It may have been championed by European leaders such as Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, but the G20 is increasingly seen as a disaster for Europe’s vision of global order. “We are not coming here to take lessons on democracy or on how to handle the economy,” said EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso ahead of the G20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, where the euro zone crisis was expected to play a central part in discussions.
But after years of being on the receiving end of lectures from Europeans about how to run their affairs, the leaders of the world’s largest economies, including the “BRICS” nations (Brazil, India, Russia, China and now also South Africa) are seizing the chance to return the favor.
The EU’s lack of solidarity in the face of the debt crisis has squandered its moral high ground and engineered the region’s marginalization. Europeans are strongly in favor of global governance when it is a process they inflict on others, but they are not so keen when others comment on Europe’s affairs.
As Richard Gowan has argued: “European officials have become disillusioned with multilateral dealmaking both inside the EU and beyond it.” In the halcyon days before 2008, when the G8 was known as “the committee to save the world,” EU members held half the seats around the table. Although the rest of the world complains about European over-representation, EU nations account for just a quarter of the G20 today.
Power grabs and plays for more influence are rampant as the summit meets. At their informal caucus before the G20 meeting started, the BRICS pledged 75 billion euros to help Europeans through the euro crisis, a move that was likely designed to increase their voting weights.