Could the EU be the next global leader?

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on

(#6 of our Together-Ensemble series)

Today we are in a threatening context and it is our duty to seize every possibility to think outside the box. To shake our brains while making our hearts beat. To discuss because it is to act as well as the first step towards fruitful collaboration.

What better question than could the EU be the new global leader to reach all these objectives?
This session of Together-Ensemble on 25 June 2020 allowed colleagues to consider how to address the EU’s role in a multipolar and complex world.


  • David O’Sullivan is a former EU Ambassador to the US, having previously been the first Chief Operating Officer of the EEAS, the Director-General of DG TRADE and the Secretary-General of the Commission.
  • Shada Islam is a Brussels-based advisor/analyst on Europe, Africa, Asia, Geopolitics, Trade and Inclusion for her global strategy company. New Horizons Project. She is a renowned commentator on EU affairs, and was selected as one of the 20 most influential women in Brussels by Politico. Until recently, she was Director of Europe and Geopolitics at the independent think-tank Friends of Europe.
  • Ivo Velitchkov is expert in Enterprise Architecture, Management Cybernetics, and Data Management. He has PhD in Computer Science. He is the author of the book “Essential Balances in Organizations”, coming this summer 2020 and of the blog Strategic Structures
  • Yves Monsel is a senior consultant in organisation development and HR. He was technical adviser for the Belgian ministry of employment and training. Professor of psychology and systemic psychology. Managing director of AIM-associés and Amangi, where he develops training games and Web application.

You can watch the webinar part here. Please note that this is internal “raw” material, not originally intended for external publication, but knowing the difficult context and associated challenges, we have decided to make it available to all. It is offered by the European Commission with a view to encourage everyone to take similar initiatives to encourage a benevolent direction. (Video is pending approval, I will update this article as soon as I get it)


Over 100 colleagues had registered for this session; of whom 60 attended the webinar live and 30 took part in the workshop on 26 June 2020.

  • Define the concept of a European Leadership. The EU should find its own way of leadership; not the American way nor the Chinese way but the European way of leadership. (Re) think the concept of “leadership” and what it means to us as Europeans. How do we want to lead if we want to lead? Be a global leader should not be a goal in itself but the result of good actions at the right moment. Lead by example. Striving for global leaderships vs. global leadership being a result. What makes Europe an attractive model? How to address a long-term vision without compromising with populism? Using our shared values as our basis for leadership, we must also include actions at home and not only abroad e.g. promoting human rights, democracy. We need stronger mechanisms to protect them internally to not be seen as hypocritical. We have to start being leaders inside the EU. The EU thoughts, ideas… have to be adopted as proper by all the EU member states. We have to start being able to show the world that the EU exists. That we go all in the same direction. See the potential of soft power. Successful leadership is about science-led, compassion, mediation. There is nothing wrong in being a soft power.
  • Development areas for increased leadership & influence. Define/decide WHERE to be a leader? Certain themes? Geographical areas? It is important to design our own policies, to put the focus on our own policies that could influence the outside actors. Does my policy have a long-term vision? Do we defend the European social model? Also globally? Complex issue as the Member States (MS) are the ones competent on foreign policies. Could the MS give these sovereign competencies to the EU to handle these matters in the international arena? On which competencies? For instance, EU needs to be a leader in meaningful jobs. Reinforce European influence at WTO and WHO. Leadership with the Green Deal is possible. But for this, we need to be open & transparent in the way we implement it, the lessons learnt we gather, etc. with the rest of the world. This is how we can be more influential.
  • Multi-polarity. We need to look beyond G2 or G3, small countries are powerful too. Think multipolarity. It begins with a necessary stimulation of multilateral cooperation to reach an internal common position. Some issues are more adequate for this approach like green deal, neighbourhood policies, security where there is a common interest. In a so-called “multipolar world”, could Europe be considered as a “pole”?
  • Diversity, Solidarity & Inclusiveness. We need frank discussions about representation, diversity, inclusion, racism to be able to lead (as EU) and be seen/accepted/successful as a leader. When is the next dialogue with the most vulnerable citizens, for instance? Is the EU practicing what it preaches? Look in the mirror (and what happens inside the EU) to find out. What did you do for solidarity during COVID-19 – personally? When on your agenda is your next talk with EU ordinary citizen on what you “lead”
    them/the EU on? Europe, you have to look like people you are supposed to represent… Do you think you
    represent enough diversity and other European aspects? How do we make the EU more inclusive and work for those more vulnerable, less privileged in society e.g. youth, ethnic minorities, people with low incomes?
  • Organisational agility. Practical aspect: having an easier organisation in order to be able to rapidly and directly tackle urgent problems (poverty, climate…). How to create internal EU decision-making processes that can overcome minimum common denominator outcomes (eg QMV in Foreign Affairs)?
  • Walk the Talk, Act Locally!
  • Hope for the future & Follow-up actions. This debate provoked many follow-up questions! Europe is still young, it has room for improvement! Organise more webinars and matchmaking events like this, with citizens! We should prove the idea that Europe is something dynamic especially from the cultural point of view. And it’s always worthwhile to keep on improving.

Related links

The world needs grown-up leadership. Time for Germany to step up | Shada Islam | The Guardian

All articles written by David O’Sullivan on

The next topic is a very precious one in our challenging times: ADDRESSING POPULISM. See you soon!

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