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PacNet #36 – If the World is a Stage, is Europe a Background Actor?

Speaking recently at Chatham House, Herman van Rompuy — president of the European Council — used a theater metaphor to refer to Europe’s role on the world stage. He said: "faced with the new play of global interdependence and global governance, we [the EU] need a presence in all the world’s regions." While acknowledging the importance of Asia for European interests, his message about Europe’s influence in that part of the world was straightforward: "Europe is clearly not a Pacific power and will not become one." Catherine Ashton, the EU’s chief diplomat, delivered a more confident message during her visit to Asia earlier this year, stating that developing comprehensive relations with Asia is one of the EU’s major strategic objectives and that the EU wants to be an "active and constructive" player in Asian regionalism. To bring van Rompuy’s metaphor to modern times, in a movie about the politics of the Asia-Pacific region, would Europe play a leading role or only be a background actor?