Is Europe scared of the BRICS?

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Tomorrow the Center for International Relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) in São Paulo hosts an open debate about the crisis of the euro and the future of the European Union, with presentations by Elena Lazarou, Vera Thorstensen and Carlos Eduardo Carvalho. The event registered over 350 RSVPs from students and faculty from over ten universities across São Paulo, reflecting a great interest in the situation in Europe.

In this context, many participants will remember a controversial video released  (and quickly withdrawn) this week by the European Commission , which depicts a European women encircled by menacing characters representing China, India and Brazil. In the end, she miraculously multiplies, and her emerging enemies drop their weapons and then disappear. The video, reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movie was supposed to broaden support among European youth for EU enlargement, closing with the phrase "the more we are, the stronger we are."

As a response, the Hindustan Times announced that 'Europe was now officially scared of the BRICS'. The video caused a considerable debate among Brazilian analysts. After all, the video seems to perfectly support the narrative of a torn and declining Europe frustrated and scared of the rise of the rest, best represented today by the BRICS.

Yet the video is unlikely to be representative of Europe's public opinion about the BRICS. Growing Chinese influence makes Europeans uneasy, but the same is true for Indians and Brazilians. The rise of India and Brazil, however, is seen in a rather positive light, not at least because they are both democratic regimes and seen as likely future allies. In addition, economic growth in the rest of the world could help Europe's economy get back on track sooner.

The same is true among the majority of policy makers in the BRICS countries: The crisis in Europe may produce some schadenfreude and satisfaction among those who vividly remember arrogant European IMF officials calling the shots in Delhi and Brasília only a few decades ago. Yet a prolonged depression on the old continent is likely to slow down growth in the Global South, so the BRICS have an active interest in a quick EU recovery - hence the pragmatic and necessary debate about whether Brazil, India and China should assist Europe financially.

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West and the rest

Image credit: Jiao Haiyang/China.org.cn