E. Macron on the future of Europe

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First there was Brexit: June 2016. The process of UK’s separation from the European Union is ongoing, but we do not know what its stages are and what is in London’s “quiver” during the negotiations. Will others follow the Brexit example? Will the United Kingdom encourage its model of behaviour toward the EU, influencing other members of the organisation too? Then, there was D. Trump’s election as President of the U.S., in November 2016, and his taking office at the White House in January 2017. A veritable storm followed on the international politics arena, the following standing out as ill-boding signs: a hostile U.S. attitude toward the EU (see Trump’s emphasis, in his recent speech at the UNGA, on the priority of state sovereignty – an allusion to the EU’s integrationist model?); the White House’s initial ambiguity toward NATO’s Article 5, yet to be completely dispelled; since April 2017, an unprecedented nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, still ongoing and without clear perspectives for a settlement; the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris accord on combating global warming at global level. Apart from these developments (without exhausting them, because there are similar ongoing processes in the domestic politics of the U.S. too, if we are to mention only the various currents going through university campuses), we also mention: in the Middle East, through the result of the September 26 referendum on the independence of Iraq’s Kurdistan, the already complicated security situation shows an amplification of danger signs in the Syrian crisis and the probability of the onset of other crises in the region; the U.S. administration’s ambiguous attitude toward the nuclear deal with Iran adds more uncertainties to a global situation that is in a veritable flux; the German elections of Sunday, September 24, have shown an unexpected picture of the political scene of the most important European state, at any rate with the result of an uncertain outlook on Berlin’s foreign policy orientation; etc.

Hence, in this extremely complicated international context, in which the EU’s situation stands out as becoming increasingly fragile – the promotion of a reform of the organisation was attempted in March this year, several scenarios being proposed for debate but the outlook of a hard core and an “obedient” periphery, submissive to the centre, stood out, hence the project of several speeds of development for the organisation –, French President Emmanuel Macron has intervened, proposing his own plan on the evolution of the Old Continent, which he himself claims matches the one of the founding fathers. In other words, the re-founding of the European integration organisation.

The text that includes this bold concept of the French President was published on 26 September 2017, under the title: Initiative for Europe. A sovereign, united, democratic Europe. Firstly, E. Macron lists the crises that Europe is facing today: “such as defence and security, great migrations, development, climate change, the digital revolution and regulation of a globalized economy” – only to raise the decisive questions: “have European countries found means to defend their interests and values, and to guarantee and adapt their democratic and social model that is unique worldwide? Can they address each of these challenges alone?” Without insisting on the exact identification of the challenges lying ahead for the Old Continent, each of them being argued many times by the works of experts and basically constantly felt by the inhabitants of all EU member states, I want to focus on the most important issue the French President insists on before all others, and which he gives the top place in his analysis. Namely the issue of the Old Continent’s security. For a “sovereign Europe,” Macron shows, one has to act on six directions, which in the French President’s terms are “keys” to attaining Europe’s sovereignty, namely becoming a distinct global actor in the world of today and tomorrow. The first such direction/key toward Europe’s sovereignty as a global actor is – Macron states – “a Europe that guarantees every aspect of security.” Here, the French President easily but determinedly goes back to an EU debate that took place in the early 2000s, on the future of the EU: will the European Union be an empire or not? As known, at that time the European attempt – spearheaded by France – to endow the EU with a distinct military dimension, apparently a duplication of NATO, met with fierce resistance on the part of the U.S. But is the situation in the world today the same as it was on the eve of the U.S. intervention in Iraq (March 2003)?

That was the moment when, faced with the resistance of certain EU members (UK among them) but also of external forces (U.S.), the formula of endowing the EU with an instrument of hard security resulted only in the inclusion of an insufficient security clause for member states in the EU security strategy (2003) – the ‘solidarity clause’ – in regard to natural catastrophes (not at all an equivalent of NATO’s Article 5, for all members of the organisation in the military security domain). Now, however, French President E. Macron goes further and proposes: “In defence, Europe needs to establish a common intervention force, a common defence budget and a common doctrine for action. We need to encourage the implementation of the European Defence Fund and Permanent Structured Cooperation as quickly as possible, ant to supplement them with a European intervention initiative enabling us to better integrate our armed forces at every stage.” Hence, beyond any internal and external sensitivities, exhibited at a different time, Macron proposes the setting up of a common intervention force of the EU, which would act to attain the European security objectives, but also a common EU defence budget. Could this mean a European army? The common defence budget formula, as well as the formula of a common instrument of intervention to defend members that are in danger, when needed, seem to be the equivalent of a “European army,” if not in form then at least in concept. The French President also details the domains of danger in which such a common military instrument may intervene: “In the fight against terrorism, Europe needs to ensure closer ties between our intelligence services by creating a European Intelligence Academy.” But with the observation: “Every aspect of security needs to be ensured, collectively: Europe needs a common civil protection force.” We emphasise: “every aspect of security needs to be ensured.” The intra-EU debate on the hard security of its own members, through their own means, is hence opened.

What are the other “keys” that Macron sees to make the EU a distinct and sovereign global actor?