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Time for Europe to Reset?

Public Affairs
Time for Europe to Reset?

Written by Alexander Wegner, Head of Public Policy, MENA.

What does Europe stand for? That’s the existential question voters in the upcoming European elections should ask themselves before heading to the polls. Only then can the elections serve as an opportunity for the continent as such to rethink and reconfigure its dangerously understated role on the global stage. 

Multipolarity is on the rise and so is the complexity that comes with it – from technology and geopolitics to the energy transition and the global economy. It’s this changing world that creates an opening for Europe to come to the table and to bring to the table all it has to offer. Whatever its flaws, Europe is adept at multilateral governance, has a strong value compass, a steadfast commitment to free speech, a corresponding track record of original thinking, and a rich tradition of globally resonant arts and culture. All this positions Europe well to mindfully mediate between competing interests and serve as a thoughtful, trusted broker between rivals. Scholz’ Germany – Europe’s economic engine – must rise to the occasion.  

It’s Europe’s troubled and troubling history – the memories of and trauma from two devastating wars – that equips the continent to recognize the stakes inherent to change globally and to help safeguard the future as a bulwark against miscalculation and temptation. In doing so, it must begin to look as critically at its own affairs as it often – from a moral high horse – looks onto the affairs of others. Europe must ask itself: How competitive and future-proof are European economies? How capable are European powers to defend their sovereignty and interests? How welcoming is Europe to talents of every stripe? What does Europe do to advance the ideals it holds so dear? In grappling with these questions, Europe must grapple with its own relevance. As Gulf states make headlines – good and bad – what’s Europe’s claim to fame?  

By confronting itself, Europe can begin to picture the future it aspires to and – through the upcoming European elections – curate its politics in such a way that it serves as a blueprint for Europe’s vision of the future. In looking at and beyond itself, in entertaining distinct vantage points and then synthesizing these into new realities both at home and abroad, Europe can overcome its biggest hurdle: a crisis of identity.   

In concrete terms, Europe must realize the pivotal and surely welcome role it can play in the Middle East – as a partner among equals. The Gulf states – often described as middle powers – are fast becoming global powers. Partnering with them is going to be crucial for Europe’s long-term interests beyond the region and certainly beyond energy security. And, considering the high pace of development across the Arabian Gulf, regional markets are going to become increasingly more important to European businesses.

From Qatar and Saudi Arabia to the UAE, the Gulf states’ spending power and corresponding influence is only going to increase. Rather than fear their power, Europe should leverage it, fashioning itself into an increasingly attractive investment destination, especially in sectors such as technology that trail behind the US and Asia – with European unicorns still in short supply. Indeed, Europe’s many Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) – above all, Germany’s famed Mittelstand, which remains highly regarded for its ingenuity and quality products – could become essential to the Gulf states, helping sustain ambitious projects and the pace of growth. Of course, there’s room to increase two-way tourist and talent flows too.

Recognizing this potential, we at the Public Policy practice of Instinctif Partners recently introduced a brand-new market entry offering out of our Dubai office in close collaboration with practice colleagues in Germany. While European policy makers may not yet have embraced the GCC, European businesses of all sizes are clearly seeing opportunities in the GCC and looking for guidance on how to seize them. We are pleased to support these businesses find their footing and thrive in the GCC, which benefits both regions. 

Europe has always been quick to chastise non-democratic regimes. So, what better way for Europe to promote democracy than to demonstrate that elections are an effective mechanism for transforming life for the better. However Europeans choose to vote, the Gulf states will continue to thrive. Alas, there’s less for them in Europe than there is for Europe in the Gulf. Unlocking the potential of closer relations with the GCC, is a choice European voters and politicians will have to make. The ball is in Europe’s court.

Get in touch with Alexander at

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