-9) to flex its burgeoning muscles. Preferring to go the same way as the traditional powers do-“multilateralism a la carte”(Saxer, 2012, p. 65), the BRIC nations are leveraging their rising power to create multiple alliances at the same time (ex. IBSA, BASIC) and thus, resisting any mounting pressure from the existing institutional setups to fall in line. They have in fact, ushered in an era of “multiple hierarchies”, where “parallel and superposed hierarchies exist than just one hierarchical model” (Lenkin as cited in (Swielande, 2012, p. 13).

But while these multiple (soft) alliances have provided room for the BRIC nations to maneuver, these interest driven niches are also open to intense rivalry within. Sharing the same ambitions- of becoming global powers- these countries might face problems in forging ahead together, once their least common denominator- of opposing the existing regime- ceases to exist. Thus, even as they find urgency to cooperate today, they recognize that they might be locked in a battle for turf tomorrow; creating a complex environment of “interpolarity”, which is “multipolarity (competition) in the age of interdependence (cooperation)” (Grevi as cited in (Swielande, 2012, p. 16). And while the sightings of such an emerging order may be available even today, yet to reach the summit of such an order may take a longer while. But, subject to the forces of globalization in the meanwhile, who knows that the BRIC countries may be compelled to trace a different route?

The field of international relations is like a Pandora box which has a lot to offer. And going by the current spate of offerings that it has come to provide- in the form of opportunities for transnational cooperation to transnational threats and not to forget transnational Non- State actors-all thanks to globalization- the field is experiencing greater integration, while losing clarity of perception and prediction in this mishmash of associations.

While it is being recognized that the world is “shifting from Westphalian power poles to globalized functional nodes” (Reis, 2012, p. 36), yet on the contrary, actions aimed at the emerging global concerns are still being performed by ‘national Leviathans’ (Fioramonti, 2012). In such a scenario, it is necessary to move beyond the confines of the State boundaries and forge associations that transcend them. And it is here that the EU can lead the way- the book suggests so. In the last five chapters of the book, the concentration is thus on the way in which the EU can enable the world to establish a network of a“effective multilateral order” (Renard & Biscop, 2012, pp. 189-193) and save its own slide into the ditch of ‘global irrelevance’. (Renard & Biscop, 2012, p. xv)

As the facets of power become “more diffused, fragmented and diluted than before” (Swielande, 2012, p. 5)and which are pressing the need for developing global responses, the EU, it is suggested, could show the way to the world for galvanizing the machinery of global governance to tackle issues like Climate Change, Terrorism to name a few. By setting an example for multilateral cooperation, the EU could potentially highlight the benefits of hinging onto the prevailing model of global governance, albeit with changes that reflects its acknowledgement to the concerns of the emerging powers. Thus, tweaking the prevalent model without undercutting its basis could come to allow the EU to kill the two proverbial birds with a single stone- retain its sanctity as a global player and appear to be shaping a new world order.

But to do so, the EU has to undergo the knife itself. It has to perform a surgery within to be able to perform a surgery on the face of the world such as to give it a new identity. Experiencing a “leadership deficit; elite crisis; reform and enlargement fatigue and relative economic decline”(Emmanouilidis, 2012, pp. 88-93), the EU most importantly lacks a vision or a “raison d’ etre”(Emmanouilidis, 2012, p. 88) for its future existence. The advantages of the “four freedoms” [4] (Emmanouilidis, 2012, p. 88) have well been exhausted and harping on the past, it is known will not yield any result. There is a sense of incoherence that is coming to grip the EU, especially in its relationship with the BRIC nations which is denying it ‘reciprocity’ (Sautenet, 2012) in relationship that it has long demanded.

It is being increasingly recognized that “more the world towards a multipolar order, the more Europe will need to offer a unipolar front, which can only be embodied by the EU” (Renard & Biscop, 2012, p. xv). In such a scenario thus, it becomes imperative for the EU to create its “Grand Strategy” by establishing a common intelligence network, prioritizing its areas of interests vis-à-vis the BRIC countries distinctly and ensuring that reforms such as enhanced representation takes place to placate the domestic constituency.

