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Europe’s ‘Fault Lines’ should be Discussed at the UN: Ambassador Almeida

Europe’s ‘Fault Lines’ should be Discussed at the UN: Ambassador Almeida
The head of Europe’s delegation to the United Nations describes an ideological battle in the EU between globalism and nationalism.

The United Nations has an important role to play in countering the issues threatening to break up the European Union, according to the head of Europe’s mission to the world governing body.

Ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida said in a speech at the Foreign Policy Association in New York that the EU and UN must serve as pillars of stability against a wave of movements challenging Western Europe’s liberal order.

After decades of attempted continental unity following World War II, Almeida said “politics is back, big time.”

‘Turn of a cycle’

“Elements of our model of organizing societies are being challenged,” he added. “We need to have a serious conversation about where the world is going, and I believe the best place to have this serious conversation is the United Nations.”

The world entered a “remarkable” period after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Almeida said, when trade was globalized, technological revolutions created more open societies and developing countries began to lift themselves out of poverty.

However, these trends are also partly to blame for recent surges in nationalism, inequality and authoritarianism forces Almeida described as “fault lines” that could break apart the EU.

“This period is now over,” Almeida said. “We have to acknowledge we are at the turn of a cycle.”

Events from the past few years have accelerated these trends, he explained, pointing to the Great Recession, the ongoing war in Syria, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the UK’s shock vote to leave the EU.

“We’ve had a few surprises in the last year or so in terms of going to bed with one idea and waking up with another,” Almeida said. “If we lower our degree of awareness and vigilance and attention, we may wake up the following morning with some surprises,” he added.

At the center of all of this is an ideological battle between globalism and nationalism, according to Almeida. He said there are people on both sides of the political spectrum that believe solutions to today’s problems can only be found in “the narrow limits of a nation-state.”

Across Europe, there are populist candidates challenging the political establishment on what they see as an abandonment of traditional values, and one of the biggest flashpoints has been over immigration.

“You have a tension between multiculturalism and nativism,” Almeida said. “This is a major new phenomenon in some of our countries, because populists are getting too powerful.”


How deeply these fault lines are entrenched will be revealed this year when three of Europe’s strongest democracies—France, Germany and the Netherlands—hold their elections. In each, establishment politicians are facing competition from upstart populists.

The ambassador also pointed to indications of an isolationist US under President Donald Trump as a reason for Europe’s political unrest. He said, “the country that assured that uni-polarity (sic) is clearly not wishing to retain that moving forward.”

“Others are coming up,” he added.

Despite reassurance from White House aides in recent weeks, Trump questioned the value of NATO to US interests during the election, a doubt that stoked fears among European leaders that their strongest ally was pulling back support. Some believe Trump’s government budget will include slashes to foreign aid.

To counter the forces threatening the EU, Almeida said, “we should be more rational and less emotional” in decision-making, and said the United Nations is the best place to have these conversations.

“This is where this crossroads in which we are today, the beginning of 2017,” Almeida concluded. “This is where I believe the European Union and the United Nations come together.”