Strategic Intelligence
2 min read

When Geopolitics Takes Center Stage: José Manuel Barroso's Insights

In a revealing conversation with Ben Coumans of Ageas, José Manuel Barroso, the former President of the European Commission, delved deep into the current geopolitical landscape.

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June 12, 2024
Strategic Intelligence
2 min read

Barroso's extensive experience in global politics adds significant weight to his observations on the critical issues shaping our world today.

Multilateralism and global cooperation

Barroso highlighted the fragility of multilateralism, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. His tenure as chairman of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) demonstrated the challenges of promoting international cooperation in the face of global issues like the COVID-19 virus, which knows no borders.

The pandemic revealed the importance and complexity of taking a multilateral approach to global health crises.

European Union's resilience and challenges

Reflecting on the European Union's response to various crises, Barroso noted the EU's ability to adapt and survive through incremental, often painstaking, steps. Despite initial doubts during the financial crisis and the pandemic, the EU demonstrated resilience. This was evidenced by initiatives such as the collective purchase of vaccines and economic recovery funds.

However, Barroso pointed out that the EU lags behind the United States and China in economic and technological competitiveness, highlighting the need for a stronger growth mindset and innovation drive within Europe.

Technological revolution and dual-use technologies

Barroso spoke passionately about the ongoing scientific and technological revolution, particularly the transformative impact of generative AI and advancements in public health.

He highlighted the dual-use nature of many emerging technologies, which serve both civilian and military purposes, increasing the complexity of global power dynamics and necessitating careful management of international relations.

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US-China rivalry and global implications

The ongoing geopolitical tension between the United States and China is a major concern. Barroso pointed out that the US's strategic decision to contain China's rise has profound implications for global trade, investment, and security.

He stressed the importance of upholding open markets and a multilateral order, despite the challenges presented by rivalries between major powers.

Europe's geopolitical maturity

Barroso described the European Union as having reached a more mature stage in its geopolitical development, reacting decisively to crises such as the invasion of Ukraine.

He pointed out the significant steps taken by the EU in defence and economic solidarity, including raising public debt for economic recovery and enhancing defence capabilities within the NATO framework.

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The complexity of global politics

Barroso underscored the growing complexity of global politics, with countries such as India, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey navigating a delicate balance among major powers.

These nations, while maintaining strategic partnerships, also assert their independence, reflecting a more multipolar world.

Africa's potential and global responsibilities

Barroso emphasised Africa's potential as a significant area for economic growth, pointing to its dynamic demographics and abundant natural resources.

He called for a more cohesive and supportive European policy towards Africa, stressing the importance of investments that promote both solidarity and enlightened self-interest.

Climate change and global cooperation

On the climate front, Barroso acknowledged Europe's leadership in setting ambitious targets but noted the need for global cooperation, particularly from major emitters like the US and China.

He stressed that climate policies must be socially equitable to avoid backlash and ensure broad support.


José Manuel Barroso's insights offer a nuanced perspective on the interconnectedness and challenges of today's geopolitical environment. For business leaders and policymakers, his observations underscore the importance of adaptability, international cooperation, and strategic foresight in navigating the complexities of the global landscape. As we move forward, balancing national interests with global responsibilities will be crucial in addressing the pressing issues of our time.

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