“European Political Community”: France’s Miracle Solution?

“European Political Community”: France’s Miracle Solution?

France has its own miracle solution to stabilize the EU neighborhood, and it is not necessarily that of enlargement.

French President Emmanuel Macron took advantage of a meeting between European leaders to defend his proposal for a “European political community”, presented in May to the European Parliament during a debate on Ukraine’s candidacy.

The idea would be to strengthen the Union’s relations with the non-European countries of the Western Balkans, or the candidate countries such as Ukraine and Moldova, but also with those which are considered not to belong to the hard core of the Union, such as Switzerland and Norway, and perhaps even with the former member of the bloc, the United Kingdom.

In the weeks following this declaration, the general wish was to obtain more details from France before deciding.

Thursday’s (June 23) summit discussion on the idea in question is presented as a session of ” brainstormingwhich would kick off a debate between member states that would span the summer.

The French EU presidency said it would look into the matter ” step by stepwith the aim of holding an inaugural meeting in the second half of this year.

“The aim is to offer a policy coordination platform for European countries across the continent”EU leaders said in the summit communiqué after the preliminary discussion, adding that it “ could concern all the European countries with which we have close relations“.

“The objective would be to foster political dialogue and cooperation to address issues of common interest in order to strengthen the security, stability and prosperity of the European continent” can we read.

The format would consist of regular meetings at the leadership level, which “would create space for political discussions and thus contribute to mutual understanding and a common strategic culture”said a European official.

The proposal aroused various reactions, between interest and mistrust.

Most accession countries, and in particular Ukraine, have warned that this should not be an alternative to enlargement or a means of keeping countries in the waiting room indefinitely rather than welcoming them into the block. These countries were then reassured that this will not be the case.

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski, speaking in Brussels after the EU-Western Balkans meeting earlier on Thursday, welcomed the initiative but too said it “ should not and should not be a substitute for full EU membership“.

“Such a framework will not replace existing EU policies and instruments, including enlargement, and will fully respect the decision-making autonomy of the EU” EU leaders added in their summit statement.

“It’s not a substitute, but you can’t discuss one without the other and the obstacles to enlargement,” an EU diplomat told reporters ahead of the leaders’ discussion on Thursday.

“Similarly, we should also be clear that everyone who shares common values ​​and interests should be present” added the European diplomat.

Germany and other countries insist that there should be no overlap with the work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the largest regional intergovernmental organization focused on security, most of whose 57 members come from the wider Europe, which is now sidelined due to the Russian-led war in Ukraine.

Many Member States recognize that some kind of forum where European countries can come together to discuss strategic issues that they all face could be useful.

An Élysée official told reporters optimistically that the idea was “welcomed more and more positively”.

Triumph and Caution

While the number of candidate countries is growing, there has been no real enlargement since Croatia joined the EU almost ten years ago.

Beyond the triumphant rhetoric about granting EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, EU leaders in Brussels also had to deal with their furious, very frustrated by the lack of progress made on their side as well as by the long delay in processing their membership applications.

Bulgaria’s long-standing veto over North Macedonia has been a particular source of discontent.

The remarks of Mr. Macron, Thursday evening, on the “European perspective” of Ukraine and Moldova, after the granting of EU candidate status to these two countries, also sounded, in part, as a warning against the concept of EU enlargement in general .

Mr. Macron hailed this decision as a sign of a “Strong and United Europe”in the face of Russia’s aggression against its neighbour.

He added that the EU should“extend a helping hand”to Ukraine, believing that this measure was the right response to bring in a context of war.

However, he added that“we don’t all have to live in the same house, but we live on the same street” noting that“strategic intimacy”of Europe must not be undermined.

“The geopolitical response to be made in the context of war is indeed to continue to offer this perspective. Is that over time the right geopolitical perspective? I tell you frankly, as I already did three years ago — no”Macron said when asked by reporters about his stance on enlargement.

“Because it will take time and because we see a phenomenon of a kind of enlargement fatigue among the countries that have joined”he added, suggesting that a larger structure like the “European political community” could be “The right answer “waiting“to stabilize the neighborhood”.

The initiative proposed by France has its roots when François Mitterrand, then President of France, and Jacques Delors, President of the Commission, pleaded in favor of a “European confederation”.

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