Much discussion between scholars has taken place on the topic of the European Union as a potential global power in a world where regions, such as the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, are becoming ever more prominent. The potential for the EU, and therefore its member states, to become influential international game players is certainly high and the Union has played an increasingly bigger role in international negotiations in recent years. However, to be a significant contender with global influence requires unity and coherence and a key question we should all ask ourselves is - are we there yet? Recent events suggests not.
During her visit to Greece last week, German chancellor Angela Merkel was greeted with violent protests against the current restrictive economic policies that Germany has proposed to help weather the storm of the Euro crisis.
These protests were to be expected. Certainly it is no secret that relations between Germany and Greece have steadily declined in recent years as a result of initial German reluctance to support the proposal of a Greek bail out in 2009. Yet whilst protest is healthy in democratic societies, the Greek population arguably took matters a step too far in comparing the policies imposed by Merkel to those of Adolf Hitler and revealed a fatal flaw within the European Union that could, euro pessimists would have you believe, ultimately lead to problems for the Union as a global contender.
The complete lack of unity between members of the European Union is a serious problem when attempting to formulate policy, resuscitate failing economies and compete with global powers such as China and the United States and was worryingly very evident last week. With current policies such as the 2008 Lisbon Treaty struggling to balance maintaining the Union, the single currency and the future of European foreign policy with a view to propelling the EU into the international arena as a global power, it seems relevant to ask - what hope can the Union possibly have if state antagonisms remain at the centre of how countries within the Union perceive each other?
By dressing up as Nazis, Greek protestors showed that, under pressure, states within the European Union revert back to suspicion and resentment of each other and historical grievances come to the surface. On a basic level, a state's national interest will always take priority over the interests of the collective but much of the future of the European Union relies on co-operation and unity. The recent episode in Greece suggests that perhaps the Union is not ready for such a commitment to each other.
The European Union was created with a common interest in strengthening regional relations and strengthening Europe's position on the world stage. It cannot be denied that positive outcomes such as the stabilization of much of Eastern Europe have resulted from the EU's creation and that today Europe has become a permanent feature in trade and has become increasingly significant in certain areas of international politics - Europe was the first to place sanctions on Iran following the perceived failure to comply with the Non Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.
Yet despite these successes, even when awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for creating stability and unity in regions such as the Balkans, member states appeared more interested in who would receive the prize than what the accolade meant for the Union's future image as a world power. The European Union has great theoretical potential and yet clear divisions between states still remain and until those are resolved - Europe can hope for little more than to remain a significant regional power with global power aspirations.