“The European Political Community can be a place for mediation of intra-European conflicts”
As the inaugural summit of the European Political Community, called for by French President Emmanuel Macron, opens in Prague on Thursday (6 October), historian Laurent Warlouzet decodes the challenges of this meeting in an interview with EURACTIV France.
Laurent Warlouzet is a specialist in the history of European construction and integration and teaches European history at the University of Paris-Sorbonne. He is the author of a book entitled Europe Against Europe. Between freedom, solidarity and power since 1945” (CNRS Editions, 2022).
President Macron announced the creation of the European Political Community on May 9 amid the war in Ukraine. Several European leaders are wondering about its usefulness. What can it be used for?
In the short term, the European Political Community [CPE] is a response to the application of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova for EU membership. In the longer term, Emmanuel Macron’s project is part of the old French desire for a multi-speed Europe.
The idea is to connect all the countries of the continent in a lighter cooperation structure. So it would give something to the countries that want to join it [Turquie, Ukraine] a substitute for the EU while they keep it separate and for the countries that don’t want to join [Royaume-Uni] a tool that would make relationships more fluid.
The CPE must be seen as a forum, like the G7 or the G20.
But what is the point of a meeting when there are already bodies between the Council of Europe and those of the EU?
The main interest of the CPE is to reaffirm the common values of the participating countries, such as liberal democracy and the inviolability of borders.
The question of the socialization of executives is also central and the CPE can be a place of appeasement of intra-European conflicts, for example between Greece and Turkey. Although the EU is already in charge, the EPC can also serve as an antechamber to a possible enlargement.
Finally, we must not neglect the psychological dimension: seeing the 44 Heads of State or Government of Europe united is a message that is important for public opinion.
Is EPC competitive or compatible with the EU?
The EPC is unlikely to have strong powers on issues of energy, security, economic and social convergence, and it is a chimera to think that it will remedy the EU’s shortcomings.
As far as coherence is concerned, it depends on our vision of the EU. If you look at it as a “liberal Europe” with elements of solidarity, then the EPZ is entirely in line with this project by enabling the settlement of strategic, geopolitical or even military conflicts. Conversely, if we want to create a “strong Europe”, then the CPE will be in competition with the European Union.
But in general, EPC remains complementary to the EU because the latter is unable to resolve all conflicts.
Doesn’t the search for a new instrument to promote European values show a failure on the part of the EU and the other bodies that are already supposed to be doing this?
The EU has shown that it cannot be omnipotent, so we actually see that part of Europe’s problems are dealt with by structures other than the EU, such as the Council of Europe or the OSCE [Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe].
In France, too, some are aware of the limitations of the European neighborhood policy. Think of the events in Ukraine in 2014: for some, the EU was too frugal in its dealings with Ukraine. When we turn to serious geopolitical issues, such as the risks of war, we are forced to bring in states and thus interstate logic.
Here, too, this corresponds to an old desire, particularly in France, to preserve the intergovernmental character of diplomacy. In this sense, the intergovernmental coordination of the CPE corresponds to French preferences.
Given that the CPE was born in Ukraine during the war and Vladimir Putin doesn’t care much about European values, why reaffirm them?
Although this is an ideal that is never quite realized, in the age of Russian propaganda it makes sense to reaffirm that we are liberal democracies and that we are different from authoritarian regimes. Even in Hungary, the political system is multi-party and opposition demonstrations are free, unlike in Russia or Belarus.
Moreover, Vladimir Putin, even with political contortions, tries to stay within this fiction and show that his actions do not constitute an attack on the inviolability of borders (hence the use of pseudo-referendums) when they deviate completely from international law.
Those who criticized Emmanuel Macron accused him of wanting to sidestep the issue of enlargement. Do you share this reading?
Emmanuel Macron knows very well that one must avoid at all costs saying that the CPE is an alternative to enlargement, that would doom it, even if many French people probably think so.
France has always taken a restrictive stance on enlargement. She has often been suspicious because we in France are against enlargement and deepening. The idea is that in a large community, the development of a “solidarity Europe” and a “strong Europe” becomes complicated.
Why should countries far from Europe like Azerbaijan and Armenia be included in the CPE, apart from the conflict between them?
What is at stake in the CPE is the very large Europe, which in fact limits the CPE’s ambitions. It’s not really a space of solidarity or power, but a space of shared values and a geopolitical space.
The use of values makes it possible to impose limits on political Europe – they have always been ambiguous – in particular through the exclusion of Russia and Belarus.
It is always my pleasure to provide insightful information on important topics and if you have learned something from my article then I thank you for taking the time to share it with your friends or family.
We put a lot of heart and invest a lot of time trying to bring you the most interesting articles.
You would encourage us to do it even better in the future. Thank you!