In the case of Europe this would necessarily take the form of energy sources that are not based on the use of petroleum. In many member states, such plans are already well underway. France obtains much of its electricity from nuclear power, while there are extensive wind farms in places such as the Netherlands. The European Union is determined to use its influence both to set an example to other nations and to induce or compel other nations to take steps of their own. One need only look at the fight over the Kyoto Accords to see the effects of the struggle, and the obstacles faced by the federation.
While the European Union may act in a primarily peaceful fashion when it comes to environmental issues, the same cannot be said of other options available to it and member states. Europe has not yet established its own military force, though the various national militaries, and international military organizations, like NATO, provide the European Union with a considerable military potential. NATO has been greatly expanded since the fall of the Soviet Union, but remains under the domination of the United States. Significantly, France has stood outside of NATO, ever since the time of Charles de Gaulle. This may change now that France has a more "Atlanticist" president in the form of Nicholas Sarkozy:
The French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, has hinted that France is willing to rejoin NATO's military command if the EU acquired a greater capacity to deploy troops and manage crises. Miliband is not falling into line with the Sarkozy vision, but his remarks suggest a willingness to see if common ground can be found with the newly Atlanticist French. (Patrick Wintour, 15 November 2007)
Indeed, France's sudden interest in re-joining NATO points up the national tensions that still exist beneath the surface in the European Union. As Miliband's response suggests, not all member nations are eager to relinquish direct national control over military options in favor of greater control by the Union - particularly if that European Union control involves giving still greater influence to one populous state. Sarkozy himself calls for greater participation in NATO by the European Union as a means of protecting European interests i.e. As a guarantee that the military organization is not used as a tool in international conflicts that do not directly concern European interests (Sarkozy, 2007). Given the push to expand the Union's influence and reach in almost every other facet of international relations, the argument would appear somewhat disingenuous, and a concealed attempt to gain for Sarkozy's France greater power within in a powerful international military organization.
No doubt, the struggle to "control" NATO functions as but another reaction to the discovery that the European Union now exists as a genuine rival to American military and economic power. On the economic level, the European Union ha snow captured the top spot from the United States - "America is no more the largest economic powerhouse. This title now belongs to the European Union. And Brussels is using this new found economic power to drive new regulation and force stricter environmental standards" (http://currychutney.blogspot.com/2007/11/global-economic-power-shift.html).
Europe is beginning to flex its muscle, using its awesome economic power to influence other countries and regions in ways once available only to superpowers like the United States. The United States possesses an enormous national debt, and vast trade deficit. Many of Europe's economies are growing at impressive rates, and Europe has established itself as a center of research and development.
Capable of competing in more than sheer financial terms, the European Union can actually help to structure the economies of other nations, especially those in the developing world. Increased military power, even if it is never developed as a direct tool of the federation, can assist in backing up this newfound economic clout, much as the United States military has long been used to "convince" other nations of the rightness of American economic policy. If Europe is to retain and expand its international role in the through the century, it will need to find ways to enforce its decisions and back up its policies.
Interesting too, is the European Union's resiliency in the face of other international rivals. The federation of formerly completely independent states has shown itself amenable to helping less economically and technologically developed members equalize their status with the more developed nations. Nations are brought in and brought up to the level of existing members without in any way harming the economies and societies of the pre-existing members.
In fact, the process appears to strengthen the federation as a whole, increasing its scope and overall wealth and influence. China, India, and other nations still emerging as global players, present potential challenges, but they also furnish enormous new markets, and opportunities for the exchange of technology and ideas:
The prestige of the EU will hardly be affected by economies which, on average, are expanding four times faster than those of the present EU 15. We must remember that similar fears were aired in the 1980s, when Spain, Portugal and Greece were admitted to the EU. In that case, the EU's average income was reduced by only 6%. (http://www.itwales.com/998951.htm)
Possibly, the Union's influence remains strong because it has not shown itself to interfere too overtly in the affairs of other nations. Its very lack of a coordinate military arm might just be its strength. In addition, the continued lack of completely coordinate foreign policy lessens the obvious threat to other, weaker states. As long as the European Union's member states continue to purse their own variant diplomatic goals, it can be assumed that China, Russia, India, and others will not see them as the same kind of threat they would a monolithic power like the United States. The variety of competing opinions and goals would also provide opportunities for deal-making that a singly policy would not. What might be offensive to one member could be desirable for another, thus offering opportunities for the diffusion of crises, and the ability to maintain peaceful relations with other nations.
So, the European Union marches into the new millennium as something other than a traditional power. It lacks its own armies, does not pursue a coordinated foreign policy, and acts primarily in terms of its economic influence. It uses this economic influence in a variety of ways that contribute strongly to a very real and powerful role in global affairs. In extending its economic reach to the farthest corners of the planet, Europe expands its own economy, and help in the development of new markets. European know-how and technology contribute to rising living standards and industrial and technological growth in the developing world. With economic influence comes influence in many other areas. The European Union can change social and environmental policy, spreading its values as it distributes its goods. European companies go where its troops and diplomats often do not. Yet, the overarching economic emphasis of the European project can have its negative side in terms of too much control, and a bland homogenization that threatens not only Europe's diverse cultures, but those of other nations, as well. A gain in profits can mean a loss in many important areas. The European Union should not make the mistakes made by other nations in the past.