This ‘grand strategy’, which is not only about traditional security concerns, but also about establishing a political dialogue between the like-minded emerging powers and an economic interaction based on reciprocity will hence chalk out a much clearer path for EU’s future international interaction(Howorth, 2012). A sense of clarity that has the potential of manufacturing a ‘planetary grand strategy’(Reis, 2012) and arrive at a ‘grand global bargain’ (Robert Hutchings as cited in (Howorth, 2012, p. 119) between the traditional and emerging power, by virtue of its sheer size, expanse and normative commitment.

Thus, all that remains is to provide steam to the engine of reform that is both inward looking and that which projects outside so as to allow EU some ground to hold onto and appear as the order maker in the emerging order.


(Chayanika Saxena is a Research and Teaching Fellow at Ashoka University, India.) 



[1] While the origins of this idiom is unknown and so is the Author, yet for further information on the same, the following website can be accessed: (Accessed 22 September 2013)

[2] Capability Container, as defined by Renard in Chapter 4 comprises of Seven socio-economic indicators of progress, advancement and power in possession: Geography, Population, Resources, Economy, Military, Diplomacy and Identity. And on the basis of which, the BRIC nations were declared as emerging powers, in opposition to the Asian Tigers or the Dragons that were merely emerging economies.

[3] The Crises of Legitimacy referred to in Chapter 5 highlights the reason why the BRIC nations are demanding transformations in the existing International order and systems of governance as they do. The calls for change have been made for the existing system is found to crippled by “crisis of effectiveness; crisis of representation ande democratic deficit”.

[4] The Four Freedoms that the Author talks about in Chapter 6 are primarily the dividends of cooperation and harmony that have emerged as a result of European Integration. These have been manifested in the form of Single Market, Common Currency, Abolition of Border Controls and Improbability of War.



Emmanouilidis, J. A. (2012). Europe’s Role in the Twenty- First Century (Chapter 5). In T. Renard, S. Biscop, & (ed.), The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order (pp. 83-105). Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Fioramonti, L. (2012). Is the EU a “Better” Global Player? An Analysis of Emerging Powers’ Perception (Chapter 8). In T. Renard, & S. (. Biscop, The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order (pp. 147-165). Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Howorth, J. (2012). Developing a Grand Strategy for the EU (Chapter 6). In T. Renard, S. Biscop, & (ed.), The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order (pp. 105-123). Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Reis, T. (2012). Insecurity in the Post Liberal Age: Key Security Challenges of the Early Twenty- First Century (Chapter 2). In T. Renard, S. Biscop, & (ed.), The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order (pp. 21-41). Surrey, England: Asghate Publishing Limited.

Renard, T. (2012). A Multipolar World in the Making (Chapter 3). In T. Renard, S. Biscop, & (ed.), The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order (pp. 41-61). Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Renard, T., & Biscop, S. (2012). Conclusion: From Global Disorder to an Effective Multilateral Order: An Agenda for the EU (Chapter 10). In T. Renard, & S. (. Biscop, The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order (pp. 185-199). Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Renard, T., & Biscop, S. (2012). Introduction. In T. Renard, S. Biscop, & (ed.), The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order (pp. XV-XVIII). Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Sautenet, A. (2012). The EU’s Strategic Partnership with Emerging Powers: Institutional, Legal, Economic and Political Perspectives (Chapter 7). In T. Renard, & S. Biscop, The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order (pp. 123-147). Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Saxer, M. (2012). Multilateralism in Crisis? Global Governance in the Twenty First Century (Chapter 4). In T. Renard, S. Biscop, & (ed.), The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order (pp. 61-83). Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Swielande, T. S. (2012). From Emerging Power to Superpower: A Long Way to Go? (Chapter 1). In T. Renard, S. Biscop, & (ed.), The European Union and Emerging Powers in the 21st Century: How Europe Can Shape a New Global Order (pp. 3-21). Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Wiki Quote. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2013, from Wiki Quote:



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