KREMER May 2019

What does ‘slowbalisation’ mean for intra European flows and cooperation?

Reflections on possible future global outlooks

While the economic leaders discussed globalisation 4.0 at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, we might actually see that globalisation has peaked. In the issue of 26th of January 2019, the Economist outlined that globalisation slows down markedly, and that we might enter a period of ‘slowbalisation’ with lesser global integration. In short, ‘slowbalisation’ is expected to be a shift towards geo-regional blocs (e.g. Asia, North-America, Europe), with deeper intra-regional links and shorter supply chains.

This fits some of the scenarios on governance and legal arrangements presented some years ago by the FP7 FLAGSHIP study and the Hiil study seeing the risk of a possible strengthening of geo-political regions or tribes which will lead to a more dispersed global legal environment with e.g. the internet globally splitting in to four to six independent and clearly separated internets.

What could that mean for Europe and its territorial dimension?

  • Links between places in Europe become increasingly important. While some argued in the past that globalisation makes European integration and the single market less important, we might see a rising importance of European integration again. When globalisation fades, the integration of cities and regions in the European single market becomes more important again. The Economist points out that the share of intra-European supply chain inputs has risen by over 5% points since 2012.
  • Europe’s globalisation champions meet new challenges. The territorially varied impacts of the 2008 economic crises provided a picture on how embedded various places and regions in Europe are in global financial and trading systems. Those regions heavily relying on global import and export flows might meet development challenges to strengthen their intra-European positioning.
  • Some places may hope to grow as global competitors lose advantage. In the 4th industrial revolution the winner is expected to take it all. This concerns both companies and places which are home to leading companies of the future. Most of the winners are expected to be located outside Europe. ‘Slowbalisation’ may give some European players and locations the hope to become intra-European champions, as global competition fades. Probably that is an ambitious hope.

What could be possible policy responses addressing a territorial dimension of ‘slowbalisation’?

‘Slowbalisation’ might supply European integration processes with new energy, as places’ intra-European links and relations become more important. However, it may also further deepen the societal and territorial fragmentation, as was the case with the changes of Europe’s economic geography brought about by the 2008 financial crisis. We need a debate about how to approach a possible ‘slowbalisaton’ so that it does not accelerate current territorial fragmentation trends and leads to less cohesion, and ensure that all places develop a vision for their development in a wider European context influenced by “slowbalisation”.